Mall of America targets year-end for free Wi-Fi rollout

The massive Mall of America will deploy free Wi-Fi this year, enabling customers to more easily engage in "showrooming" and potentially giving retailers a way to digitally connect with their in-mall customers.

Jill Renslow, vice president of business development and marketing at the 4.2 million-square-foot mall in Bloomington, Minn., said the venue's vendors have come to recognize that showrooming, whereby shoppers visit a store to comparison shop, checking in-store vs. online prices via their smartphones and mobile devices, "is here to stay."

Speaking at the National Retail Federation's annual convention this week in New York, she said, "We are creating showrooms so retailers have a chance to showcase their products."

Renslow, whose comments were reported by Mobile Commerce Daily, did not disclose a vendor for the Wi-Fi deployment. But she said the Mall of America intends to have free Wi-Fi available by the 2014 year-end holidays at the latest.

In its fourth annual research study of shopper behavior, Cisco Consulting Services this week reported that 80 percent of U.S. consumers, or "Digital Mass Market" shoppers, use the Internet when they shop. Further, the number of "Uber-Digitals," who regularly use their smartphones for shopping decision-making, nearly doubled to 18 percent of the sampled population.

Cisco's findings were generated by an online survey of 1,174 participants considered representative of the U.S. broadband population.

Cisco said more than 70 percent of Uber-Digital shoppers "regularly begin their shopping journeys online via their mobile phone or their personal computer," and 59 percent claim to regularly research products in stores before purchasing the products online. Digital Mass Market shoppers are much less likely to showroom, with only 39 percent engaging in the practice.

Though 75 percent of Uber-Digital shoppers expect access to information/Internet when shopping, half of the consumers surveyed prefer to use the retailer's mobile app when shopping in the store.

"Today's mobile phone is a remote control for shopping. The growing trend of consumers using mobile phones when shopping in the store is a wake-up call for retailers. The retailers that will win more revenues from customers today and in the future will be the ones that offer the best online experience and integrate it with the consumers' in-store shopping experience," said Jon Stine, North America lead, retail, Cisco Consulting Services.

Retailers, meanwhile, hope to use indoor positioning based on Wi-Fi or other technologies to engage with consumers via location-based advertising and to monitor customer movements within their stores. That appears to be OK with a number of shoppers. Cisco said nearly half of Uber-Digital shoppers think it is acceptable for retailers to monitor their time spent in the store (47 percent), location in the store (44 percent) and products they tried but not purchased (43 percent).

The company also cited a number of interactive service concepts that retailers might use to drive future business. Those include shopping games, such as scavenger hunt promotions that offer consumers special discounts if they scan/collect QBR codes while shopping through a store(s); mobile concierge apps that greet consumers as they enter a store and provide turn-by-turn directions; and personal price tracker apps that consolidate personalized offers, personalized coupons and loyalty points.

For more:
- see this Mobile Commerce Daily article
- see this Cisco release

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