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6 ANALYSIS Wireless world

Customers are increasingly expecting their centres to be wireless connected, finds new research

Installing a wi-fi service can help you to attract younger and wealthier shoppers - and with half of all shoppers expecting their centre to provide a wi-fi service, this is a factor that has to be considered. Among younger shoppers 18 per cent already say they sometimes choose where to shop based on whether or not it provides a wi-fi service. These are some of the findings of a

survey commissioned by service provider Freerunner and carried out by shopping behaviour specialists ROI Team. ROI Team interviewed at the end of October in The Marlands, Southampton and in The Howgate, Falkirk. Although the towns are far apart and very different in their character both shopper groups were favourable to the idea of a wi-fi service in their centre.

Shoppers told ROI Team’s interviewers : • More than two thirds of shoppers aged 16 to 24 expect their shopping centre to provide a wi-fi service.

• Almost three quarters of shoppers from ACORN’s ‘Wealthy Achievers’ segment expect their centre to provide wi-fi.

• Almost 4 out of 5 shoppers aged 18 to 34 are using the internet while shopping.

• Location finding, price checking and checking social media are all done over the internet by more than a third of these shoppers.

• 14 per cent of all shoppers say they sometimes choose where to shop based on the expectation of finding a wi-fi service; among shoppers aged 18 to 35 the figure rises to 18 per cent.

• More than a third of shoppers aged 16 to 34 have a shopping app installed on their phone.

Chris Kent, managing director of Freerunner said : “This survey confirms that access to the internet is an essential factor for today’s shoppers, and the most flexible and most convenient way for a centre to provide this is via a wi-fi service. We hear a lot today about ‘mobile marketing’ and with 4/5ths of shoppers using the internet while shopping, it just shows how potent this can be. These findings actually suggest the offer of a wi-fi


service can help centres to compete for younger and wealthier shoppers.” Andrew McCall, managing director of ROI

Team said : “We expected that students would be reliant on a wi-fi service, but we were surprised to see that the appetite stretches well into older and wealthier groups too.” And the rollout of wi-fi in shopping centres

is set to accelerate, after the announcement that one of the top industry players is looking to partner centre owners to provide the infrastructure. O2 has launched 02 Wireless with the aim

of becoming the dominant provider of free-to- air wireless broadband in the UK with a target of 15,000 hotspots across the UK in the next three years. “Our solution applies to all destinations, but

retail and shopping centres are a big focus,” explained Gavin Franks, managing director of Wi-Fi at O2. The system is open to all users, not just 02

customers, and the aim has been to make it as simple as possible to access. “At a basic level, nobody pays for wi-fi now. It has to be free to the end-user,” says Franks. “And registration has to be quick and simple so the user doesn’t have to manually log in each time they come

back to a venue.” So what’s in it for the venue, apart from

enhancing customer services? “We will work with the owner to provide a branded experience,” says Franks. “When they login customers are diverted to a personalised homepage that can carry offers and so on. “And we can provide the owner with data

around their customers – what handset they were using and where they were in the centre; what websites they visited; how long they were in the centre and much more.” For instance 02 provides wi-fi at

Twickenham rugby ground, and it can tell the Rugby Football Union which customers attend every game, or who was a first-time visitor. “It allows them to understand their customer,” Franks says. But he warns centre managers to handle this data with care. “Customer data is incredibly powerful if you use it for the benefit of the customer. But if you just sell it on to third parties you’ll lose the trust of your customer.”

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