Breaking Down Brick- And-Mortar Barriers

By Taylor Smithfield

Online retailers have held some advantages over brick-and-mortars when it comes to customer acquisition and retention. While “e-tailers” benefit from online advertising, impulse purchases, email newsletters, social engagement and informative analytics, brick-and-mortars are at a disadvantage due to their often-independent operations. It’s naturally difficult to “network” with customers outside of the world’s largest network, but thankfully technology is rapidly breaking down the barriers between e-tail and retail.

Beacon Technology: Not Your Father’s Marketing

We’ve previously discussed location-based marketing (LBM) or geomarketing, technology allowing retailers to communicate with customers based on the customer’s location to or within a store. Though geomarketing sounds like intimidating tech, you’ve perhaps encountered the invention while walking into your local mall or driving past a fast food restaurant, in the form of a notification on your phone (“Don’t go home alone tonight. Snag a Double Decker Burri-taco for only $3.99!”).

By utilizing GPS coordinates, customers receive friendly texts or app notifications (only if they opt-in, of course) when they’re close by. On a smaller scale, “beacon” devices can be placed at various points within a store (near the entrance or specific product displays), triggering announcements about sales, requests for feedback or invitations to visit a website.

There are a slew of companies offering geomarketing services to retailers (check out Outdoor Marketplace’s July 2016 column online, “Beyond The Bricks: Embracing ‘Click And Mortar’” to learn more). However, let’s discuss a sister technology to geomarketing: Wi-Fi marketing.

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Wi-Fi? Why Not!

Yelp, the popular crowdsourced business review website, recently acquired a Wi-Fi marketing company named Turnstyle Analytics. Beside the fact this sentence reads like the opening of a Yahoo! Finance article, this acquisition is great news for you. Wi-Fi marketing is basically how retailers follow-up with customers by capturing their contact information in exchange for access to their guest Wi-Fi network. If you had to reread that sentence a few times, don’t worry, I’ll explain.

Imagine a new customer walks into your gun store. Let’s call her Andrea. Andrea immediately spots a sign at the front: “Free Wi-Fi! Connect to: RoysGunsNGear.” With phone already in hand, she easily navigates to your wireless network and is prompted to login before she can gain free Wi-Fi access. She’s seen a similar login page while eating at Subway, so it’s familiar to her. Yours is customized with your logo, colors and a product promo. Opting to login with Facebook because it’s faster, she agrees to share her public Facebook information with your store. Just a few taps and she’s enjoying her free Wi-Fi. Essentially, Andrea has voluntarily provided you with contact and demographic information and you’ve rewarded her with convenient internet access. It’s a win-win.

In Andrea’s case, she chose to login via Facebook because it’s quicker and more secure. Other customers might login with another existing account: Twitter, Google Plus or LinkedIn. For those without a social media account, an email or phone number login is available. At the very least, you’ll retain the customer’s name and email or phone number. If they login via a social media account, you can also capture their gender and age. But that’s not all.

On the backend, you can reference a database of information gathered from your Wi-Fi logins. Not only will you have access to an extensive contact list, you’ll gain insight into customer behavior like length, time of day and frequency of visits. There’s even a way to track the number of customers who don’t join your Wi-Fi (their phones emit signals whether they’re connected to your network or not), so you can compare how your Wi-Fi offering influences foot traffic. An attractive online dashboard displays this data with easy-to-interpret charts and graphs.

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Tailor And Target Your Marketing

Devicescape, a wireless networking software developer, conducted a study on the effectiveness of businesses offering free Wi-Fi. They discovered retailers who offered free Wi-Fi access had an increase in foot traffic, time spent in-store and the amount their customers spent. Sixty-two percent of business owners observed customers lingered longer in their shops and 50 percent spent more. Just offering free Wi-Fi alone (without the bells and whistles of a marketing platform attached) has the ability to dramatically increase sales. Paired with a program like Turnstyle, you can tailor and target your marketing more effectively.

Yelp is in the business of customer acquisition and their Wi-Fi marketing service addition expands their offering into the realm of customer retention. The main goal of Wi-Fi marketing is to entice customers to return to your store again and again. Not only can you capture contact information and study customer patterns, you can create email and text message campaigns, making connections with customers even after they’ve left your store.

Maybe Andrea hasn’t visited your gun shop in a couple months; she previously used to drop in every other week. A parameter can be set to mass text or email customers who fit this criteria (other custom criteria includes: upon entering or exiting your store, after a certain amount of visits, on customer’s birthdays, for first time customers or recurring days and time). Marketing automation is a great way to target customers in a specific and personal way. Turnstyle also offers attractive email templates and an easy campaign scheduler. In addition, you can send emails or texts embedded with digital coupons to simultaneously reward customers while enticing them to return.

Breaking Down Barriers

While it’s difficult for local retailers to compete with the advantages of the internet, you can break down sections of that brick-and-mortar barrier with technology like Wi-Fi marketing. Not only is converting to a Wi-Fi marketing platform fairly simple, but the “fix it and forget it” nature of the integrated campaigns is invaluable. This is just another way to bridge the gap between e-tail and retail, which often feels like quite the chasm for business owners. Be on the lookout for Yelp’s release of this service, and let us know if and how you’d consider utilizing this type of marketing (or if you currently do).

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