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Welcome to the wireless nation

Welcome to the wireless nation

Welcome to the wireless nation

Hidden amongst the savvy shoppers on Britain’s high streets you’ll notice a few with heads tilted, thumbs poised and mobile device in hand. Paul Hellings, Director of WiFi at Arqiva asked these connected shoppers about their expectations of the growing wireless nation.

The fact is, for a fast-growing number of people in the UK, staying connected when out and about is nothing short of a necessity. Mobile devices are no longer just about talking and texting. The smartphones or tablets that have infiltrated our lives are a way to stay in touch, to be informed, to socialise, to stave off boredom, to work, to find our way around and much more. Importantly, for retailers, people are using them as a vital shopping companion. Not only as a new way to buy, but a means to research products, to gain a second opinion and to share experiences – good and bad. The desire to be connected isn’t a passing fad. It’s not tied to a generation or demographic. It’s just the way more and more of us live.

Earlier this month Arqiva launched Wireless Nation, a survey of consumers’ expectations of connectivity when out and about including shops, cafes, pubs and hotels. The survey found that 53% of people says it’s “critical” or “important” to be able to connect to the internet when outside of the home or office, rising to 70% of those aged 31-40 years and 59% of people aged 41-50 years.

Shoppers want to be more connected than ever before and for those retailers embracing this growth, the results pay dividends. If customers can connect when they’re in store, they revealed they are more likely to stay longer, spend more, come back and recommend the business. Ignoring this expectation of connectivity can have equally damaging effects with the study showing a startling one in four customers leaving a business’s premises because they couldn’t connect to the internet.

So, with retailers creating richer customer experiences both in-store and online, why do customers still have the need to browse while out and about? Today, mobile devices serve a number of different roles; for most of us they’re a source of information and entertainment too with 56% saying it relieves boredom.

If customers can connect when they’re in store, they revealed they are more likely to stay longer, spend more, come back and recommend the business

In retail environments, 49% of respondents are checking prices while in-store, 35% are looking at product reviews and 44% are researching products. Retailers must take control and optimise their online presence, to meet the needs of the omnichannel customer. Enabling potential customers to check prices, research products and read product reviews while in a retail premises may seem like a risky strategy. But people are more likely to value having ready access to the information they need to make an informed purchase – with the added convenience to buy there and then, rather than go elsewhere.


There’s been a lot of talk about social media and the need for brands to listen and engage with customers online. The fact is 58% of customers have used social media on business premises. That figure rises to 88% of 18-30 year olds. Women are also more likely than men to be liking, sharing and tweeting when they’re visiting a business – with 67% active versus 46% of men. It certainly ups the ante for retailers, as it’s now critical to deliver a consistently good experience. Happy customers can readily spread the word, but equally, the disgruntled can share poor experiences far and wide. Enabling and encouraging customers to check in, share and seek the opinions of others online can certainly lead to positive benefits – giving people the social proof and validation they need to make a purchase and building invaluable advocacy for retailers.

Shoppers see a good internet connection as essential, but many premises are still providing a poor experience – and that affects business. More than half of the people in our study said they regularly experience issues trying to connect to the internet when out of the home or workplace; mobile internet connectivity is not yet consistent. 57% of consumers regularly experience a poor network signal and 39% regularly experience no network signal. The availability of WiFi services seem to be limited too – with 51% of consumers regularly finding there’s no WiFi available and 35% experiencing poor quality WiFi.

The main concern for businesses is that not being able to connect triggers some very strong emotions. Many customers say they feel ‘frustrated’ and ‘annoyed’. And it’s evident that these negative emotions colour our attitudes to the business and brand itself. What’s more, when an angry customer uses social media to vent their anger, their voice can be heard much further afield.

For the majority of shoppers WiFi is the preferred way to get online, in fact, 75% say free, easy to use WiFi would improve their experience with 71% saying making it easier to log in to WiFi would help. The message is clear. Retailers that don’t currently provide WiFi services should think seriously about offering it or risk losing out to rivals. For those already providing WiFi, carefully consider the experience they’re delivering.

There are many examples of omnichannel retailers creating digital experiences in-store, however the launch of WiFi is still big news with Oliver Bonas announcing recently that it will introduce tablets into store and launching click-and-collect in five stores. Jonathan Webb, Co-founder and joint CEO of the consultancy Retail in Action commented on the Wireless Nation research, “retailers…need to adapt, and recognise that shoppers are increasingly going online to improve their offline shopping experience. Catering to this by offering in-store connectivity will be key to ensure the survival of bricks and mortar retail.”

The message is loud and clear. Shoppers today want to stay connected, wherever they go. Retailers ignore this expectation at their peril. If customers can’t get online in stores, an increasing number say they’ll go elsewhere. What will that cost be to a business’s bottom line? The good news is that by enabling shoppers to be connected can bring real benefits and give retailers an edge. When people are connected, this Wireless Nation will spend more money, keep coming back and recommend brands to others. Connectivity also presents endless opportunities to target and engage customers in new ways – building stronger, longer-lasting relationships. So, at a time when shoppers want to be more connected than ever – make sure you really connect with them.

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