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Study Links In-store Wi-Fi to Retail Loyalty, Sales Gains

Deploying in-store Wi-Fi has a significant positive impact on retail sales and loyalty, new research has revealed.  

One of the first-ever studies to measure the impact of the retail industry’s plans for store networking, Wi-Fi, security and engagement was sponsored by three companies: IHL Group, a research consultant; EarthLink Holdings Corp., a managed network and cloud solutions provider; and AirTight Networks, a cloud-managed Wi-Fi solutions provider.

Almost half of the participating retailers, representing all retail sizes and types, claimed increased customer loyalty due to deploying in-store employee Wi-Fi, with an associated 3.4 percent increase in sales. Nearly three in 10 retailers (28 percent) reported increased customer loyalty due to deploying in-store customer Wi-Fi, with an associated 2 percent increase in sales. The study’s authors say these results point to employee Wi-Fi as an even bigger positive driver than customer Wi-Fi, and highlight the importance of creating a connected, flexible workforce untethered to point-of-sale stations.

Twenty-one percent of retailers also reported an increase in customer dwell time in their stores due to the deployment of in-store Wi-Fi. For these same retailers, top uses include traffic counting at 56 percent and session duration and device used at 49 percent.

Additional key findings include:

  • Forty percent of IT budgets are now allocated to deploying new and innovative systems, compared to historic measures of 15-30 percent of the budget.
  • Nearly 70 percent of specialty retailers are designing their next point-of-sale (POS) system based on a central order management system, which will put up to five times more load on the network and will require a WAN infrastructure refresh.
  • Per the increased push toward WAN, 34 percent of participants plan to update their WAN network security within 12 months, and 34 percent also plan to update their WAN bandwidth optimization to take advantage of changed software architecture and enhanced customer experience options.

“As retailers dramatically upgrade store infrastructures to create the experience of the future, there is a tremendous need for increased bandwidth and security, driven by moving to a single version of the truth for data, mobile devices in the store, and the accompanying systems,” said Greg Buzek of IHL. 

“What also unquestionably emerged from the study data is the greatest bang for the buck for increased loyalty and sales is the deployment of Wi-Fi to store associates for use with mobile devices. This allows them to get more item information and save sales otherwise lost as well as replicate the experience of their best salespeople across the chain. Subsequently many retail segments see further growth by offering Wi-Fi to customers. Smart retailers are racing to upgrade their stores to take full advantage of the opportunities," Buzek said.

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