EE targets retailers with solution to better understand buying behaviour

UK operator EE has launched a managed service for retailers allowing them to use in-store mobile connectivity in a bid to enhance customer service and revenue.

The firm’s Connected Retail solution allows shoppers to opt in to use free wifi services in retailers’ stores, supplied by EE but branded by the retailer. By opting in, consumers agree to the terms and conditions of the service which state that their details can be anonymously used by the retailer. EE said that the solution uses real time data analytics to enable retailers to better understand customer behaviour and target promotions to them, based on their previous buying behaviour, while they are in store.

“Most retailers know more about their customers from their activities online and from their use of mobile apps than they do when they are inside the stores,” explained Graham Cove, ‎director of wifi at EE. “Connected Retail allows them to know what customers are doing in stores better.”

Cove added that retailers tend only to know of customers being inside their stores when they pay using bank cards at the checkout. However he argues that it is much more valuable for a retailer to know when a customer has entered a store than when they have left it.

One retailer, supermarket chain Asda, has already implemented the solution in its 575 UK outlets. The retailer now has 800,000 customers using its free wifi service, said EE, and has cross referenced wifi data with customers’ use of its shopping app to gain a more holistic view of buying behaviour.

“Retailers can monitor what customers are doing in store not only by day but even by the hour of the day,” added Cove. “For example, using this anonymised data, Asda can see that at a certain time of day, there are a lot of women aged 18 to 30 and that enables them to do something different, such as promote different offers, during this time.”

He added that it makes the most sense for mobile operators to provide wifi services within retail outlets, because most traffic on the wifi network comes from smartphones, rather than laptops.

As part of the Connected Retail solution, EE plans to offer data to retailers using heat mapping technology. Retailers can use this technology to anticipate queues at checkouts and plan store layouts to optimise the flow of traffic through their outlets. Cove revealed that the operator has not developed this technology in house, but is currently in advanced negotiations with two European heat mapping technology providers to enhance its solution.

Connected Retail is the first solution announced as part of EE’s Total Enterprise Mobility portfolio. The portfolio will be aimed at businesses and is designed to help private and public sector organisations benefit from opportunities presented by mobile technology.

Cove added that such services targeted at verticals allow operators to generate new revenue streams at a time when they are facing pressure on their voice, messaging and data services.

“The industry knows that revenue from core services is under pressure,” said Cove. “If operators want to, there are opportunities in M2M, wifi provisioning, corporate devices and data services to supplement that. We do not expect this revenue opportunity to be as big as that from the core services we offer, but together, they can ease some of the pressure points we see on revenue from the core services.”

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