The connected retail experience

By Paul Hennin, Director of International Marketing, Aerohive.

The retail sector has been an early adopter of Wi-Fi tracking technologies. In the face of stiff competition from online outlets, bricks-and-mortar retailers need to collect and analyse as much data as possible to improve the customer experience and find new value-adding services.

The ultimate aim is to attract loyal customers who make their purchases there and then, rather than browsing and ordering products online. Even simple information such as the customer's route around the store can help identify improvements to point-of-sale displays to boost average transaction value.

To offer the best shopping experience, and to maximise sales, a 360º view is required of each customer – one that extends across all points of presence, on and offline. In-store Wi-Fi is central to this omnichannel approach.

Encouraging customers to sign-up for connection to in-store Wi-Fi networks provides marketers with all-important contact information for use in later campaigns. But it also provides a relatively simple way to monitor exactly how shoppers move around stores, collecting information about how time is spent. Wi-Fi monitoring systems allow retailers to calculate how long is spent looking at a display (linger time) and its effectiveness. Areas of the store that experience relatively low footfall can also be pinpointed, informing future redesigns of shop layout. Systems can even monitor the effect long queues at the checkout have on customer behaviour – for example, whether more customers are leaving stores without purchasing. Wi-Fi is emerging as the cheapest and most effective way to collect such data, negating the need to install expensive physical sensors and hardware around stores.

As consumers become more connected, retailers can begin to use this within business intelligence programmes. Business intelligence produces insights that can be actioned in real time. But most retailers simply do not have the level of integration required to access the necessary data from all of their systems. An inability to link existing systems is a challenge that needs to be overcome.

Retailers also need to invest in their IT infrastructure now, so that it is ready for use with emerging technologies. Not only for collecting and storing information, but to support automated actions based on real-time analytics that enhance the customer's shopping experience. Technologies like in-store Wi-Fi tracking provide a mechanism to become acquainted with real-time analytics. Retailers are also deploying mobile devices to their workers so that they also use real-time insights to improve the customer's experience. Because ultimately, data is the trigger for everything that is focused on the customer's experience.

When we think about the modern shopper, what is important to remember is that they value convenience. Data that is analysed and acted upon quickly can help create customer profiles efficiently, and with minimum manual intervention, cultivating long-term customer relationships.

Using smartphone apps, and the detailed shopper's profile underpinned by Wi-Fi tracking and other data from the connected cloud, retailers are better armed to make highly targeted, relevant offers and bespoke recommendations every time a loyal customer walks through the door.

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