Beyond Bricks and Mortar: Wi-Fi Builds the Future of Retail, One Signal at a Time

By Greg Tavarez, TMCnet Editor  |  December 15, 2023

Wi-Fi has become an essential part of our lives, and the retail industry is no exception.Traditionally, brick-and-mortar stores solely focused on product selection and price. Today's savvy consumers crave interactive and engaging experiences that differentiate physical stores from their online counterparts. Wi-Fi plays a pivotal role in enabling these experiences.

What's more is that a recent study by RSR and Extreme Networks found that 92% of retailers believe Wi-Fi is crucial to providing a modern in-store shopping experience. This widespread recognition underscores the critical role Wi-Fi plays in not only enhancing customer experiences but also streamlining store operations.

First, let’s look at how Wi-Fi enhances the customer experience.

Retailers can leverage Wi-Fi to track customer movements and preferences within the store. This allows them to offer targeted promotions and recommendations, creating a sense of personalization that fosters customer loyalty.

Product information, interactive displays and even AR experiences all rely on a robust Wi-Fi network to always function. These interactive elements not only entertain and inform customers but also collect valuable data that retailers can use to optimize product placement and marketing strategies.

Wi-Fi also enables contactless payment options and mobile checkout solutions, streamlining the checkout process and reducing long lines. This convenience factor directly translates to customer satisfaction and repeat business.

Beyond enhancing the customer experience, Wi-Fi also plays a crucial role in optimizing store operations. Real-time inventory tracking via Wi-Fi-enabled devices helps retailers prevent stockouts and optimize inventory levels. This leads to cost savings and improved customer satisfaction. Wi-Fi also empowers staff with mobile devices and instant communication tools, enabling them to collaborate effectively and provide better customer service.

So, while the importance of Wi-Fi is undeniable, the study also revealed that many retailers are not yet capitalizing on its full potential.

Only 32% of retailers reported having a “state-of-the-art" Wi-Fi network, while 57% categorized their network as "good enough," according to the survey. This gap highlights the need for retailers to invest in robust Wi-Fi infrastructure and leverage advanced technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and network management solutions to unlock the true potential of Wi-Fi in retail.

But that is easier said than done, right? Retailers do understand the need for technology to remain competitive, but deploying and managing new technology is often a challenge. According to the survey, 94% of retailers said there is endless demand for bandwidth on their constrained networks, creating technology adoption challenges, and 72% of retailers say they would prefer a single network that can handle any/all future devices and deployments, yet only 17% say they strive for a consistent technology profile across all their stores.

A network infrastructure that flawlessly adapts to any device, any deployment, huh? That's the vision behind Extreme Networks (News - Alert)' solutions. Extreme Networks goes beyond just providing Wi-Fi for retailers; they weave it into the fabric of the store, transforming it into a strategic hub for immersive experiences and operational efficiency. Their high-performance, secure and scalable Wi-Fi solutions blanket stores with reliable connectivity, enabling features like:

  • Frictionless shopping: Customers can whiz through checkout with cashierless options and self-service kiosks.
  • Personalized experiences: In-store beacons and targeted marketing based on customer location and preferences create a sense of individual attention, boosting engagement and sales.
  • Optimized operations: Inventory management, staff communication, and security are all streamlined by a network that connects devices and data effortlessly.

Imagine a shopper browsing a clothing rack, greeted by a virtual stylist recommending outfits based on their past purchases. Or, picture employees using tablets to access product information and instantly assist customers, all thanks to the Wi-Fi foundation provided by Extreme Networks.

“Extreme helps retailers create the store of the future – with the network as the strategic hub of experiences and efficiency,” said Norman Rice, Chief Operating Officer, Extreme Networks. “This includes everything from connecting temperature sensors to the network to avoid food and drug spoilage, to automating electronic shelf labels based on supply and demand, to delivering real-time offers through the store app.”

The results of retail winners investing strategically in network solutions have shown them achieving above average YoY sales growth. When compared to retail respondents with average or lagging sales, it’s clear that retail winners think about technology differently. According to the survey:

  • 63% of retail winners say in-store Wi-Fi has improved both customer order fulfillment and returns handling, while just 26% of all other retailers agree.
  • 55% of Winners said they had satisfactorily implemented in-store Wi-Fi for consumers, compared to just 31% of all other retailers.

“Our research found that the most successful retailers have leaned into Wi-Fi in a way that helps them overcome challenges like employee communications and an increasing demand from consumers who want the in-store experience to be modern and dynamic,” Brian Kilcourse, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research. “Those that have made the investment in their network as a strategic hub are seeing that directly impact both the top and bottom line of their business.”

Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury in the retail landscape; it is a necessity. By prioritizing Wi-Fi connectivity and investing in the right infrastructure and technologies, retailers can create a smooth and engaging shopping experience that attracts customers, boosts sales and drives operational efficiency. Wi-Fi is the bedrock of modern retail success.

Edited by Alex Passett
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