Technology has become common place in the digital age, but as a business which technology should you embrace, should it be a website, mobile app, in store Social Wifi or something else?

We are going to go through what we believe to be the main critical technological areas that any business should be looking to embrace.


20 – 30 years ago it was the storefront displays that were utilised to entice customers in, and to encourage shoppers that this business was the one to spend their hard earned money in.  Nowadays that has completely changed.  Store front displays are still important, but in the connected world that we live in, the Website is king!

Think of your Website as your online storefront.  It is the first thing potential customers see when online, so as a business it is vital to ensure that your website not only looks good, but also provides all the information a customer might be looking for.

Shoppers go online for efficiency and inspiration.

The shoppers were asked a series of questions regarding recent experiences looking for and deciding on the right products in stores.  The results point to a shoppers strong preference to efficiently make purchases online, whilst also showing their growing affinity for window shopping and looking for the inspired buy on websites.

47 % of shoppers gave a mixed bag rating to the experience of searching for and finding the right product for them in stores.

67% of consumers go online to browse and window shop for shop

90 % of shoppers spend the majority of their time shopping online when they know exactly what they want.

70 % surprisingly also shop online when they are not sure exactly hat they want.

76 % said searching for a product online is easier than asking a store associate for help, but they still find the store experience more personal.

83 % of consumers find shopping and comparing products online more efficient than in a store.

86 % find shopping and comparing products online just as much fun or more than in a store.

73 % of shoppers have FOMO (fear of missing out)

Shoppers value their time and are becoming less tolerant of inefficient shopping experiences, especially in the online store.  The biggest frustration point was the number of clicks needed to make navigation refinements tied to the amount of time waiting, click by click, waiting for the page to load.

But a website is not all about the customer, a good business website needs to not only satisfy the customer, but also to provide the business with information about the customers.  A good business website needs to be easy to manage and provide data analytical insights into its customers.

A good business website is vital to not only entice the customer in, but also to coerce the customer into spending money.  On the back office, the website needs to be simple to maintain whilst allowing insights for the business to use methods to entice the customers back.

Imagine a 25 year old customer is in your store shopping for a new dress. Her decision process typically looks like this: She considers the input of your sales staff, however, just like the average indecisive shopper, she will not make this important decision without gathering opinions from the people closest to her whose opinions do influence her purchasing decisions. So she texts a few friends and her mother a selfie of herself wearing the dress she wants to buy, and they give her the feedback that helps her decide that the dress is a must-have! Thus, this has made her shopping experience a social one.

Shopping for apparel has become an increasingly more social, interactive activity. With technological advances, the mobile device has created an environment where people are always connected with who they want, when they want.

Now, not only do consumers want this constant connection with their friends and family- they want it with the brands and labels they love as well!  Simultaneously, retailers want to connect to their customers at all times, beyond just the physical store. Social shopping is what connects all of these touch points together and has become a phenomenon that will only grow.

According to a recent survey of retailers, almost 50% of retailers believe strongly in the importance of social and are evaluating and implementing social in their own shopping strategies for 2014.

Social shopping can be defined as real-time shopping and the sharing of products and opinions with friends, family, and their social community, all influencing each other’s buying decisions, at the same time from different locations. A lot of social shopping is done through social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest; however, there are limited tools available for retailers to both identify and merge all content related to their brand that exists within these social media outlets. Beyond social networks, social shopping has become even more problematic as consumers are using touch points outside of the retailers’ domain (SMS, MMS, WhatsApp messaging and email), to share valuable brand information.

The Challenge for Retailers:

How do you as a retailer capitalize on this social shopping trend when your customers’ shopping decisions continue to be influenced outside of your own channels?

Take control!

Retailers can gain a significant competitive advantage by developing or investing in a solution that can aggregate customers’ scattered brand related communications from all social touch points. In order to accurately market to your customers, you must have a complete understanding of consumer preferences and shopping habits. While there are solutions that help brands integrate information from select social media networks, there is still a great deal of valuable data that goes undetected (e.g. untagged posts, posting through a personal network, etc.).

So how can retailers take control?

Value of Social Media Data

Social media is one of the most frequent ways people interact with each other – through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. This is where social sharing takes place and has a lot of influence on consumers and retailers. 60% of people who research products digitally learned about a retailer through a Facebook or Twitter post. However, it is difficult for retailers to track and monetize this information.

This can help you aggregate information that is circulating through these different social media sites; information that would normally be outside of your reach. Being able to access this data can help you better understand where your customer’s are communicating and see what their product preferences or dislikes are, allowing retailers to make more accurate and strategic business decisions.

Value of Other Social Data

In addition to social media platforms, people interact with brands in private emails, text messages, messaging applications, and so forth. All of this communication is done outside of the brands’ knowledge, thus making it hard for retailers to track this information as well. It is noted just how abundant social branding activity is outside of social media – mostly in private social chatting. Therefore features such as private messaging within a branded app can allow retailers to use the app as a powerful data tool. Retailers can capitalize on social sharing, since retailers cannot gather information from text messages, or other forms of messaging such as WhatsApp or Viber. Therefore one of the best ways to do this is to allow access to other forms of private chatting, such as internally with a branded application.

Mobile Apps

An application gives consumers the social shopping experience they want, with a likeminded community, sharing abilities, private texts to consult and share videos and photos all on one application, making it easier for consumers to interact with their peers and with your brand.

slide29As shopping becomes more and more of a social activity, retailers must do their best to track, use, and monetize social media and social sharing. Consumers are now connected with their friends and family at all times, thus retailers must stay connected to them as well. This world of social shopping is growing, and is offering technology that helps you capitalize on social shopping by seamlessly connecting your brand to your consumers and the social worlds.

The lack of guidelines or general wisdom as to which retailers should actually have a mobile app and which shouldn’t can be confusing. 

There is definitely a burgeoning anti-app movement, fuelled in part by the move to adaptive or responsive websites. On top of this, the growth in app downloads is in sharp decline and we seem to be reaching market maturation for apps, in those countries that have highest smartphone adoption.

But what should retailers do? Should some still be entertaining the idea of a new app? There are certainly some great success stories out there.

Some feel that the consumer has no interest in using many different retail apps, whereas others think the goal of consolidation is often unrealistic, with consumers happier using a range of options.

Where should apps lie in a priority list of ecommerce to-dos? Which apps are succeeding and which aren’t? How do customer base, product range, internationalisation and other factors affect the decision whether to build an app?

Point one: in general, the novelty of apps is wearing off

Paid apps, for certain, are dying off and account for less than 10% of app downloads. The average price of an app download is $0.06 for Android and $0.19 for iPhone. Data from Distimo has shown that 76% of app store revenue comes from in-app purchases, not from charging for the app right away.

But free apps are also seeing slowed growth.

Long-time smartphone users are more comfortable with their devices and apps and less willing to experiment.

Point two: the majority rarely shop on their phone, but mobile commerce is still growing fast

Some people are yet to come round to the idea of shopping via phones, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a trend towards mobile commerce.

Also, people are now more likely to shop via mobile or responsive sites than apps.

It’s just that we’re perhaps at the tip of the iceberg. Many are shopping from tablets, the biggest device segment over Christmas, and many from smartphones (Schuh Australia reported smartphones as the biggest segment over Christmas).

Games represented the biggest category, followed by social, media and lifestyle. Retail wasn’t present in one of the larger categories but that’s to be expected. Games and media apps are simply more popular and more likely to be in the app charts. Retail apps are often only for regular customers.

It should be noted here that many marketers are separating smartphone and tablet traffic and not referring to both together as ‘mobile’.

But what about apps specifically?

Point three: the converted are certainly…converted. Apps are for regular customers and retention.

Retail apps are often for customer retention and used by regular customers, therefore there’s likely to be a great range in usage, from people who download once and don’t stick, to those who use apps everyday.

Of course, apps all do different things and this impacts usage. Some are straight ecommerce apps, some are for rewards, deals and coupons.

This is where we have to look at a few separate categories of retail apps and see how they differ…

Point four: mobile payment and loyalty programme apps (e.g. Starbucks) are perhaps the most successful, though many retailers have shunned apps all together.

The responsive website, the standardisation of web design, these are undoubtedly causing many to move away from apps. UK Government Digital Services, as a non-retail example, takes a firm, no-apps stance.

Stand-alone mobile apps will only be considered once the core web service works well on mobile devices, and if specifically agreed with the Cabinet Office.

Those retailers that have decided to go with an app have used many features. These include but are certainly not limited to:

In-store benefits:

  • Check-in, with associated offers/coupons.
  • In-store navigation.
  • Product scanner.
  • Mobile payment and loyalty scheme.

Out of store:

  • Store finder.
  • Product ratings and reviews.
  • Ecommerce functionality.
  • Gamification (short-lived coupons)
  • Order and shipment notification.
  • Magazine style features and content.

Point five: are apps only for retailers with unique needs? If so, what are these needs?

Following from the points above, below are some outlines for defining some criteria for developing a mobile retail app.

Here are a number of rationales for retailers designing an app.

1. Improving in-store customer experience

This is the perhaps the largest category.

  • Time and money is available to develop an app.
  • The app build will not delay improvements to other important digital ‘stock’ i.e. website
  • Current stores are already well branded and the customer experiences a unique or characteristic experience already.
  • A loyalty programme, quicker payment.
2. Simplifying customer experience out of store, for niche products sometimes defined by mobility

Here I’m thinking of something like Autotrader, Domino’s or a drug store. Simplification of use on the cellular network is a definite plus for these customers. Use of a mobile app will likely to be of a different nature than use of desktop website.

  • Customer may need the product or be thinking about it specifically when mobile.
  • Customer may be a subscriber to a service already.
  • Ease of payment is still an important factor.
  • The app could provide location based information.
3. Improving the online shopping experience for large and perhaps lifestyle-based product ranges

These retailers will have a loyal customer base that are sometimes mobile, but they may be defined by interrupted purchase paths, perhaps browsing extensively across devices, perhaps browsing increasingly on tablets.

Here, perhaps a mobile optimised website is an alternative solution, but again brands like IKEA have invested in continuing a lovely brand message in an app environment.

This may extend to fashion, but only for strong brands that incorporate extra content (e.g. magazines or features like Nordstrom and Mothercare) within the app.

  • Retailer has a large product range.
  • Products need to be beautifully displayed.
  • A strong brand identity and again commitment to customer experience is evident.
  • Once again, the retailer wants to make storing of customer details and checking out as smooth as possible.
  • Customer service may be important.
4. For big pure plays and supermarkets

These are grouped together because these be defined not necessarily by mobility but again by interrupted purchase, tracking of orders etc. These will be the apps used most frequently.

  • Customer uses the retailer regularly.
  • Customer wants to track orders and order history, perhaps repeat orders.
  • Retailer has a massive customer base that see the service as a part of weekly life.
  • Retailer is big but still in a competitive market e.g. groceries where colonising a user’s phone represents a coup.
  • The goal for the retailer is increased conversion and money for dev isn’t an object.

Apps in a shortened explanation is essentially your website packaged together, but in a more simplified format that is designed to engage your customers and allow businesses to increase the marketing reach.

Social Wifi

Providing social networking credentials to get free WiFi access gives merchants a wealth of customer data for marketing and is a boon for managed service providers. 

To say that worlds are colliding in the network space is a gross understatement. Take social WiFi. When social networking credentials are used to sign in to wireless networks, lots of wheels are set in motion. Users get WiFi access, merchants reap customer data for fine-tuned marketing, and integrators can expand their services.

At the same time, social WiFi sign-in raises many unsettling privacy concerns. Let’s take a look at the upside — and downside — of this fast-growing trend in the wireless world.

Not so long ago, those of us who run wireless networks didn’t have a lot of options when it came to providing wireless guest access. The de factostandard required “an insider” to provide guest login credentials to our visitors. Some of us developed our own self-sponsor mechanisms that gave guests a way to get on without our help while providing some data point for us to track should trouble arise, such as a cellphone number to text a user’s password. Once connected, guests went about their business, while administrators collected only enough logs to report on network utilization.


Now, with social WiFi, you use your Twitter, Google +, Instagram, Linkedin or Facebook account to log in to a public wireless hotspot. Though “public wireless hotspots” might belong to single mom-and-pop establishments, they are frequently counted by the hundreds or thousands for chain establishments and thus rise to “distributed enterprise” status. Social WiFi is at home in settings of all sizes, where users want to connect to free WiFi and save their data minutes while they shop, eat, and socialize. And this is where things get interesting.

Bansko Wifi has led the charge into social WiFi guest access, bundling it into a subscription along with retail analytics, wireless PCI compliance, and various managed services options. Here’s the idea: You go to a local local Bansko Wifi provisioned environment and log in to local guest WiFi with your Facebook credentials. In exchange for free wireless, you enter a technical and business arrangement that permits the wireless provider to gather your data for marketing purposes.

Your account settings and personal data are culled and used to enhance your experience with personalized coupon offers and faster service. Merchants tailor their products and promotions based on what they learn about you, and can offer this advertising space to commercial partners to bring in additional revenue.

In some ways, everyone wins with Social WiFi. Merchants get a lot of bang for their marketing and social media bucks; they run ads on Facebook and see how you respond when on the premises.  They see what age/gender demographics are trending well and which ones require a new marketing strategy. Customers get free WiFi plus a personalized shopping experience.

At the same time, integrators can stretch their services. Social WiFi moves them beyond simply providing access to wireless clients and gets them into the business of retail analytics and social media marketing, along with cloud services and PCI compliance.

It’s a new day for wireless networking, but no IT paradigm is without tradeoffs. As innocuous as signing into guest wireless with social media credentials sounds, the implications are many and concerning. Yes, we live in an age where we’re hyper-sensitive to privacy, yet many of us put it all out there on our social media accounts. As strange as it seems, despite the wide-open nature of our social media personas, we still expect a modicum of control over how our information gets used.

Social WiFi undercuts that odd, fragile handle we have on our social media data to monetize and upsell us in ways.  Once the data is mined and conclusions are drawn from it, we become new people in the eyes of the social WiFi provider.

Social WiFi is interesting, innovative, and, for some businesses, potentially profitable.

So Which One Do You Need?

The simple and ideal answer is all of them.  Imagine offering your customers free Wifi access that helps your business to grow and helps your business build your own marketing list, whilst increasing your social profile.  Then your Social Wifi helps to increase mobile app downloads, which in turn helps to increase your customer loyalty, and customer experience.  So now you have a marketing list, and also a means to increase the online shopping experience.  So why a website?  Well as a business you want to ensure that your customers receive an optimised, seamless user experience and it is your websites job to combine everything together.  Also as most people are aware, customers perform online searches to find what they are looking for, and without a business website you are potentially missing out on a lot of passing trade.

This Sounds Very Complicated!

If as a business you go out to look and look for individual companies that can provide all of these services, then yes this could become a very time consuming and complicated process.  Also if you use individual companies then how can you be sure that all of the services are going to talk to each other?

screenshots12Here at Social Media Wifi we have made this process very simple.  We offer a complete business solution that allows businesses to have an entirely new system built, inclusive of Social Wifi, Mobile Apps, and Websites, all with back office cloud based control, or you can have modules that can be linked into your existing platforms, but still utilise all of the exemplary features detailed above.

If you would like to know more about what Social Media Wifi can do for your business, or how any of the above features could be of your benefit, please contact us for free and impartial advice.