WiFi capability is everywhere. Built into practically every laptop, tablet and smartphone, it offers a convenient, inexpensive way to stay connected and productive from any location from a small coffee shop to a large airport.
WiFi capability is everywhere. Built into practically every laptop, tablet and smartphone, it offers a convenient, inexpensive way to stay connected and productive from any location from a small coffee shop to a large airport. But beyond its consumer roots, it is an increasingly invaluable tool for businesses to help boost employee efficiency and provide a valuable amenity for visitors and customers.
Retail is one industry profoundly changed by WiFi. An October 2013 survey of 1,500 U.S. smartphone owners fielded by Accenture’s Acquity Group found that 50% of respondents would feel more confident making a major purchase at a retailer’s store that offered WiFi, because they would be able to perform in-store research on the product. 30% also said in-store WiFi would make them more likely to browse for additional items not on their shopping lists, and 20% said they would be more likely to stay longer in the store.
Similarly, a May 2014 Deloitte study found that customers who used a mobile device during their shopping were 40% more likely to buy items. That could be the reason why large retailers including Target, J.C. Penney and Macy’s now offer free WiFi access to customers at their stores.
Increasingly, retail stores also are arming floor sales representatives with WiFi devices. A salesperson can answer customers’ questions about product inventory and pricing on the spot and even ring up their purchases, rather than making them wait in line. Meanwhile, WiFi workers back at the warehouse armed with tablets have real-time access to inventories and shipping updates to drive productivity and process efficiency.
Beyond retail, WiFi has become a critical amenity at hotels and a deciding factor in choosing where to stay. In a 2013 Forrester survey of hotel guests, 94% of respondents pointed to WiFi as the most important amenity. 34% of business travelers said no WiFi was a deal-breaker, and that they would book a room elsewhere.
Hospitals and medical offices are increasingly offering WiFi in waiting rooms as a way to improve patient satisfaction and their overall care. In a survey of 5,000 U.S. patients conducted by Software Advice, 60% said that having free WiFi in the waiting room would help minimize their frustration with long waits. And as millions of newly insured Americans flock to the doctor, driving up wait times even more, WiFi can play a role in maintaining patient satisfaction.
That extends also to any other business where customers wait for service, including bars, restaurants, retailers and doctors’ offices among others. In a recent Bredin poll of 484 U.S. entrepreneurs and small business IT managers that offer WiFi, 79% said offering WiFi makes customers feel more welcome while they wait. 65% also said WiFi has encouraged repeat business, 55% said it brought in new customers, and 55% said it resulted in higher sales per visitor.
“Consumers Value In-store Wi-Fi, Rich Content and Mobile Experience Over Loyalty Programs.” Accenture Acquity Group. 2013
“The New Digital Divide: Retailers, Shoppers, and the Digital Influence Factor.” Deloitte. 2014
“Winning Customers’ Hearts Starts with a Great Guest Wi-Fi Service.” Forrester. 2013
“How to Treat Patient Wait-Time Woes IndustryView.” Software Advice. 2013
“Small Business WiFi Survey.” Bredin Research. 2014