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EXCLUSIVE: US consumers value retail Wi-Fi

By Retail Technology | Friday January 10 2014

Results of an exclusive shopper survey reveal why offering free public Wi-Fi in retail spaces in a growing trend on both sides of the Atlantic

New consumer research has found shoppers are overwhelmingly more likely to spend additional time in a store offering free public Wi-Fi than a store that does not offer Wi-Fi access.

The benefit of increased dwell time from those using free store Wi-Fi was revealed in a recent survey conducted exclusively for among nearly 5,000 visitors to US retail properties. It explored consumer preferences around the increasing prevalence of free store Wi-Fi on offer in the US, as well the UK.

Wi-Fi software and service provider Boingo Wireless served free Wi-Fi users an online questionnaire, fielded via the Wi-Fi networks it operates at shopping centres operated by Boingo partners including Caruso Affiliated, Glimcher, Westfield and Urban Retail.

Inviting customers to browse and shop

Nearly three out of four (73%) of respondents (both men and women) said they were more likely to spend additional time in a store with Wi-Fi than one without it.

“The mobile device is becoming a channel of information, as well as transaction, for consumers,” said Doug Lodder, Boingo Wireless vice president of business development for retail and stadia. “If you’re going to go into a mall or store and get onto their network, you’re likely to be looking to solve challenges or questions you have there and then. So it’s up to the retailer to make sure the service is delivering value to them.”

Shoppers surveyed were most interested in staying connected to social media while shopping, with 69% reporting that they use social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They were less interested in staying abreast of the latest news while shopping. Only 18% reported that they check the news via their mobile device while shopping.

Lodder said the retail property owners Boing works with recognise that visitors use the free Wi-Fi for research: “Giving shoppers the technology embraces the fact they are going to do some research, but it can also serve them offers and empower salespeople with tablets to help them too.”

The survey confirmed 30% of shoppers said they had reviewed products online, and compared online and instore pricing while in a mall. By comparison, research published in November last year found 40% of British shoppers aged 35 or under had also engaged in the trend known as ‘showrooming’.

Split out by gender, the Boingo survey found that men edged out women in reviewing products online while instore, with 33% of men who completed the survey reporting they price check versus 27% of women. As far as price checking while instore was concerned, the split was the same between male and female at 30%.

Maximising latest channel of engagement
Jackie Levy, executive vice president of operations for Caruso Affiliated, one of the largest privately held real estate companies in the US, also commented on the survey findings. 

“Today's shoppers are never without their mobile devices, and they've come to expect a retail experience that reflects their connected lifestyles,” he said. “We've found offering Wi-Fi throughout The Grove and The Americana at Brand is essential, and gives us new ways to engage with our shoppers and improve their shopping experience.” 

Lodder also highlighted how this engagement can offer additional insight into shoppers’ preferences and behaviours. “If the retailer offers customers access to the information they’re looking for [online], they are more likely to share information about themselves,” he explained. “As the network operator, we're the ones capturing the data and helping turn into actionable insight. Every retailer is looking for something different.”

Levy added: “As part of The Grove’s 10-year Anniversary last year, we launched a custom app, which makes it easier for our shoppers to make dinner reservations, park at our centre and request special concierge services as they shop. The feedback that we have received from our guests and retailers has been extremely positive.”

Boingo Wireless surveyed 4,814 shoppers at more than 30 malls across the US in the third quarter of 2013 (7 May-23 September); 46% were female and 45% were male. One third of all respondents were between the ages of 18-24, with one out of four respondents in the 25-34 age group.

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