Debenhams have announced a partnership with O2 that will see it roll out wifi across all of its 167 stores, enabling customers to connect on their smartphones and tablets whilst shopping in store. This deal is part of a big push from O2 to partner with retailers to supply their instore WiFi, which will soon seen brands including Marks & Spencers and Domino’s roll out Wi-Fi in their outlets.
We know that consumers are increasingly using their phones to browse whilst shopping - a study by Nielsen found almost a third were doing so (29%) and that the most popular activity of shoppers was to compare product prices online (38%), followed closely by reading online reviews of products (32%).
Engagement, Sales Drive
Debenhams have outlined how they are going to maximize this opportunity; initially focusing on encouraging customers to download the Debenhams app by enticing them through special deals. In addition, they will be providing users with the opportunity to scan bar code details on products to check sizes, availability, and offer home delivery on out of stock items.
Debenhams ran a rollout trial with O2 in three of their UK stores and have already seen success with this approach. There have now been one million downloads of the Debenhams app and barcodes have been scanned through it more than 250,000 times.
It makes perfect sense for brands to encourage customers to connect with their online platforms while they are instore. They are already engaging with the brand, potentially excited by the shopping experience or the thrill of the purchase they are about to make - clearly an opportune time to widen the touchpoints through which the brand can reach those customers. It also potentially presents the greatest opportunity to win over those hard to reach customers who have never thought to engage with the brand online and need the extra push of an offer to make the leap.
Domino’s have stated that they intend to use the wifi they will offer insore to drive loyalty, employing post-purchase mobile marketing tactics to encourage customers to return.
“This year and next year we will really go deeper into more marketing opportunities”
There are concerns about giving customers the opportunity to browse instore; it provides them with an opportunity to look up products online and compare prices. This could result in shoppers going elsewhere to get a better deal and this concern isn’t unfounded. Nielsen’s findings show over a third of shoppers using their smartphones do this.
Despite these concerns it would be dangerous for brands to fail to adopt their mobile approach and be left behind. Google recently called on UK retail stores to improve their in-store mobile experience to ensure customers continue to buy in store rather than online. Google's Head of Mobile for EMEA encouraged stores to offer opt-in/consent deals and advertising, as well as enhancing the instore experience by increasing the information available to customers through mobile means.
“At the moment retailers need to make the in-store experience for consumers very magical. Mobile can empower consumers by giving them the local aspect, extra information [on products] and choice”
Incorporating the online experience into the offline offering
Brands can essentially borrow the best elements of the online shopping experience and implement them in the offline environment; Some brands are already doing this:
Influence of social networks
An interesting example comes from retailer C&A in Brazil, they provided live visualization of the number of Facebook ‘Likes’ individual products received on their Facebook page through the product hangers. This example flips the approach that sees brands encourage users to post pictures of products on their social networks while instore. A great example of a brand introducing the crowd sourced opinions from their online community to those instore.
There are many examples of how brands have encouraged customers to share the products they like instore to their social networks, such as Diesel’s interactive installations in Spain.
Product/ Brand storytelling
Brands can also maximise the positive stories around their brand or an individual product through online to offline tactics. Many brands that have a rich and interesting history and an attractive brand identity to make the most of and capitalise from them through their online identity - e.g. Burberry, Rayban, Dr Martens.
Further, there has been a growing interest in how and where products are made as well as a brands heritage. Brands can integrate these storytelling elements through both the online and offline environment. A great example of this comes from Macy’s who have used QR codes throughout the store to deliver engaging 30 second videos of fashion tips. inspiration and celebrity ideas directly to customers smartphones.
Brands such as Topshop drive customers to read reviews of items on their website whilst in store. It will be interesting to see if more brands integrate this into the offline experience. Offering customers the chance to see real reviews whilst trying to make up their mind on a product instore. There are already sites and apps out there that act as a platform for aggregated customer reviews, such as SearchReviews, which allows users to scan a product bar code (as well as manually enter) to see customer reviews.
What's your take on free wifi and it's potential to enhance your shopping experience? Do let us know in the comments section below.