wireless lanRealizing benefits inside and outside the organization, national retailers are stepping up their plans to leverage and capitalize on Wi-Fi investments, according to a study from managed network and cloud technology provider EarthLink Holdings, market research firm IHL Group  and cloud-managed Wi-Fi systems vendor AirTight Networks. Conducting one of the first surveys of its kind, the market research partners found that 82% of large- and medium-sized retail businesses have Wi-Fi networks up and running in their stores.

Nearly 60% of enterprise retail survey participants (57%) reported that they offer both customer and employee Wi-Fi connectivity. Nearly 28% said customer loyalty had increased as a result of their providing in-store Wi-Fi network access.

Explaining the motivation for conducting the market research, IHL’s Greg Buzek said: “Our goal with this study is to establish actionable benchmark numbers that help retail IT executives compare the state of their store technology against others in the industry. As many plan to invest in technologies like in-store Wi-Fi, payment systems, PCI compliance and security to keep customers loyal while protecting their data, it’s important to understand the benefits and challenges others have already experienced.

Managed Wi-Fi Business Opportunity in Retail Sector
“Up to 82% of retailers have already deployed in-store Wi-Fi and nearly 28% report increased customer loyalty since deploying the technology. Not surprisingly with these results, 34% of those already using Wi-Fi are upgrading capacity in 2015.”

Seventy percent of survey participants outsource their store-level Wi-Fi network management to managed service providers such as EarthLink. Just over one-third (34 percent) said they intend to update their store-level Wi-Fi networks and technology in 2015, revealing a substantial business development opportunity for Wi-Fi managed service providers.

The amount of data traffic crossing retailers’ store-level Wi-Fi networks is expected to surge. “Nearly 70 percent of specialty retailers are designing their next Point-of-Sale system based on a central order management system, which will put up to five times more load on the network for core store transactions than most retailers use today,” the research partners highlight. That’s going to require retailers to update their WAN infrastructure.

EarthLink, IHL and AirTight intend to establish a Wi-Fi benchmarking service for the retail industry upon completing their analysis of survey data. “Our purpose in teaming up with IHL Group and AirTight for this important study is to provide retailers with actionable data to help them plan their next-generation engagement and technology roadmaps.” Greg Griffiths, EarthLink’s vice president of product alliances, was quoted in a press release. “We also see an increasing need for WAN optimization, driven by the bandwidth needs of the new centralized order management systems.”

Added Kevin McCauley, AirTight Networks’ Director of Retail Market Development: “Research findings show that retail has the necessary infrastructure in place and is poised for growth around multichannel engagement using in-store WiFi.

“The companies that implement within the next year will have first mover advantage to perfect their engagement strategies. The forthcoming benchmarking tool will help retailers cut through the complexity around that.”

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