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Is Wi-Fi the Key to Retail's Future?


According to Forrester, showrooming is when a customer visits a brick and mortar retail location to touch and feel a product and then goes online to purchase the product at a lower price. Amazon is generally the benefactor in such cases. Amazon.com is the tenth most popular site in the world and number five in the United States according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings.

Storefronts have many advantages. First is they offer customers the ability to get up close and personal with a product. All five senses are used to invoke a physical or emotional response and create an attachment. Only a subset of senses may be used when shopping online, thereby decreasing the likelihood of attachment.

The second advantage is one of instant gratification. Customers can go home today with their new found love.

Third, is the chance to provide a human touch, which offers the greatest opportunity for a personalized, in-the-moment, relevant and specific customer service experience.

With this said, the answer for retailers does not lie in creating a better online web experience. Rather, the solution is to provide an online shopping experience when the three in-store advantages outlined above are primed and at their peak. In these moments, the retailer must strike before the customer leaves the store.

These elements, working together, have the power to stop sales from slipping through your automatic motion-sensing doors. Below are some ideas and strategies for accomplishing this:

Many shoppers will use apps on their smartphones like Shop Savvy® to scan an item and get pricing information from competitors. QR codes are good for additional product information, but they generally take you to a manufacturer's website.

Therefore, consider setting up free Wi-Fi in your stores and heavily advertise its use as a shopping companion, along with your mobile app, to enhance the in-store experience with guidance and information.

Next, I see two options: give customers a price-match coupon on their smartphone that they can take up to the register. Or purchase the product in the store at the current price and receive rewards points for doing so. Either way, you have a fresh, new customer experience that combines the best elements of shopping online with the best elements of shopping in a store.

Also, these days you may see customer service associates walking around in stores hooked into a communications system. This is so that associates can help each other in times of need to increase their efficiency. Suggestion: let customers in on the action by allowing them to use their mobile devices to locate in-store associates and even communicate with them via chat. If no associates are available in the current store, allow customers to chat with associates from the store on the other side of town, using free in-store Wi-Fi in order to get the answer they need.

In addition, the app could present a floor plan of the store and help customers quickly identify where "hot deals" of the day were located. It would also locate associates or specialists and allow customers to signal them with where they are and what they need. Associates could chat back with answers. Return visits to the store would automatically connect to Wi-Fi and push relevant notifications to customers' phones offering coupons and specials based on purchase history.

Amazon does not have stores (yet). They are disadvantaged in this manner. Retailers who think differently have a tremendous opportunity to turn the tide and revolutionize the in-store shopping experience.