Mobile Commerce

Turnstyle Transforms Free WiFi Into Data-Driven Insights

Modern customers expect a certain amount of luxury in their in-store shopping experiences. This might look like attentive employees quick with recommendations or stands of refreshments for marathon shoppers. However, the foundation of any in-store experience worth its salt is free WiFi.

However, Turnstyle’s Sam Hillman explained that with a location-based marketing platform, retailers get more than they thought possible in return for their WiFi charity.

Founded in 2012 and based in Toronto, Turnstyle prides itself on turning WiFi gateways into marketable opportunities for data-savvy retailers. Even though Turnstyle originally began as a way to help band members determine who was coming to their shows, Hillman explained that it very quickly turned into a powerful tool to eliminate consumer-facing friction while beefing up retail analytics.

“Customers logging onto WiFi with Turnstyle don’t deal with a password or archaic terms of service that they have to accept,” Hillman said. “They do it through a branded splash page with their social networks — Facebook and Twitter credentials or an email address. That’s how they get access.”

Getting customers through the WiFi door is just the first phase in Turnstyle’s approach to data management and consumer analytics. Hillman explained how Turnstyle uses a combination of user-submitted profile information and the individualized MAC address from the mobile devices that connect to retailers’ networks to identify a number of different metrics — how many and at what times customers log on, their last trip to the merchant in question and dwell time within stores.

It’s this crucible of in-store activity data and user-provided contact information that Turnstyle revolves around, and Hillman related one example with national restaurant chain Subway that outlines just why something as simple as getting customers to sign into a WiFi network can yield massive dividends through data down the road.

“We identified that Subway customers who hadn’t returned to a Subway location in 40 days would not return for the following two months,” Hillman said. “We extracted this golden nugget of information and used it to inform a campaign that targeted customers on the 40th day of not being back at a Subway.”

The customers in question were sent coupons for free six-inch subs to get them back into a store, which was a no-risk scenario for Subway if they were going to lose these consumers if they did nothing.

So how did it work?

“Of all the customers that received the coupons, we had an 18 percent redemption rate across the entire campaign,” Hillman said. “More interestingly, 20 percent of the people who redeemed did so within 12 hours. They were sent it at dinnertime, and they were back in the next day for lunch. Finally, of the 18 percent of customers who redeemed their coupons, everybody visited a Subway location two times more in the following month than they did previously.”

Statistics show that retail is steadily adopting consumer-facing WiFi as a standard in-store feature. According to a study conducted by EarthLink and AirTight Networks, 82 percent of large to medium-sized retailers already have some form of WiFi, and 57 percent of enterprise retailers offer both consumer- and employee-facing networks. A further 34 percent of merchants said that they would be looking to upgrade their WiFi capabilities by the end of 2015.

Luddite retailers that don’t offer free WiFi probably won’t attract customers in an increasingly competitive physical retail ecosystem, but retailers that do offer it without getting the analytics, consumer insight and ease of use Turnstyle provides in return simply aren’t getting the most bang for their buck.

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