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Century 21 offers free Wi-Fi to increase loyalty

Century 21 is spurring customer engagement by linking its loyalty program to free Wi-Fi.

Century 21 shoppers who join the department store’s VIP loyalty program gain free Wi-Fi access while shopping. As the number of smartphone-wielding customers increases, linking loyalty to Wi-Fi makes sense.

“Top brands engage with their clients in different ways – via notification, coupons, offers, games, rewards, as a payment mechanism,” said Raul Castanon, senior analyst at Yankee Group, Boston, MA.

Mr. Castanon is not affiliated with Century 21. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Century 21 did not respond to inquiries before press time.

Mobile loyalties
Century 21 promotes its Loyalty Wi-Fi program on its Web site.

Retailers that heavily invest in loyalty and neglect to create compelling mobile and online shopping features miss the mark meeting in-store shoppers’ needs, according to a report from Acquity Group (see story).

Century 21 sells designer accessories, apparel, cosmetics and housewares at discounted prices.

Customers who use Wi-Fi while shopping in-store frequently do so to compare prices with other stores. By linking its loyalty program to free Wi-Fi, the company shows that it recognizes that customers do sh0wrooming and is responding to it (see story).

Century 21 deters customers from going elsewhere by offering loyalty points for purchases.

Loyalty members automatically earn 100 points for joining the program. They earn one point for every $1 spent online and in-store. For every 1,000 points earned, loyalty members earn two percent back in “Loyalty Dollars.”

Upon reaching 1,000 points, loyalty members are eligible to use the “VIP Line” for in-store check out. Upon reaching 5,000 points, loyalty members earn three percent back in loyalty dollars.

Mobile is playing a growing role in how customers are engaging with brands, so it is no surprise that department stores are looking for ways to leverage the technology. However, the results have been mixed with some retailers finding mobile success and others not.

Earlier this year, Sears fell short on its efforts to leverage mobile technology to reach technology-savvy shoppers (see story). launched in spring of 2011 as a flash sale Web site. The department store launched its Web site in October 2012.

The company has a mobile site, but does not have an application.

“Increased customer engagement translates into an increase in sales activity,” Mr. Castanon said.

“Another way to engage customers is through apps,”  he said.