In my opinion: WiFi CRM is the enabler for a seamless omni-channel strategy, says Airangel

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Karl Gilbank, sales director, Airangel, on how WiFi can enable an omni channel experience for retailers

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Omni-channel marketing is a complex phenomenon, which is now an integral part of the retailer-customer relationship. From online shopping, social networks and forums to in-store mobile apps, digital displays and SMS notifications, retailers are no longer the final destination in a linear customer journey but a point of intersection within a complex network of actions.

Recent studies highlighted in Retail Times showed that CEOs know that they need to continue to invest in business improvements to enhance their omni-channel performance. Not surprisingly, reducing or reformatting physical store footprints to focus on e-commerce was seen as a top priority for strategic growth. This puts even more pressure on retailers to maximise the in-store experience and means that intelligent WiFi has to be a vital part of enabling an omni-channel marketplace.

However, as a brand, omni-channel marketing could potentially be seen as a threat as your identity is only partially under your control once it gets into the hands of the consumer. Content generated by users and shared on social networks all contribute to your brand image, yet you don’t get the chance to oversee or regulate it. The net result is that the consumer has significantly more influence over your brand in an omni-channel environment as well as a range of options to allow them to search out deals, information, alternatives and personalised experiences.

The challenge for retailers, therefore, is how to use technology to get the best out of the omni-channel marketplace while maintaining brand loyalty and maximising return on marketing spend.

More and more consumers are relying on mobile devices to connect them to their social networks, email and search engines while they are out and about in social and retail environments. Providing free in-store WiFi is rapidly becoming as ubiquitous as the devices themselves. So how does WiFi become part of your omni-channel strategy? The answer is when your WiFi system collects and analyses consumer data that can then be used to reinforce your brand and enhance your marketing communications and sales promotions.

When consumers log in to WiFi in your store, in exchange for providing them with free access to the Internet, you have the opportunity to ask for something in return. This could just be their email address and a small price to pay compared to using up their data allowance. If you give them the option to opt out of third party communications at the same time, then they won’t feel they are going to be the target of unsolicited emails either.

When they log in via Facebook or Twitter, however, you automatically have access to even more personal data with their full consent, as they have already made it available in the public domain. This could include age, gender and other demographics as well as likes and interests. When you combine this will location-based data tracking and measuring footfall, gathered from access points located in different departments or on different floors, you can really start to implement your omni-channel strategy.

Intelligent WiFi CRM can provide all this data along with the ability to track it over time. So, for example, if you know that women between 35 and 50 are spending more time in one area of the store than another, you can use digital displays to deliver specific messages for that target audience, such as a cosmetics promotion. At the same time you can push out special offers by text or email – perhaps offering a free coffee with lunch to those shoppers in store in the morning.

Gathering data on the online behaviour of customers while they are in store can also form part of your omni-channel marketing. If you can see that an individual shopper in your audio or technology department is a regular visitor to a particular web-site – perhaps relating to an interest in sport  – then you can ‘tune’ your TVs to a sports channel or the iPads on display to a particular team’s home page.

All this data can be provided in real-time as well as being available for analysis against sales figures and footfall. Before long retailers can quickly establish an audience profile across multiple channels.

Data is not the only thing that helps build a seamless omni-channel experience; retailers also need to implement consistent branding across all channels. An intelligent WiFi system allows retailers to not only create a welcoming and branded home or login page, it can also change the branding to reflect a specific location. As a retailer you may want to reinforce a sub-brand, such as a fashion line, in a particular area of the store. Static displays showing printed markers or QR codes can encourage consumers to access a specific web page designed to support the sales process with additional information such as related accessories or shoes.

Retailers wanting to implement an omni-channel strategy in the next 12 months can now do so more easily if they have access to real-time data analytics and visibility into customer’s online behaviour and buying habits. Mix this with displaying branded messages across all channels and sending targeted promotions to mobile devices and retailers can have a seamless omni-channel experience managed from a single dashboard. Omni-channel is the future of retailing and WiFi CRM is the enabler that makes for a successful strategy.

(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)