The availability of WiFi is affecting every retail business. Consumers no longer use their phones just to text their friends, call their family and tweet about their latest frustrations. They are performing important searches on the mobile web directly at the point of purchase. In fact, Huffington Post reported that 90% of mobile searches now lead to an action, and 50% of the searches lead to a purchase.

Consumers Are On The Move

A recent study found that one half of all local searches are conducted on mobile. Consumers are becoming more and more informed, as the entire web is now at their fingertips. As such, it is becoming more common than ever for your buyers to log on and do research in your store before making a purchase.

But what happens if you don’t have free WiFi available for them to use to conduct their research? Acquity Group discovered that 50% of smartphone users would more confidently make a major purchase if they had free in-store WiFi to research the item first. They explained that “In-store Wi-Fi […] allows retailers to keep consumers in store longer, making them more likely to purchase.”

Data plans are becoming a thing of the past, hence the steep increase in devices and tablets shipped with built-in WiFi connectivity. Consumers reluctantly use their data plans, but only when they have absolutely no other way to get online. If your business can provide them with WiFi, you are making it that much easier and quicker for them to make a purchase while they are at your location.

Sites Must Be Mobile-Friendly

Chances are you have recently done some initial product research research on your laptop and then continued to search on your mobile device while in the store — all before you purchased. IBM reported that “50% of consumers will use 2 or more devices in their purchase process.” Most people now do this — we sure do.

What happens, though, if a customer enters your store, visits your site on their phone, and then discovers that it is the most mobile unfriendly site they have ever seen? Or perhaps the experience they had on your site is far different than the one on mobile. Big mistake.

Bottom line: if you have a retail location, your site must be mobile friendly (and hopefully you also offer free WiFi to compliment it). Without a mobile-friendly site, you will lose a significant number of interested customers, and worse, you could turn them off enough that they may just look elsewhere.

Mobile Marketing On-Location

More than half of those who purchase as a result of a marketing message on their mobile phone did so on the device itself,” according to the Huffington Post. Your tweets, online ads, newspaper flyers and TV commercials may do a great job getting people into your store, but how can you ensure they will actually buy? If consumers are so attached to their phones, even when in your store, then why not send them targeted mobile messages when they are right there with you?

At SocialSign.in, for example, we give businesses who use our social WiFi platform the ability to customize marketing messages for their visitors to see once they log onto their free WiFi. The messaging can be anything from a special offer when they proceed to your mobile site, to an app download, or even encouragement to Like them on Facebook where they can view exclusive deals.

What’s Next

The increase in customer mobile usage in-store is only going to continue. Now more than ever, businesses need to decide how they can optimize for this new in-store experience.

As mobile searches lead to more and more purchases, WiFi now has a meaningful ROI for your business.