Photo: Taqi Mohiuddin, Motorola Solutions.
The stakes are rising in retailing.
E-commerce radically changed the business and now mobile technology is altering the environment of the brick-and-mortar storefront. Mobile devices have become comparison-shopping tools for consumers and competitive chess pieces for online retailers. Additionally, mobile browsing and an increasing number of apps now allow consumers to buy in the virtual world while browsing stores in the physical world. In effect, e-commerce companies have created their own omni-channel strategy by co-opting their competitors' investments in physical space.
With the ubiquity of mobile devices, they can outflank brick-and-mortar stores on price while using the physical storefront space as their own virtual showroom. The mobile-equipped shopper does the rest. This competitive dynamic comes on top of other issues presented by the omni-channel shopper. For instance, according to a Motorola Solutions' Retail Survey in May last year, 89 percent of retailers are unable to connect shoppers' online activities with their actions in the physical storefront. Retailers can find themselves at a significant disadvantage in servicing the omni-channel shopper.
The next technology evolution, though, is already happening. Brick-and-mortar retailers can level the playing field with online competitors. Retailers can now offer shoppers on-premise digital experiences through access to their in-store networks. That customer convenience can then be combined with a powerful analytics engine that captures data from shopper activity.
Tapping WiFi Networks to Improve the Shopping Experience
It is important to remember that shopping is still a social experience. The combination of network access and intelligence empowers storefront retailers to drive differentiation over their online rivals. Omni-channel strategies can go well beyond QR codes and shopping lists stored in the cloud.
Many stores today are outfitted with WiFi networks for store operations and increasingly to support bring your own device (BYOD) access for managers. Guest access strategies increase the usefulness of the network for both customers and store management. Shoppers have a built-in incentive to use WiFi for two fundamental reasons—one, to reduce the usage of the cellular network amid the shifting landscape of data packages for advanced mobile devices; and two, to increase the signal quality inside buildings. For the shopper, guest access is a customer convenience. For the retailer, guest access analytics augments that convenience with a powerful tool to understand shoppers, offer incentives to close the sale in the store and gain valuable insight to consumer behaviour.
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