ATLANTA: Of all the various technologies that retailers can deploy, wi-fi may be the one with the greatest potential to drive sales and customer loyalty according to new research.

A survey of 100 retailers ranging in size from those with a turnover of less than $500m to those with more than $1bn, was undertaken by research consultants IHL Group in partnership with EarthLink Holdings, a managed network and cloud solutions provider, and AirTight Networks, a cloud-managed wi-fi solutions provider.

They found that while in-store wi-fi increased customer loyalty metrics and sales, it was not necessarily wi-fi aimed at customers themselves that was most effective.

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Overall, almost half (48%) claimed increased customer loyalty due to deploying in-store employee wi-fi, with an associated 3.4% increase in sales. The figures were higher for general merchandise stores and lower for food, drug and convenience stores.

Just over one quarter (28%) reported increased customer loyalty due to deploying in-store customer wi-fi, with an associated 2% increase in sales. In this case the hospitality sector was the greatest beneficiary.

The presence of wi-fi also meant shoppers spent longer in-store: 21% of retailers reported an increase in customer dwell time due to deployment of in-store wi-fi. For these same retailers, top uses included traffic counting at 56% and session duration and device used at 49%.

These "dramatic results", said the study, highlighted "the importance of a creating a connected, flexible workforce untethered to point-of-sale stations".

Using wi-fi, noted Greg Buzek, IHL president, "allows them to get more item information and save sales otherwise lost as well as replicate the experience of their best salespeople across the chain".

He added that many retail segments saw further growth by offering wi-fi to customers.

And Kevin McCauley, director of retail market development, AirTight Networks, observed that "increasing same store sales is a team goal, and that's where IT and marketing can both draw on the IHL's research data to justify the wi-fi investment".

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff