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Doomsday prophets have foretold that the glory days of the high street are over and physical retail stores are a thing of the past. But, if lockdown proved anything, it is that Brits like to go shopping.

In fact, an Emarsys study conducted in Feb 2021 reported that 74% of UK shoppers miss going to physical brick-and-mortar stores. Nothing beats the smell of leather, the touch of silk or the excitement of a sale price. Oh, how we long for the tasting samples in the supermarket, the aimless wandering about the aisles in the hardware store or going shopping with a friend or family member.

Physical stores have a distinct advantage with their ability to offer shoppers a tactile experience; to feel, touch and try on items, and thereby appeal to all their senses. Whilst lockdown saw a meteoric rise in online shopping, many customers were left frustrated when the wrong items arrived, or when the fit was wrong or when it was falsely advertised, all because they could not see or touch the product before buying.

However, the lockdown has unwittingly created a nation of savvier online shoppers. Having been subjected to a long period of denied access to physical stores, we have learnt how to search for a discount, find items when the usual stores are out of stock, and utilise those loyalty points that we have been collecting over the years.

This online behaviour is going to step through the doors of bricks-and-mortar stores alongside their customers and change the retail experience. Consumers will demand a ‘best of both worlds’ approach. As the point-of-purchase continue to fluctuate between the physical and digital world, a mobile connectivity strategy is imperative.

What Do Consumers Do On Their Mobile Phones Whilst Shopping?

With a smartphone or tablet in hand, on-the-go consumers expect to have access to any information when and where they need it.

Research asked customers what they do on their mobile devices when in-store.

  • 47% compare prices
  • 38% read product reviews
  • 38% take pictures to aid decision making

This does not account for Generation Z who is set to become the largest consumer power by 2026 who see mobile connectivity as a basic human right. More than two-thirds of under 35’s use their phones in stores.

What Are The Benefits For Retail To Keep Its Customers Connected Whilst Shopping?

It has been proven that customers spend up to 41% more if they use their mobile phone whilst shopping. The University of Bath found that shoppers moved around stores at a slower pace if they were using their devices to chat, call or look at social media. The slower pace allows them to look at extra items that they would normally walk past or remember items that they would otherwise forget.

Retail stores that invest in apps have the unique ability to communicate directly with shoppers whilst they are in-store. They can guide the shopper’s behaviour by presenting personalised cross- and upsell offers, provide product availability and issue digital coupons. They collect valuable customer information about their shopping behaviour and spending patterns which helps the store plan future activity.

With the increase in customers demanding mobile connectivity, stores that offer a seamless, integrated shopping experience will reap the highest rewards.

What About Wi-Fi In Stores?

Supermarkets and retail stores, particularly those inside a shopping centre, have poor mobile connectivity. This is usually due to the materials used during the construction of the building, like steel, metal cladding and galvanised glass, which effectively prevents mobile signal from penetrating inside the building. Thus, when a customer enters the supermarket, shopping centre or retail store, the connection to their mobile network stops working rendering them unable to make phone calls, text or browse on their mobile device.

Many supermarkets and shopping centres offer free Wi-Fi connection to customers, but it does not always provide a seamless experience.

Too many Wi-Fi networks

Many stores within shopping centres have store-specific Wi-Fi networks. As the customer moves between stores, they very likely have to connect to multiple different Wi-Fi networks to maintain a data connection. If the customer uses the store’s Wi-Fi network to make a phone call, using Wi-Fi calling, the call will drop or cut out as they move in and out of the same store, or from one store to another.

Bandwidth limitations

Free Wi-Fi networks usually have bandwidth limitations placed on them. This prevents customers from sending and receiving content that uses a lot of data, such as sending photos, streaming social media, or making video calls.

Consent forms

In some supermarkets, access to free Wi-Fi is subject to the completion of a company’s consent form requiring personal information and agreeing to opt-in to receive marketing or promotional information from the company. This can create a negative response from the consumer and a reluctance to sign up and agree to use the Wi-Fi network.

Reconnecting after a period of inactivity

Whilst in the store, the Wi-Fi network may only stay connected for as long as the customer is active on their device. Once they stop being active, they would have to reconnect again.

What Is The Better Solution?

Cel-Fi smart signal boosters provide customers with a seamless transition from the outside to the inside. By boosting mobile networks inside the store, customers can continue using their devices on their own mobile networks without the need to log on or connect to Wi-Fi networks. Customers can make voice and video calls, send messages and browse the internet and social media without any interruption to their mobile connection.

Cel-Fi smart signal boosters are designed to improve indoor mobile signal strength with up to 100db gain for 3G and 4G in voice and data. Cel-Fi automatically adjusts to the size of the indoor environment and delivers the industry’s highest gain at the lowest cost per square foot. Cel-Fi is available for EE, O2, Vodafone, Three and all Mobile Virtual Network Operators. The Cel-Fi commitment is to protect the operator’s network, deliver the best mobile performance, and be the easiest solution to install.

There is a range of products available to improve indoor mobile signal in any size building. Contact us to find out how Cel-Fi can improve your store’s indoor mobile connectivity.