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Why connectivity is still important for sales at bricks-and-mortar stores

Paul Leybourne at Vodat explains why connectivity and digital experiences are now equally playing a part in the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience.

Shoppers have lapped up the technology unleashed by online retail disruptors such as Amazon, Farfetch and ASOS, and now they increasingly expect slick digital experiences when they visit bricks-and-mortar stores.

Luxury brands such as Burberry may have been among the first to mix digital and physical in-store experiences, introducing clienteling solutions that were able to give a real-time view of customer, stock and order, but now mainstream retailers are also getting in on the act. For example, grocery giant Sainsbury’s recently beat Amazon Go to scoop the honour of opening the UK’s first cashier-less store in Holborn, London. Shoppers at the branch can now simply scan and go using their mobile and a linked digital wallet. Forward-thinking brands like shoe firm Merrell are even dabbling with in-store virtual reality, in Merrell’s case they creatived a virtual Alpine world for the launch of their high-end hiking boot. The list of emerging tech goes on and includes responsive digital signage, staff equipped with IoT wearables and over in China, is even deploying facial recognition.

No matter how ambitious or straightforward your digital in-store experiences may be, however, great connectivity is the key to success. In fact, recent research by Vodat clearly shows that customers will quickly abandon their basket in-store and go somewhere else if poor connectivity adds any unnecessary time or friction to their shopping experience.

Our research of 1,000 UK consumers highlights the following connectivity pain points that retailers must avoid if they want to maximise both their conversion rates and their increasing investment in in-store tech.

Consumers don’t need any more tech complexity. Customers want fast, frictionless interactions with technology. The moment tech makes an action or process more complicated, customers say they will vote with their feet. This is shown by the fact that 56% of shoppers say difficult-to-use self-service devices will cause them to abandon their basket instore.

Retailers pay the price of faulty EPoS. Everyone in retail knows that customers loathe having to wait in line at the checkout, so why should they tolerate slow or faulty EPoS? Our research found that nearly two-thirds (64%) would abandon their basket and leave empty handed if an EPoS was too slow or broken.

Weak Wi-Fi just irritates customers. Free in-store web access is a powerful sales tool, but it is easy to get it wrong and frustrate customers. The consumers we spoke to listed their biggest Wi-Fi gripes as: slow data speeds, lack of reliability, questionable security, complicated log-in processes and too much personal data needed for initial sign-up. Any one of these can drive customers away.

No Wi-Fi? No sale. Wi-Fi is now one of the most mature forms of customer-facing technology with 86% of consumers saying they’re happy to use it, as long as its safe and secure. Shoppers rely on complimentary connectivity to do a wide range of things while they’re instore. This includes researching products, viewing online shopping lists, posting on social media and keeping in touch with work, friends and family. Wi-Fi is so integral to this patchwork of activities that more than half (55%) of consumers said they’d rather shop elsewhere if free connectivity wasn’t available.

Poor connectivity in general drives customers away. An even bigger proportion of shoppers (66%) said they would simply leave a store if it suffered from general poor connectivity, causing frustrating Wi-Fi data speeds, slow EPoS and buffering digital screens.

And what is the hottest in-store technology that’s on customers’ wish list right now? Our survey shows that mobile EPoS is a real winner. Half (50%) of customers said a retailer that invested in the speed and convenience of mobile EPoS would actually encourage them to make a purchase in their store. Personalisation is also on shoppers’ bucket list with just under half (49%) saying they would be more likely to buy from a retailer that offers product recommendations based on their previous buying behaviour.

The big emerging technologies, according to our poll include interactive changing room mirrors, robot assistants and virtual/augmented reality and interactive shelves which provide product information.

The key to all of this, however, is safe, secure and slick connectivity with 34% of consumers saying they would avoid customer Wi-Fi if it was too slow and 43% saying security fears would make them steer clear.