Ever wondered how Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. (GWS) tests mobile networks? Watch our Oxford Street test to find out!

Mobile devices are now central to the British shopping experience. In fact, a recent survey we conducted with OnePoll revealed that an impressive 87% of shoppers used a connected smart device on their last shopping trip. Further, over a quarter of the consumers complained that they commonly encounter problems with making phone calls, texting, and checking sites while shopping.

Whether to send selfies, ask for advice or do a bit of comparison shopping, it is fair to say that consumers expect a reliable connection and consistent experience regardless of their preferred shopping destination. With that in mind, we have recently hit the UK’s shopping centres and high streets to carry out a series of tests to evaluate mobile network performance.

Not only did we test individual UK retailers, but we also examined communal areas in shopping centres and popular shopping locations across the country to uncover what consumers can expect when they use their phones during busy shopping periods, such as Mother’s Day, Black Friday or the Christmas holiday season. We then used our own OneScore methodology, based on how British consumers routinely use their phones to rank the coverage in the retailers we tested.

A key finding is that the mobile experience on the UK’s high streets and shopping centres is all over the shop. While TopShop delivered a consistently good mobile performance, other retailers such as John Lewis suffered from a poor mobile experience at multiple locations across the country. To put this in context, sharing a selfie from John Lewis took 5.5 times longer than if sending it from the street!

This matters — whether it’s getting a friend’s input on an outfit via Whatsapp or checking a competing retailer for a price, mobile devices have changed the way we shop. Yet, when entering a shopping centre from the outside, our network testing specialists found that signal levels drop by 20-30dB on average. Still, there are steps retailers can take to ensure they provide the best possible mobile experience to customers:

  1. Identify your in-store ‘not-spots’ – Our survey found that shoppers tend to leave when mobile signal or WiFi are poor. Therefore, it is important to identify any problem areas that need to be addressed. To do this, you can use a network checker such as the GWS Speed app, available on both Android and iOS.
  2. Connect with mobile operators to get signal boosters – These are widely available, and help ensure mobile signal is evenly distributed across shops, so customers do not have a dropped connection.
  3. Be strategic about WiFi deployment – While mobile signal is a priority for customers, sometimes it is simply not possible to ensure they remain connected via their mobile networks. By strategically deploying WiFi in areas such as changing rooms, near tills and in basements, retailers can ensure customers have no reason to leave the shop to send that all important selfie or call for fashion advice. Take note — getting it right with WiFi is important, in our survey more consumers experience problems with in-store WiFi connectivity than any other network issue including those mobile related.