How to Use Wi-Fi Marketing to Engage Shoppers

Eric Goldschein
Eric Goldschein
Guest Contributor

Enhanced shopper experiences is everything for a retail business and with Wi-Fi marketing you can provide a valuable service to shoppers while gaining useful and unique data that helps your business grow.

As technology expands and more and more consumers go online to shop, the retail industry faces new challenges. Millennials, now the world’s largest generation and biggest spenders, are more than twice as likely to shop online

Yet millennials, like Gen Z behind them, also value authenticity and the human element of shopping. They want to feel as though they’re a part of your brand.

Today’s most active shoppers want to be loyal, which is an excellent situation for retail brands. Stitch Labs has found that returning customers account for almost a quarter of retailers’ revenue despite making up less than 12 percent of the total customer base. Those repeat customers also tend to spend 15 percent more in a single order and 120 percent more than single-visit customers over the course of a year. Put simply, you want customers coming back.

One of the smartest, most effective ways to build loyalty and generate those repeat customers is through Wi-Fi marketing.

What is Wi-Fi Marketing?

Wi-Fi marketing is must-have technology for small and large retailers alike. Think about it, aren’t you always looking for Wi-Fi? Whether we’re in a coffee shop or at the airport, we’ve become conditioned to connect to the Wi-Fi, either to save data or use our apps more seamlessly. Today, small businesses are following in the footsteps of larger enterprises by taking advantage of that connection.

With Wi-Fi marketing, you turn guest Wi-Fi hotspots into marketing platforms that provide valuable business insights. As shoppers connect to your in-store Wi-Fi, you collect their contact information and build client profiles that help you understand how often they visit your store and what they’re interested in buying. It also allows you to send more targeted, personalized communications their way. 

It’s like you’ve hired a full-scale marketing team for your brick-and-mortar storefront – just by giving your shoppers a perk. In return, you get valuable customer data. Some of the other benefits:

  • iGR found that 62 percent of small businesses reported that customers spent more time at a location with free Wi-Fi than locations without.
  • Half of those businesses surveyed said customers spent more after they added Wi-Fi to the store.
  • Wi-Fi marketing makes it easy for customers to “check in” at your business via apps, bolstering your social media marketing efforts.

Wi-Fi marketing makes it easy for small retail businesses to reach, engage with, and retain customers. Regardless of your store’s size, Wi-Fi marketing can be a huge boon to your bottom line.

So, how do you implement it?

Choose the Right Plan

Let’s start off easy. A basic home Wi-Fi plan is not the right choice for your retail store. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to getting set up:

  1. Choose a reliable ISP: Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast Xfinity, and Time Warner Cable have excellent business-friendly plans that are compatible with Wi-Fi marketing platforms.
  2. Choose high-speed, high-bandwidth service: You want your shoppers to be able to use the Wi-Fi, so it’s important that you invest in a higher-tier plan so they won’t get bogged down by slow browsing.
  3. Set up a guest network: You shouldn’t let shoppers connect to your private wireless network. At installation, ask the technician to set up a guest network, choose a secure password, and enable WPA/WPA2 encryption to protect shoppers while they browse.
  4. Set up a captive portal: A captive portal is a web page that asks a shopper to agree to the network’s terms and policy agreements before getting access to the web. This will limit your liability so you aren’t held responsible for any illicit customer actions on your network.
  5. Prevent bandwidth hogging: You can program the captive portal to prevent websites like YouTube or Netflix that may hog the bandwidth on your network. This ensures a faster connection.
  6. Let customers know the Wi-Fi password: You have the Wi-Fi, now use it! Make sure the Wi-Fi password is visible, perhaps at the register or on signs around the store, and put a sign on the window that tells passersby you have Wi-Fi available.

Connect Customers

I mentioned setting up a captive portal on your guest network. That’s important for limiting liability and ensuring shoppers know the terms of connecting to your in-store network.

There’s another benefit to this: You also want shoppers to share a little information in exchange for using the network. When you set up the captive portal, ask shoppers for an email address and include a message saying that, by sharing their email address or social media profile, they are granting you permission to send promotional content.

Once you have that email address or profile, shoppers can use the Wi-Fi like normal, but you now have a customer profile to build from. Rather than waiting for a shopper to buy something and having a sales attendant ask them for an email address, you’ve enrolled a shopper in your marketing platform in seconds.

Market to Shoppers

One of the great advantages of Wi-Fi marketing is automation. When shoppers opt-in on your Wi-Fi, you’re prepared to market to them on a personalized basis.

Here are just a few of the ways you can engage shoppers through Wi-Fi marketing:

  • Promote sales: Whenever your store is having a sale, you can spread the word to everyone who has used your in-store Wi-Fi. This way, you can invite anyone to come back in, regardless of whether they’ve purchased from your store before or not. With additional personalization, you can offer those who haven’t purchased an additional coupon for making their first purchase, or incentivize previous buyers with a coupon as well.
  • Manage inventory: Wi-Fi marketing grants you access to a wealth of data and knowledge about shoppers, including what they’ve purchased, how long they’ve spent in your store, and what they’d like to see. Using these insights, you can stock your store with more of the stuff people like, and move on from products they aren’t buying. (If you have multiple stores, you can perform a comparative analysis between stores to make sure each store is well-stocked.)
  • Target individual demographics – Say you’re a boutique shoe store that suddenly finds itself with an abundance of Nike running shoes. With Wi-Fi marketing, you can specifically target customers who have previously purchased Nike shoes or running shoes in general to let them know you’re having a massive blowout sale on Nikes. In marketing, it doesn’t get more specific than that. 
  • Design store layout: Wi-Fi marketing allows you to use foot traffic data, like how shoppers have navigated your store, where they’re spending time, and where the sales are converting, to give you a better idea of how to think about store layout.

You’ll gather all of these insights automatically and passively, performing each marketing tactic in just a few clicks. 

Track Results

The most important element of a Wi-Fi marketing campaign is to pay attention! Keep tabs on how many people are joining your Wi-Fi network, what time of day they’re joining, how long they’re spending time in your store, etc. These numbers, coupled with smart stone retail analytics, will give you a comprehensive picture of how people engage with your physical space. 

Beyond seeing when and how often shoppers use your network, however, you need to calculate your return on investment (ROI). Offering Wi-Fi to your customers will hardly break the bank, but it’s important to measure the ROI of every marketing expense you make. Offering this service to customers bolsters your reputation and brand, but if it doesn’t deliver you results in the form of leads and conversions, it may not be worth continuing. 

Therefore, you need systems in place to track whether the information you capture from Wi-Fi turns into sales. Follow the results so you know what works and what doesn’t. 

The Bottom Line

Brand loyalty is everything for a retail business. With Wi-Fi marketing, you can provide a valuable service to customers while gaining useful and unique data that will help your business grow.

About the writer: Eric Goldschein is an editor and writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions such as business credit cards. He covers marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, and small business trends.

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