Wi-Fi, and the technology that depends on a solid wireless infrastructure, are becoming increasingly important to retailers. Not only does Wi-Fi support critical back-office operations, it also provides a convenient service to customers and enhances their in-store experience.
The preliminary results of a new study show that 27.5% of retailers report increased customer loyalty due to their deployment of in-store Wi-Fi. Based on the positive impact in-store W-Fi is having on their customers, 34% of those retailers that are already offering Wi-Fi are planning to upgrade their capacity in 2015.
The survey was conducted by EarthLink in partnership with research consultants IHL Group and cloud-managed WiFi solutions provider AirTight Networks. It is one of the first-ever studies to produce insight into the future of networking, Wi-Fi, security, and customer engagement in the retail industry.
As many plan to invest in technologies like in-store Wi-Fi, payment systems, PCI compliance and security to keep customers loyal while protecting their data, it’s important to understand the benefits and challenges others have already experienced.
In-Store Wi-Fi Will Boost Engagement and Competitiveness
Retailers that deploy Wi-Fi for their customers to use while shopping can expect to increase their competitiveness within their market. That’s because Wi-Fi is an essential component to an effective multichannel engagement strategy.
Research findings show that retail has the necessary infrastructure in place and is poised for growth around multichannel engagement using in-store WiFi,” said Kevin McCauley, Director of Retail Market Development of AirTight Networks. “The companies that implement within the next year will have first mover advantage to perfect their engagement strategies.”
Other Key Research Findings
The EarthLink survey also investigated how retailers are deploying Wi-Fi. Here are some of the other key research findings:
• 82% of large to medium-sized retail participants have already deployed in-store Wi-Fi
• 57% of enterprise retail participants offer both customer and employee Wi-Fi
• 70% of retail participants currently outsource their store level WAN to managed service providers
Clearly, Wi-Fi is already playing a major role in retail outlets. One of the reasons for the growing use of Wi-Fi is that it supports core store functions such as payment systems, PCI compliance, and security.
Additionally, the survey found that nearly 70% of specialty retailers are designing their next point-of-sale systems based on a central order management system. This technology places as much as five times more load on Wi-Fi networks. The resulting stress on existing networks requires retailers to update their wireless infrastructure.
Major Retailers Are Taking the Lead on in-Store Wi-Fi
In an article entitled How Much Does In-Store Wi-Fi Mean to Shoppers?, RetailWire.com highlighted the importance of in-store Wi-Fi to major retailers that. According to the article, Macy’s is one of the few stores that promotes Wi-Fi to customers using stickers on store entrances. Also, Gap, Inc. added free WiFi to 1,100 Gap, Gap Factory, Banana Republic, Old Nave, and Athleta U.S. stores prior to the 2014 holiday shopping season. Although J.C. Penney removed their Wi-Fi in the fall of 2013 in a move to cut $7 million from their budget, they have since returned Wi-Fi to the stores.
While surveying U.S. customers in December of 2014, PayPal found that 49% had used a mobile device to research deals while in-store. The EarthLink survey will help establish important benchmarks for how retailers are using WiFi. However, it will take time to see how fast in-store Wi-Fi will grow in the face of data that shows an increasing use of mobile devices by shoppers.