Survey data shows that installing free Wi-Fi at small retail businesses increases sales by accommodating modern mobile shopping habits
The holiday shopping season can make or break a small business retailer. Store owners are always looking for ways to increase holiday sales. If they haven’t done so already, retailers should consider adding a complimentary customer wireless network to attract more shoppers.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, December sales are historically up 24% over September. Some retailers’ holiday sales spike even more, accounting for as much as one third of their annual revenues.
To push holiday sales higher, stores are more often resorting to offering the deep discounts and deals that holiday shoppers crave. Some experiment with additional services to attract customers. A now proven way to increase sales is to install free Wi-Fi.
According to a survey of more than 400 small B2C businesses conducted earlier this year by iGR1, the addition of free Wi-Fi increases traffic, time in the store and amount spent per customer. Half of the businesses surveyed said that customers spent more money after Wi-Fi was added, while less than 1 percent said they spent less. Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of businesses surveyed said that customers lingered longer on-premises.
Interestingly, even more retailers (77 percent) rated customer Wi-Fi as “important” or “very important” to their business. And 72 percent of businesses who had installed Wi-Fi with the intent to increase sales considered it to be a success.
Customers seem to be satisfied with the quality of Wi-Fi services offered. Seventy-three percent of respondents indicated they “never” or “rarely” received complaints from customers about the quality or speed of the Wi-Fi connection.
“The survey results show how important the provisioning of customer-facing Wi-Fi has become for retail businesses,” stated Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR. “In the near future, small businesses will consider Wi-Fi as fundamental to their success as electricity or running water.”
The Wi-Fi survey is great news for small retailers. It dispels the myth that Wi-Fi users just hang out and don’t buy anything. As online research becomes more ingrained in shoppers’ habits, the numbers show that in-store Wi-Fi increasingly facilitates the purchase decision.
More than half of shoppers believe their mobile devices are more useful to assist with buying decisions than in-store sales associates, according to research from Motorola.
With access to a high-speed network, shoppers can ask friends’ opinions, compare products online and gather enough information to make a decision while they’re still in the store. If you have what they need at a competitive price, and a customer-friendly return policy, you’re likely to get the sale.
Are mobile and online sales killing brick-and-mortar retailers? Forrester provides some surprising data. Their statistics show that 92 percent of U.S. retail sales still take place offline.
As you might expect, customers prefer in-store shopping because they want to see and touch the merchandise in person. They also wish to take the items home right away, protect their privacy, return items more easily, and avoid shipping costs, according to a survey from Ripen eCommerce.
Minimize the Risk
Customer Wi-Fi comes with data security risks. Small retailers should be aware of the threat posed by hackers to their business and to their customers. According to the SBA, 44% of small businesses reported being hacked.
To minimize the risk, it’s important to isolate a customer wireless network from core business systems so hackers can’t possibly access your data, and computers. Determined data thieves often use wireless networks to access company networks. Physically separating the two provides the best protection.
Holiday shoppers also need to be prepared for the cyber attacks aimed at their mobile devices. Just as customers are eager to grab a bargain, hackers are aggressively shopping to steal personal financial data.
Even if the business has good security on its public Wi-Fi, customers can still experience eavesdropping by thieves looking for passwords and account information. A personal virtual private network (VPN) makes customers’ information invisible to hackers. Stores should consider informing Wi-Fi users of the danger and encourage the use of VPNs.
Secure Customer Wi-Fi
A secure, customer-facing wireless network can be installed quickly by qualified technicians. Don’t make the mistake of putting in consumer-grade equipment or trying to do it yourself. If security, reliability or speed are lacking, shoppers will know, tell their friends and possibly write negative reviews. Worse than that, your business data or customer’s personal information could be compromised.
eMazzanti Technologies has installed and maintains secure wireless networks for hundreds of retail stores nationwide. With engineers trained on the latest wireless and mobile technologies you can expect a solution that will provide the secure Wi-Fi you need to accommodate modern mobile-equipped shoppers and increase sales this holiday season.
1Devicescape (June 11, 2014). Survey Quantifies Business Benefits of Amenity Wi-Fi [Press release]. Retrieved from www.devicescape.com/news-events/press-releases/364-survey-quantifies-business-benefits-of-amenity-wi-fi
Carl Mazzanti is Co-Founder and President of eMazzanti Technologies, Microsoft’s four time Partner of the Year and one of the premier IT consulting services for businesses throughout the New York metropolitan area and internationally. Carl and his company manage over 400 active accounts ranging from professional services firms to high-end global retailers.
eMazzanti is all about delivering powerful, efficient outsourced IT services, such as computer network management and troubleshooting, managed print, PCI DSS compliance, green computing, mobile workforce technology, information security, cloud computing, and business continuity and disaster recovery.
Carl Mazzanti is also a frequent business conference speaker and technology talk show guest and contributor at Microsoft-focused events, including frequent prominent roles at the Microsoft Inspire (Worldwide Partner Conference / WPC).
Carl, a serial Entrepreneur, gives back to the community through Entrepreneur teaching engagements at Georgetown University, the company’s ocean wildlife conservation effort, the Blue Project, and Tree Mazzanti.