• United States

Wi-Fi analytics SaaS can make retail cool

Oct 05, 20175 mins
Big DataNetwork Management SoftwareNetworking

Customers are starting to seek personalized retail experiences and this might be step one for your network.

thumbs up hand with white cuff.
Credit: Thinkstock

Retail hasn’t lost its “cool.” [aaaayyyyy]

It’s just reinventing it. We know this but Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods sure gave everyone a wake-up call to “innovate or get left-in-the-dust.”

I know, you’re in charge of IT, not corporate strategy… but bear with me. This ends up being an IT thing.

As Forbes recently detailed, while Amazon unveiled its plans for Whole Foods (which includes decreased prices and the addition of industry-disrupting in-store technology), the market reacted. That same afternoon, stocks of several major brick-and-mortar retailers and grocery stores experienced significant drops in stock price.

Everyone knows it… technology is king and Amazon is at the forefront of using analytics and technology to improve consumer buying experiences. And the retail market is ready for it.

As an example, I love getting my hair cut at Great Clips. It’s so cool. Not because their stylists are cool… or excellent… in fact, I’d call them average at cutting hair. I’m not picky about my haircut but I am picky about my time.

I love Great Clips because I can make an appointment for myself and my son, online, and it will tell me the wait time (which is always 5 to 30 minutes). I do my waiting at home (and check-off honey-do’s to earn brownie points), then we waltz in, sit down and get our hair cut… without ever having to wait in the lobby. It’s glorious… and it’s tech that is allowing them to earn my business above the other similar barbers, nearby.

Amazon knows what they’re doing with integrating tech into Whole Foods. Look at these statistics from Salesforce and a 2016 Accenture study of retail consumers.

  • 82 percent of shoppers research products online before setting foot in a store.
  • 60 percent of retail shoppers want to receive real-time promotions and offers in-store.
  • 17 percent of Millennials think being reminded of items they need while they’re shopping is “cool.”
  • 27 percent of Millennials think it’s “cool” to be told which foods they should buy, based on their dietary restrictions.

But your data center doesn’t look like Amazon’s. So, how does your company compete for cool in this new world of in-store technological innovation? Well, we know you don’t want to “jump the shark,” to earn your cool.

Wi-Fi analytics SaaS might be a good start. As an IT professional and one of your company’s technical advisors, it’s important for you to know about this technology. Even if it’s only for when your boss asks you if you know anything about it… [whoa.]

It won’t break the bank… or your back

Let’s get one big concern out of the way. You can probably add analytics SaaS to your company’s Wi-Fi network without changing any of your existing hardware. Cloud-based Wi-Fi analytics software can typically be added over-the-top of 80+ Wi-Fi equipment vendors, such as Cisco, Meraki, Ruckus and more. Cool, right?

And even cooler… it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. Cooler still, it’s SaaS, so you can try it on a temporary basis without going all-in.

How it works

As someone walks into one of your company’s stores, your Wi-Fi network will prompt them (via their mobile device), to access free Wi-Fi in your store. They will be directed to a splash page and maybe you can advertise how logging into your Wi-Fi (via their favorite social media app), will not only give them free Wi-Fi, it will enter them into your buyer’s club with exclusive discounts and 20 percent off anything they buy today.

After they’ve joined once, on return visits, they will automatically login to your Wi-Fi network and get tracked (without prompting).

While on your Wi-Fi network, your company can use several analytics to improve customer experience and sales, such as:

  • Better-understand in-store traffic patterns: Heat maps show the busiest times and the most popular ways people navigate your store, showing you what they are interested in and allowing for better sales and stocking strategies.
  • Use information from the visitor’s social media app to learn information on the customer’s demographics and interests.
  • Purchasing behavior can be used to send them future in-store offers (via email or SMS), and better-inform future in-store salespeople.
  • Send them out-of-store offers via email or SMS, based on their interests.
  • Send them out-of-store offers when they walk past your store (and are in Wi-Fi range).
  • Customize splash pages, with offers tailored to their buying behavior, age, or interests.
  • Track websites visited and have the option to block websites of competitors (like Amazon), while they are in your store.

It’s more secure

An added bonus for adding this technology is the splash page allows your company to grant Wi-Fi access without giving out your company’s Wi-Fi password… which as you know, is not a secure way to allow guests to access your company’s Wi-Fi. The splash page and security levels these Wi-Fi analytics SaaS vendors offer, meet most security and compliance standards for the majority of industries. Now that is something you (as an IT professional), will find cool.

Integration with your systems

Lastly, many providers of Wi-Fi analytics SaaS solutions have open API’s, allowing easy integration with your PoS or CRM software. Allowing these analytics to integrate with your current software opens a limitless amount of possibilities to improve the customer experience and drive sales.

As I mentioned, with the ability to easily and inexpensively layer it on-top of your existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, Wi-Fi analytics SaaS is a way to quickly allow your relatively small retail company to personalize and improve your customer sales experience. It might just be what your business needs to be “cool.”

As always, don’t be shy. Shoot me an email if you’d like more information on the vendors who sell Wi-Fi analytics SaaS, and what unique features each of them offer.


Mike Smith is the founder and president of AeroCom, Inc., one of the largest and longest-standing business telecom and cloud brokerages in the U.S. As a former professional football player, Mike's success in tech has been a bit out-of-the-ordinary but he has won numerous telecommunications industry awards, since founding AeroCom in 2003. Most notably, in 2011 he was recognized as one of the top 40 business leaders, under 40 years old, in tech-heavy Orange County, California.

In his free time, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, Carrie and their four children. He is also a lover of wine, coaching his kids' sports teams and anything to do with 1980s skateboarding.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Mike Smith and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.