In a WiFi-Enabled World, Shopping & Buying Are Two Different Things

By Chris Walton, CEO and founder of Red Archer Retail and Omni Talk

As I discussed in the introduction to this series, the next great innovation – the personalized physical commercial experience – is coming, and none of it would be possible without “always-on” connectivity and WiFi.

In the future, constant and friction-free connectivity will enable shopping and buying to become two completely different psychological constructs. Historically, this was never the case. Shopping and buying have always been one and the same – mentally.Both traditional digital and traditional physical commerce have behaved the same way throughout history – browse online or in a store, and then once consumers find something they want, they purchase it, whether off a shelf or with a mouse click.

Omnichannel Retail or New Retail, behaves differently. Through the rise of scan-and-go technologies and visual search, a mobile phone can behave like a remote control. Consumers may see something in the physical world, but they no longer need to buy it right then and there. They can simply pull out their mobile phones and elect to have the product delivered to them on their own schedules with the quick press of a button.


Making this a reality requires connectivity. If consumers walk into the store, they want to be confident that they can seamlessly sign-in to WiFi. If signing into WiFi is difficult, it prevents that mobile experience from happening. 


Analogs in the marketplace already inform us that this world is indeed coming. Retail, sadly, is always the last to the party, but there is a good reason for that. Retail is not a standalone, one-time experience making it is a difficult environment within to experiment with new ideas.  The ideas usually get perfected somewhere else first.


That somewhere else is music, sporting, and entertainment events. These venues have been the first to jump on the easy WiFi bandwagon. Teams like the Golden State Warriors in the NBA and the Miami Dolphins in the NFL understand that people want new ways to enjoy live events.


By offering their fans easy-to-use guest WiFi that authenticates users they're allowing fans to effortlessly indulge in additional mobile perks, like bypassing lines for food ordering, having beers delivered to their seats, and following the on-court or on-field activity in personalized ways that never existed when most of us were growing up.


Co-working spaces are similar. They need to serve a number of unique needs within their spatial designs. What a consultant needs is far different from, say, a web designer or the real estate agent renting a space at the same location. So, a well-designed guest WiFi sign-in point is the first window by which co-working spaces can understand and communicate to these varying needs. One co-working firm I examined for this piece has over 150,000 people signing into its WiFi network every month - of which 80 percent are net new contacts - making the guest WiFi page an outstanding point of first-party data capture.


Airports are the next logical market. They have long been on the front lines of WiFi innovation because airports serve a captive audience. WiFi can inform travelers of activities within airports, provide directions, and no doubt soon airports will also be some of the first places to disaggregate shopping from buying. Just imagine what it could mean for airport retail experiences if travelers weren’t bound by carry-on luggage constraints.


Smart retailers will follow the leads of innovators, like co-working spaces, and will rapidly implement personalized guest wifi experiences . They will move towards easy sign-in guest WiFi and mobile-based omnichannel experiences because they will understand, what other markets have already learned, that WiFi is one of the foremost tools in understanding one’s customers, a topic we will explore in further detail in the upcoming finale of our series – Unleashing ROI -- The Power Of First-Party Data.


Stay tuned!

Topics: wifi, Guest WiFi, WiFi marketing, Retail

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