Friday, February 22, 2013

Free Wifi Adds Value (and Wealth of Info) for Shopping Centers

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Media Post

Link to article:
Second Screening: The Retail Experience

Free Wifi for customers is a perk pioneered by Starbucks and McDonalds, but the trend is spreading through the shopping center industry. Besides the perceived value for consumers, wifi provides usage patterns that can be studied and quantified to study the moves and motivations of shoppers.

Excerpt: " 'The main reason any mall is deploying WiFi is as an amenity to keep [visitors] there longer,' says Joseph DeStasio, manager of business development, Boingo Wireless, which is helping six of the largest mall chains in the U.S. manage WiFi at 30 locations. Well, I imagine, WiFi at the mall is likely to be the thing that keeps less willing spouses-in-tow from complaining about the long stay, if you ask me. But it also makes the mall the port of entry for connected users and the place where the owner can develop loyalty programs that one mall chain claims are associated with visitors who spend 50% more than non-members.

But according to DeStasio, mall owners are especially curious about where their own visitors go both physically and virtually while they are in the mall. Boingo anonymizes and aggregates user behaviors across the WiFi traffic. For an individual big-box retailer and for a shopping center, understanding where shoppers go while in venue could be invaluable in unearthing your real competitors in the showrooming duel as well as identifying potential partners. But DeStasio says that owners are also interested in understanding from access-point triangulation and other geolocation tricks where their own shoppers are going in the mall and for how long. 'Over time we develop heat mapping and paths of travel,' he says. For the mall this data provides feedback about the value and relationship of the various tenants.

Boingo is also working with Wendy’s as it rebuilds its many locations to aim for the fast casual dining market. Brandon Meyers, manager of business development at Boingo, says the presence of WiFi at Wendy’s is itself a part of the rebranding, signaling to customers its transition from quick fast food to the casual category. 'WiFi gives the customer another reason to stay,' he says.

It also opens up a new path of brand engagement with the customer. Getting the visitor to download the Wendy’s app and engage with the MyWendy’s rewards program are table stakes. They have already observed that customers do the expected things over the connection, social media look ups and check-ins. But there is a lot of app use, he notes, which suggests the connectivity provider has an opportunity to serve certain kinds of behaviors. “The in-store experience is where we are headed,” he says. Wendy’s already installs TV flat screens in the rebuilt venues, but mobile connectivity can be used to underscore the entertainment ethos."

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