Nearly one in four would leave a shop with poor WiFi, GWS research finds

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independent network benchmarking firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) has revealed the top stores and shopping centres for mobile connectivity. GWS looked at the voice & data tasks on mobiles at over 100 stores in 10 cities. With consumer research showing that 87% of shoppers used a connected smart device on their last shopping trip, shoppers expect a reliable connection and consistent performance from their mobile devices across voice, internet and social media services. However, signal levels dropped when entering a store and many stores such as John Lewis consistently delivered a poor experience at multiple locations across the country. Nearly one in four shoppers (23%) would leave a store because of poor mobile or WiFi signal, presenting a challenge for retailers.

Oxford Street department stores lag on mobile service

At street level, Oxford Street was 100% failure free for both voice calls and mobile data. However, when inside John Lewis a music download took 38.61 seconds a selfie upload took 3.49 seconds to complete. To put this in context, this took 5.5 times longer than walking down the street. In Debenhams, shoppers’ mobile service was 33% more reliable than John Lewis, great news for sharing purchases on social media or calling home to double check what Dad wants for his birthday this year.

Mobile is now an essential part of shopping

One in four shoppers consider online price comparisons to be the most important consideration just before making a purchase in the shop, showing better signal in stores could bring about a direct benefit to retailers’ bottom lines. 38% of respondents said comparing prices online was their most common activity the most common use of mobile phones when in store. The next most popular activity was checking social networks (30%) followed by messaging friends for advice on a purchase (23%). 21% of shoppers now use their mobile devices in changing rooms, which are often notoriously difficult for mobile signal to reach, presenting a new challenge to operators and retailers, while two thirds (66%) of shoppers still use their phones the most on the shop floor.

Problems abound for mobile shoppers

More people complained about WiFi connectivity than 4G connectivity: 41% said poor connection to WiFi was the most common network problem experienced in store compared to just 27% that thought connecting to mobile was the most common problem. Similarly, 28% felt slow data speed when using WiFi was the biggest problem compared to just 23% who felt it was slow data speed when using mobile (i.e. 4G). Retailers and operators would also do well to remember the basics – 28% of consumers admitted to having trouble making and receiving calls when shopping. These results indicate that offering WiFi alone is not enough to ensure connectivity; shoppers need both WiFi and mobile networks to perform well in stores.

Paul Carter, CEO at GWS, commented; “Our recent nationwide test of shopping hotspots showed many shoppers are getting poor service at peak shopping times of the year. Mobile devices are now so integral to the shopping experience, whether calling loved ones to ask about a present for a sibling, sending pictures of items to friends on WhatsApp or just taking a break between shops in the communal areas. However, our tests show operators, retailers and shopping centre owners can clearly do more to deliver a more consistent service across the country. Retail sales around the Christmas season account for a large part of yearly sales and now Valentine’s Day, another large shopping period, is fast approaching; they need to be doing everything they can to encourage shopper footfall.”

GWS tested individual retail stores and the communal areas in shopping centres and popular shopping locations across the country to uncover what shoppers can expect when they try and use their phones during those busy shopping periods. GWS ranked stores using its OneScore methodology which is based on how British consumers actually use their phones day-to-day.

Shopping centres ranked 

The ranking of shopping centres across the UK according to GWS’ unique consumer usage, data based OneScore is as below:

1            Metrocentre Gateshead

2            Trafford Centre Manchester

3            Meadowhall Sheffield

4            Liverpool ONE

5            Merry Hill Birmingham

6            Bluewater Kent

7            Westfield Stratford City London

8            Lakeside Essex

9            Selfridges London

10        St Davids Centre Cardiff