Occasionally, we run into technologies that we had no idea we couldn’t live without until they were handed to us. Apple has built its business around delivering products customers did not realize they needed until iPhones, iPads, and Macs were invented. GoPro’s wearable action cameras and FitBit’s wrist bands are also examples of this, albeit less ubiquitous.
Shopping for the most original retail brands can forever change expectations. While transforming the brick-and-mortar experience may be difficult, the digital experience that overlays brick-and-mortar is extremely malleable.
That is where the CIO team, working with marketing, and other stakeholders can dramatically change the business. While the approach is multidisciplinary, it usually starts with the CIO or CMO.
Creating a transformational digital experience for brick-and-mortar shoppers can be relatively easy. The smart devices that shoppers now carry – mostly smartphones – can give retailers a window to the customer’s mind. It is a two-way window that both reveals what customers want and helps smart brands deliver it to them. It all begins with something many take for granted: in-store “free” Wi-Fi.
Smart devices, both iOS and Android, allow customers and brands to engage with one another to create a real-time and highly personalized experience. Smart CIOs and marketers are using the free Wi-Fi in ways that are transforming retail.
Customers have begun to expect guest Wi-Fi as a free amenity. They also expect a better shopping experience, requiring storefronts to compete with online stores in a variety of ways. Adding new and interactive experiences to basic guest Wi-Fi is one way brands are accomplishing it.

More than just “free” Internet access

Advanced guest Wi-Fi platforms, such as Cloud4Wi’s Volare™, make gathering actionable customer information simple and easy.
Even if shoppers’ Wi-Fi devices are not connected to the Wi-Fi network, Volare can still learn a great deal about them. This includes presence, location within the store, and user behavior. This is the same information collected for known users and likewise accumulated over time – just without a personal identity attached.
When customers first access the store’s free Wi-Fi, they are asked for personal data. The Wi-Fi platform creates digital identities that associate names, email addresses, and social media profiles, with specific smartphones used by specific customers.
Guest Wi-Fi then records the who, where, when, how often and for how long each customer shops. It can even record specific locations visited within the store. This big data customer profile can be used with transactions and other store information to give brands a 360-degree view of customers’ shopping behaviors.
This information allows precisely targeted promotions to be delivered to customers before, during, and after their shopping visit. Also the arrival of high-value customers can trigger alerts on the sales floor, allowing associates to address these customers by name and discuss their recent purchases and known interests. These are only two ways guest Wi-Fi can be harnessed to improve store operations.

The CIO’s Role

Whether advanced guest Wi-Fi is “discovered” by the IT staff, marketing or another department, the investigation will likely start with the CIO.

While comparing the options, consider the following factors:

  • Will the advanced Wi-Fi platform work with the access point hardware already owned or will expensive replacement be necessary?
  • Does the platform manage customer access, gather customer behaviors and analyze the data collected? Not all platforms do all this, plus many are hard to connect to the data analysis and marketing applications retailers already use.
  • Is management simple and layered, so users and administrators can only see the controls and settings they need to do their jobs?
  • Is the platform compliant with privacy regulations, and other legal requirements? And does it implement best practices in these areas?
  • Are any marketing tools included within the platform?
  • Is the platform cloud-hosted and, if so, by whom? What options are available?
  • Is the platform open and extensible? Can you customize and add your own applications? Is there a well-documented API? An SDK your development team can use?
  • Is pricing sensible, scalable and predictable?

The right advanced guest Wi-Fi platform is a toolkit for giving customers an exciting digital experience, both in-store and away. The very best platform links online and in-store shopping as seamlessly as possible and each channel would be complementing the other. For retailers facing storefront challenges, better guest Wi-Fi is a proper defense.

To learn more about what Volare, the industry’s leading platform for advanced guest Wi-Fi, can do for your business, contact us now!