September 29, 2021

Article
3 min

How Network Services Can Help Retailers Modernize the In-Store Experience

Upgrades can lead to easier IT management and smarter business decisions.

Jason Lukach

Modernizing the retail network is an investment that pays off for customers, IT staff and the business itself. 

In-store wireless connectivity can be optimized to provide just-in-time ads and information for customers, location-based data analytics and remote IT management through cloud-enabled platforms. Together, these technologies contribute to several key business objectives: delivering a high-quality customer experience, making decisions based on data and creating easier, faster IT processes. 

Access points and Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology are the core components of in-store networking, but an effective deployment strategy matters as much as the devices themselves. 

Retail companies, even those with in-house IT departments, often need help selecting hardware and performing site assessments to ensure that wireless coverage is optimized throughout a store. Retailers also have to ensure APs can handle the peaks and valleys of seasonal business. When CDW works with customers, we also help them identify ways to standardize networking systems across locations, where possible, to make remote IT support easier.

Here are three benefits that retailers can expect when they optimize their in-store networks.

Add Convenience and Personalization to Customers’ Shopping Experiences

Free Wi-Fi is a great way to entice customers to join an in-store network and sign in to a retailer’s app. Paired with BLE-supported location tracking, this enables retailers to provide not only high-quality connectivity, but also timely coupons, ads and pop-up messages. For example, a store can alert customers of a sale in a nearby department when a customer is physically close to that location.  

As a convenience, many customers prefer to research product information on their phones. They don’t want to track down a salesperson, find a price-scanner kiosk or walk to a counter and wait in line. Networking that facilitates this type of access for customers also helps to alleviate staffing demands without compromising service.

Customize Customer Messaging and Gather Data to Inform Business Decisions

Businesses can also gain a competitive edge when they modernize in-store networking. Increasingly, customers expect high-quality Wi-Fi, real-time inventory information, and a personalized, mobile-friendly digital experience. These offerings also set the stage for retailers to send targeted, timely messages to customers nearly at the point of sale.

Retailers also have much to learn from location-based data about customers’ in-store movements, which they can collect when customers are signed in to an app. Software can triangulate a customer’s location with nearby access points and analyze that data to glean insights about inventory, product placement, in-store design and other factors.

Facilitate Remote IT Support with Cloud-Enabled Network Management

In-store IT staff and on-premises support are becoming less common in retail settings. For large retailers, they are usually inefficient, and smaller stores may not have dedicated IT professionals at all (they often hire third-party experts instead). 

However, retailers do need rapid, accessible IT support, particularly for their networking infrastructure. That’s one of the reasons many companies are moving away from on-premises management systems to cloud-based platforms. A cloud-based system enables remote IT staff to support and manage a network from anywhere, including making updates and pushing out patches. 

Certain elements of the network will always be onsite: APs, switches, fiber cabling and the like. But aside from these basics, cloud-enabled network management makes it much easier to establish high-quality wireless connectivity. These days, if a retailer has set up its wireless network properly and used cloud-based management solutions, there’s not much else it needs from an IT perspective.

In-store wireless planning is both an art and a science. Done well, however, it can transform the retail experience for customers and companies alike.

Story by Jason Lukach, an Inside Solution Architect at CDW with a focus on enterprise network technologies and design. Before joining CDW, Jason spent 15 years in corporate IT, managing networks for a diverse set of companies.

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