Businesses Move to Meet Customer WiFi Demands

Twenty-one percent of retailers report that customers linger longer in stores with WiFi.

wifi and earthlink

Businesses are responding to consumers’ demand for Internet access while shopping by making investments in WiFI, according to results of an online survey of more than 100 U.S. retailers, conducted by research and advisory firm IHL Group and sponsored by EarthLink Holdings.

According to the research, deployment of in-store WiFi had the most significant positive impact on retail sales.

Almost half of the participating retailers, representing all retail sizes and types, reported a 3.4 percent increase in sales after deploying WiFi to its employees.

A little less than one-third of retailers (28 percent) reported a 2 percent sales increase due to deploying in-store customer WiFi.

"Secure WiFi is inexpensive and can deliver a rapid return on investment," Greg Griffiths, EarthLink’s vice president of product marketing, told eWEEK. "Because it can be used to gather valuable presence and usage data for business intelligence, push out promotional offers and drive engagement, often times marketing budgets can also be brought to bear. Plus, WiFi installation and maintenance do not require an IT staff or special training."

Griffiths said most retailers also tap into their security budget to justify the investment because secure WiFi supports industry security and compliance requirements with built-in wireless intrusion prevention.

The survey results suggest that employee WiFi is a bigger positive driver of sales than customer WiFi, indicating the importance of a creating a connected, flexible workforce that is untethered from point-of-sale stations.

Twenty-one percent of retailers reported that customers remained in their stores longer, as a result of deploying WiFi.

For these same retailers, top WiFi uses included traffic counting at 56 percent and tracking session duration and devices used at 49 percent.

Forty percent of IT budgets are now allocated to deploying new and innovative systems, up from 15 percent to 30 percent, according to the report.

Nearly 70 percent of specialty retailers are designing their next point-of-sale (POS) system based on a central order management system, which will put up to five times more load on the network and will require a wide area network (WAN) infrastructure refresh, the report said.

Thirty-four percent of survey respondents plan to update their WAN network security within 12 months, and 34 percent also plan to update their WAN bandwidth optimization to take advantage of changed software architecture and enhanced customer experience options, according to the report.

"For businesses that have already deployed WiFi, most have not yet fully optimized its value for increasing customer loyalty," Griffiths said. "WiFi should be a customer touch point for loyalty programs, social media engagement and special promo offers, as well as uncovering a wealth of usage analytics, such as dwell times and the types of sites their customers visit. Rather than the exception, watch for these practices to become the norm."