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GUEST OPINION Shoppers ready to share personal data in exchange for relevant offers

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We know that shoppers want personalised offers at their convenience, and they want free Wi-Fi, but what information will they give up for these services? Where is the line between too personal, and enough service? Dan Thornton, Head of Solution Development, Hughes Europe has the answer

In a recent study conducted by Hughes Europe, 74% of shoppers said they were ready to share data over in-store Wi-Fi in exchange for exclusive offers. Although welcome news to retailers who are rubbing their hands together at the thought of revenue boosting digital campaigns, what feels like a blessing for some could quickly become a curse unless they have the infrastructure to support it and the people to manage it.

Without excellent connectivity, the opportunity to gather valuable data could be wasted.

As businesses adopt new strategies to digitize the customer journey and create an omni-channel experience for in-store visitors, competition grows for inbox space as the targeted offers and promotional messages begin to roll-in. Businesses must think beyond captivating subject lines and attractive discounts, and must consider the relevancy of the messaging for each individual recipient.

If messages are too irrelevant or too regular, customers could quickly opt-out of receiving any further messages and this could also create a detrimental impact on the customer’s view on the brand as a whole.

The same school of thought must be applied to mobile apps – another option for retailers striving to open up a direct channel with their customers. Customers can be targeted through in-app messaging and push notifications that can alert the customer of offers even when their phone is locked, but unless due care is taken to ensure messages are relevant and received in appropriate volumes, users can simply turn the messaging functionality off, or delete the app completely.

If retailers are to capitalize on this opportunity to directly target consumers, they must ensure a reliable Wi-Fi connection is provided for throughout their stores without impacting business continuity by placing strain on the bandwidth required for integral business applications.

If too much of the bandwidth is dominated by customers’ personal devices, essential store applications that rely on the same bandwidth, such as payment and stock control systems, could become sluggish and unreliable, potentially resulting in lost sales, frustrated customers and stressed-out store personnel.

61% of consumers who took part in the survey said that they were unconcerned about being tracked in-store if it meant that retailers were able to develop a better understanding of the products the individual is interested in.

Capturing a customer’s shopping behaviours and product preferences as they browse will enable the retailer to build a digital impression on each individual, but again, a strong Wi-Fi connection and the assurance that business continuity will be unaffected are both key to making this method work successfully.

A simple alternative would be to offer the user a preference form when they first connect with their smart device. Although this option would enable to the retailer to build a clear impression of the individual’s preferences through a simple tick-box list, it creates an additional step in the customer’s journey, and a step they may not be willing to take.

Implementing technology that can track and read each connected customer’s preferences in store is surely the better option from the consumer point of view and, as we well know, millennials expect things to made easy for them. For retailers, the added benefit of this method is the ability to target users with real time offers and messages based upon the products they’re browsing while in store.

Retailers must bear in mind that although millennials are willing to use personal data as a bargaining tool to receive promotional offers, those who are unaware of this method of securing discounts and exclusive offers simply expect accessible Wi-Fi. Hardly surprising when considering the cost of mobile data packages and patchy coverage 3G and 4G coverage.

It’s not just customers who want to hijack business bandwidths for their own use, it’s staff too. Some retailers are embracing bring your own device (BYOD) culture by enabling staff to use their own devices to run business applications such as checking store inventory, accessing product information and even processing payments on the shop floor.

Critical business applications that rely on that very bandwidth – such as payment and stock control systems – can become slow and unresponsive as personal devices consume more bandwidth than the network can afford to spare. The influx of personal devices can also compromise network security.

However, the consumer demand for accessible Wi-Fi does present retailers with clear benefits. Collecting customer data and targeting customers with relevant information both in-store and remotely can boost sales and build up brand loyalty, but retailers must implement fast, agile systems that can manage networks intelligently.

A retailer’s network must be strong enough to handle multiple operations that benefit the customer, the employee and the business, without affecting business continuity. Network downtime, profit losses and customer disappointment can all be avoided by enlisting the services of a managed services provider (MSP) with expertise in optimizing business connectivity.

When network reliability is provided and data collection strategies are deployed, retailers will understand their customers so much better and will see real benefits in terms of footfall, engagement and revenue.

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