StepsAway launches in-store, WiFi-based marketing for retailers

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Mobile marketing platform StepsAway builds mobile shopping portals for malls on top of guest WiFi access. Now the company is offering an in-store WiFi-based solution for individual retailers that can tap into CRM databases and deliver more personalized promotions to in-store shoppers.

The company’s flagship, mall-based offering requires the shopper to get on WiFi (there’s no email address required). After he or she does that, a shopping portal (website) appears, which allows users to browse or search by category, product or store in that location. It’s currently deployed in 150 malls in the US.

The new product is similar but operates at a store level. It also utilizes more data, including retailer databases, and would require an email address for back-end matching purposes:

Once authenticated on the [store WiFi] network, shoppers are redirected to a web app. They will then receive tailored offers in real time based on their purchase and engagement history contained in the retailer’s CRM database, and the retailer will be able to leverage Wi-Fi streaming data such as previous customer store visits, device type, and country of origin, as well as measure marketing campaign effectiveness. As an example, if a shopper has already registered on the retailer’s website and abandoned a pair of shoes in an online shopping cart, they may automatically receive an offer for 20% off shoes via SAKairos when they visit the brand’s physical store.

“It allows [the] store to leverage guest WiFi for personalized content and collect data inside the store,” explained Allan Haims, CEO of StepsAway. He says that it can also be used as an analytics tool regardless of whether consumers sign in to guest WiFi. “We can tell if an email sent people into store, as well as frequency and dwell time.”

Haims told me that past consumer behavior (in-store and online) will dictate the kinds of promotions and offers shoppers see when they sign in inside stores. In-store behavior can also inform later email promotions, or ads that shoppers see when browsing online. He added that retailers will need to decide how personalized they want to get, but the technology can do things like show in-store offers tied to online shopping cart abandonment.

The company is also planning to include third-party data to help profile shoppers.

All of this is compelling in principle and overcomes many of the obstacles (e.g., app downloads, beacon deployment) that have prevented beacons from reaching their full potential as an in-store marketing tool. A number of hurdles exist here, too, however.

While most retailers have WiFi for internal uses, a substantial number do not offer guest WiFi. Haims explained, however, that there’s only modest cost involved in turning on public access if WiFi is already deployed. Asking for email addresses as a condition of gaining access to WiFi will potentially cause some percentage of shoppers to abandon (Haims told me the percentage is roughly 50 percent).

My view is that the right messaging via email and in stores can overcome the potential email privacy objection. Data show that shoppers will share personal information for access to discounts and better experiences. And retailers increasingly must use technology — mobile technology specifically — as a tool to improve, reward and personalize the in-store experience.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.


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