E-commerce experts have today hailed John Lewis’s move to offer free Wi-Fi in stores as an important development for the retail sector.
At the end of last week, the department store group announced its intention to provide free internet access in order to aid customers’ knowledge of its products, as well as allowing them to view ratings and reviews.
Surfing the net for competitive pricing will also be possible, as the retailer aims to have the technology up and running by Christmas across its stores in the UK.
Julia Priddle, Head of Key Account Management at e-commerce analyst firm ChannelAdvisor, hopes that the development will revolutionise the way customers interact with brands.
“Introducing free in-store Wi-Fi for customers is a great move by John Lewis,” she commented.
“With mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets playing an ever greater role in shopping habits, retailers should be looking for ways that they can embrace these changes and use them to help deliver value and convenience to customers – whether they are shopping in their stores, online from home, or indeed online from within their stores.”
Interweaving an online presence with the traditional in-store experience is becoming a growing trend, as department store House of Fraser unveiled a new concept store in Scotland last Friday, giving its website a physical presence.
For the first time, the new concept allows the retailer to focus on the buy & collect proposition and the company believes that this is a fitting response to the increasing popularity of researching prices online prior to purchase.
John Lewis found that 60 per cent of its customers chose to research pricing, as well as product reviews and responses from fellow customers, before a shopping trip and feels that its Wi-Fi offering will allow for a stronger focus on digital interaction.
Priddle believes that such a focus is crucial in order to keep up with customer spending trends.
“We still hear stories of some retailers deliberating blocking in-store internet access or covering up barcodes on products to prevent shoppers from checking online prices using their mobile phones,” she added.
“This is clearly short-sighted and ultimately will drive customers elsewhere. By introducing this kind of initiative John Lewis is clearly looking to put their customers first and I’m sure they’ll reap the rewards in the long run.”