Will clicks from bricks & mortar change the future of shopping?

Debenhams has rolled out to all its 167 stores in the UK free wifi access for mobile devices provided by O2 following a trial at three sites. It’s available NOW!

It already claims over a million downloads of its mobile app  and 250,000 barcode scans instore all helping to generate, from mobile devices, 20% of its total online traffic.

Customers will only have to register to O2 wifi once ( T & C’s) and thereafter automatic connection will take place once you are “in range” with your smartphone and/or tablet (you can register up to a maximum of 5 devices).

The specialist facilities include:

  • Store (including size) availability checks with out of stock ordering
  • Customer reviews
  • Discount vouchers
  • Store layout detail
  • Home delivery arrangements
  • Product picture facility to forward to friends etc for approval or otherwise!

“The move, which effectively heralds the end of online versus in-store shopping by bringing the two together, is set to have a dramatic effect on how people buy products in stores and will leave the rest of the high street wanting to follow suit.”

We think the initial claim is a little over the top and, to us, there remains a significant differentiation.

It could well be the way forward for some retailers to at least delay the move to online away from the high street BUT its success is hugely dependent, we think, on exceptional customer centric services.

The wifi needs to be both reliable and readily accessible. – O2 say of the introduction “Debenhams have realised the power of using in-store connectivity as a basis to bring innovative services to customers.” Debenhams must ensure O2 deliver the promised “fast …. and easy-to-use”  connectivity .

As someone said the retail mantra is no longer “location, location, location” it’s now  “customer service, customer service, customer service”.

In particular we think increasingly retailers must both listen to & react rapidly to customer suggestions/comments/complaints. A proactive approach with experience surveys could also encourage loyalty.

Further prerequisites for happy customers, in addition to exceptional products at competitive prices, are slick but straight forward eco systems to enhance rather than detract from their overall experience.

Here’s Debenhams promotional app video:

We shall see if this does “change the future of shopping”.

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