WiFi: the secret to capturing business people at leisure

Most of us try to separate our work and home lives, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to switch out of a professional frame of mind and into personal mode. This might be the cause of the occasional argument around the dinner table, but for retail and hospitality businesses, it offers untapped potential.

Access to a reliable WiFi service is critical for business people on the move, and a recent survey by BridgeStreet Global Hospitality underlined how reliance on the internet during working hours has a knock-on impact during our leisure time.

According to the study, 83% of business travellers will use free time during business trips to explore the local area, which is where free customer WiFi comes into play. Conscious to keep abreast of email communications, many professionals seek out cafés or restaurants – even cultural sites such as museums and galleries – that offer complimentary internet access to patrons.

More importantly, almost 14% of the UK workforce now works from home, the highest level since Office of National Statistics records began. This creates the potential to generate a regular revenue stream from professionals who prefer to ‘hot desk’ from less isolated environments, such as a coffee shops.

And while consumers feel the free WiFi service is solely for their benefit, running a wireless network also benefits retailers and hospitality vendors. Through the use of wireless devices such as PDQs and tablets, they can take transactions from the customer at any location, creating the kind of personalised service that fosters long-term relationships.

It also has the added benefit, in most cases, of speeding up turnaround times – perfect for accommodating increased custom drawn in by complimentary WiFi facilities.

How to utilise mobile to benefit your retail business

September marked an important milestone for omnichannel retail, as IMRG and Capgemini revealed mobile retail traffic has overtaken desktop activity for the first time in history. A third – 36% – of all UK e-retail sales now come from tablets and smartphones.

While this is important news for pure plays, the unstoppable rise of mobile is set to have a much wider impact than online retail alone. For example, retailers who don’t invest in responsive websites, which change format to fit multiple screen sizes, will find themselves falling behind their competitors.

The increase in mobile engagement is also affecting retail stores, for instance the widespread acknowledgement of showrooming – consumers coming into the store to browse before buying a product online instead. Shoppers are using their smartphones in the aisles to check they’re getting the best product, price and package, and this has left many retailers fearing a decline in High Street sales.

Rather than panic, however, retail businesses should be embracing the new opportunities for interaction in all channels that mobile is presenting. For instance, the adoption of tablets has led to an acceptance of mPoS technology, which enables sales staff to create a personal in-store experience centred around the needs of the customer.

It also opens up new means of communicating with customers – whether that’s mobile optimised email marketing, text messaging or even the latest wave of geo-based push notifications. As House of Fraser’s recent trial of beacon technology inside mannequins demonstrates, enhancing the customer experience through mobile can be a huge customer draw as well as an upselling tool.

While much of the mobile technology that retailers will be able to use to benefit their bottom lines is still in its infancy, the latest IMRG statistics underline something very important: now that we’ve passed the mobile tipping point, retailers cannot afford to ignore its influence.