Posted by Tom Swayze

Everyone talks about online retail as the most important channel, primarily because shoppers can interact with the retailer on their terms. Searching for products or solutions is easy, and dialogue with sales associates is controlled completely by the shopper who can email, call a sales representative, chat online, ask a question about a product through search, check reviews, or interact with their community via social channels. Bricks and mortar retailers must bring the digital shopping experience into the store to bring today’s consumer into the store too.

According to ShopperTrak, U.S. retailers received approximately 50% of the holiday foot traffic they experienced just three years ago.* When asked by researchers, customers stated that they have more access to information online than when talking to an in-store sales associate. Price comparisons, reviews and accurate inventory information is available online, but not always in the store. Check out is easy online while in-store can have lines. The obvious challenge for retailers is to make the shopping experience just as compelling in store.

To keep bricks-and-mortar shopping vital, retailers must focus on bringing compelling experiences into the store. Consumers still shop for fun, and still like to engage with sales associates. Retailers can provide detailed product information, inventory and current customer information to sales associates via tablets. Membership and loyalty programs can be strengthened with wireless technology that leverages visit frequency, dwell times, past buying history and loyalty—all through mobile. But, mobile devices require access to secure, compliant Wi-Fi.

A vibrant in-store business requires a smart Wi-Fi strategy. Through secure Wi-Fi, retailers can engage customers with mobile point of sale, wireless promotions, endless aisle capabilities, value-based comparisons and even price comparisons of products. Savvy retailers are using social activity—within the store—to enable customers to share their experiences and communicate about their products through live social streams.

PCI-compliance is another issue to consider. When a shopper engages with a retailer wirelessly, the network access must be secure and must meet stringent security standards such as PCI. As retailers provide access to private and public networks from a variety of devices, it must be simple, secure and cost effective for retailers to make guest Wi-Fi ubiquitous in their stores. The NetFortris Multi-Purpose Wi-Fi solution opens the doors to rich functionality like wireless POS, integrated mobile payments or promotions, loyalty programs and even specialized wireless applications such as social or reviews.

The best solutions for multi-purpose Wi-Fi provide one-click guest access to the Internet, are customizable and brandable, and give retail staff secure, PCI compliant wireless access to corporate data and resources without using a VPN client or software. Top quality systems also provide comprehensive analytics so retailers can manage usage, bandwidth consumption and application prioritization for optimal wireless performance.

Retail Wi-Fi is a focus of NetFortris. Stay tuned as we explore specific aspects such as in-store analytics and innovative marketing and sales strategies based on secure, PCI-compliant Wi-Fi.