Instore and online retail services must play nicely together – lest iconic brands will disappear


Seamless mobile connectivity can help prevent this from happening explains Colin Abrey of Nextivity.

Smartphones are entrenched in modern society, so much so that their widespread prevalence is changing our social behaviour patterns. 

Not only do we use them for legacy communications (phone calls, texting, messaging) they take the number one spot as our preferred means of accessing the Internet, and this in turn is impacting our browsing habits across the board.

Nowhere is this more evident than in retail and the industry as a whole is going through a seismic change due to the digitization of shopping and a dramatic shift in purchasing behaviour patterns. Modern shoppers have low attention spans, shop mobile first, follow peer recommendations more often than not and research the best deals online before making a final purchase.

Accepting the digital transformation olive branch

Being able to harness our behaviour changes and making both online and instore purchasing a seamless experience can give retailers a competitive edge, especially in the current economic climate which is seeing the demise of iconic high street brands and the closure of 16 stores on average every week. Digital transformation is offering retailers a vital lifeline by giving them the opportunity to revamp both the online and instore shopping experience, thus enabling them to retain their loyal customers and increase overall sales and profit margins.

While online shopping is certainly convenient, the department store still has an important role to play in the retail ecosystem because when it comes to spending our hard-earned cash, we still like the “touchy-feely, try before you buy” experience the high street has to offer. We like to browse new collections, feel the quality of material, checkout the functionality of consumer electronics or share selfies of different outfits to get a second opinion.

Online and offline retail must be fully synchronised

The key to success is to embrace digitalization and use it to your advantage to appeal to the tech-savvy shopper and smartphones provide the perfect means to do this. By leveraging e-commerce and mobile-driven technologies (push notifications, QR codes, interaction with touch screen devices or digital signage, for example) retailers can increase customer dwell times, thus gently nurturing their spontaneous purchasing habits. 

So how can high-profile brands encourage shoppers to remain instore, perusing the different departments and filling their shopping trollies along the way? By ensuring they provide uninterrupted 4G coverage throughout the store; in the changing rooms, in the basement, in the cafés, on the escalators, that’s how.  

Forward-thinking retailers understand that enabling customers to surf and shop or engage and interact with other technologies/third-party content using their smartphones, is far more likely to result in a sale. They also understand that by facilitating uninterrupted data services, even when their customers are not making “on the spot” decisions to buy, they are able to engage with services such as lift and learn, touch screen browsing or downloadable coupons to reinforce marketing messages. This helps to cement brand loyalty and discourages customers from spending elsewhere.

Two thirds of purchases are made at the point of decision

If your customers have to go outside to a make price comparison because your instore mobile signal is poor to non-existent, chances are those customers will not re-enter. More than two thirds of purchases are made at the point of decision, so not only have you lost the opportunity to make a sale on a specific item, you’ve also lost other spontaneous spending opportunities. 

Providing seamless mobile coverage in retail environments has historically been challenging due to shop fitouts, basement locations and the materials used, with glass and metal being the ultimate mobile signal blockers. The only way around the problem is to take the outdoor signal indoors via third party equipment such as mobile signal boosters, but this has historically been expensive to deploy and shrouded in strict licensing regulation.

Providing uninterrupted 4G coverage is easier than you think

However, thanks to new licensing laws regarding the use of mobile signal boosters recently introduced by Ofcom, retailers can improve their instore mobile coverage and embrace the omnichannel phenomenon using off-the-shelf equipment which is readily available and affordable. 

The only caveat is that installed boosters must adhere to Ofcom’s repeater specification. In short, they have to be network-specific, not interfere with other networks, be able to detect and mitigate any signal variations in uplink and downlink frequency bands, and the ability to control noise levels based on where they are in relation to the serving base station (referred to as “Base Station Coupling Loss” in the specification).

Few off-the-shelf boosters can satisfy these requirements and compliance requires a smart booster with intelligence built in. In other words, the device must be able to self-configure according to network coverage conditions and automatically power down if there is a network conflict. One example is the Cel-Fi by Nextivity product range.

Channel-agnostic shopping experiences are essential

By deploying third party equipment to facilitate ubiquitous 4G coverage, retailers can deliver the ultimate channel-agnostic shopping experience and capitalise on changing consumer trends. Seamless instore connectivity will not only help brands grow their online presence; it also allows them to maintain a physical presence fit for purpose for digitally-aware shoppers. High street exits are at an all time high but reliable mobile coverage combined with enabling interaction with other services and technologies could go a long way to alleviating the many challenges the retail industry faces.

About Cel-Fi by Nextivity

Nextivity Inc. develops the award-winning Cel-Fi family of products that deliver best-in-class in-building and mobile cellular coverage for spaces up to 500,000 sq. ft., and for environments where harsh conditions require a rugged design. Cel-Fi is the go-to solution for settings such as healthcare facilities, office buildings, remote sites, parking garages, hotels, warehouse and industrial venues, government offices, retailers, schools, as well as trucking and marine fleets. Cel-Fi products are available in 90 countries through mobile operators and a growing worldwide network of master distributors, systems integrators, installers, and resellers. Additional information is available at, on Twitter, LinkedIn, and on Facebook

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