Trust, transparency and trade are all benefits of the true deployment of wi-fi as part of a store blueprint, so why have so few retailers rolled this out?
So what’s so great about in-store wi-fi? This does rather look like this year’s QR code must-have. Those with memories that extend back 12 months or more will recall pictures showing walls of products with QR codes beneath them. These purported to have been taken in a Korean subway and to show Seoul travellers eagerly scanning the characteristic black and white squiggles contained within a square shape. The idea was that those on the move could use the platform downtime to grocery shop, courtesy of Tesco-owned Home Plus.
Suddenly, QR codes were almost everywhere. People put them on their business cards in place of legible details (diminishing, at a stroke, their chances of having any attention paid to them). They appeared almost indispensable elements of every window display and it even began to look as if they were more interesting than in-store displays in some retailers.
That was then, however, and today, while there are QR codes around, they have nothing like the near ubiquity of 2011. The major problem was that they required effort. To understand the information contained within a QR code you have to download a reader to your smart-phone and then they do seem to have a habit of not working when you want them to.
But what about in-store wi-fi? Is this any more use than a QR code? The answer is very possibly and this may well be why large retailers such as Marks & Spencer have opted to make them part of their store blueprint and, equally, why the retailer’s newly-opened Cheshire Oaks behemoth has wi-fi across its 151,000 sq ft. Wi-fi does not require any particular skill with a smartphone and has the capacity to enhance the in-store experience.
It is not the threat that some seem to perceive it to be and it does create the impression of pricing transparency that is welcomed by shoppers. This means a greater degree of trust as consumers can work on the basis that a retailer does not have something to hide. It also makes omni-channel (and if anyone can provide a meaningful distinction between this and multi-channel then please explain) a reality, instead of something that has been cheapened by sundry retailers for whom in-store e-commerce means a computer in a corner.
Hats off to M&S for taking the wi-fi bull by the horns therefore - this should be a given for those creating stores everywhere, but so frequently is not. It is not a passing QR code-like fad.