How networks will save retail

  • Keeping customers connected to the network can enhance their in-store experience.

  • In-store beacons, location-based services, and mobile payments are changing the face of retail and how customers interact with your brand.

Ethernet networks forever changed the way consumers shop, and that’s a good thing for smart retailers. As networks evolve and become more sophisticated, they create new opportunities to prosper and profit. Think about how technology has rerouted customer flow through stores and how customers make purchases.

Here’s a look at three of the network innovations that protect retailers from being marginalized and make in-store shopping more vibrant and exciting than ever:

1. In-store beacons

Small, inexpensive wireless beacons are just beginning to hint at their full potential. When paired with customers who opt in to connecting with retailers through Wi-Fi services or branded apps, beacons provide tremendous insights into consumer activity.

Beacons trigger alerts in retail brand apps without requiring the customer to manually open the app and check for new activities or offers. These alerts can be anything from providing a specially targeted coupon or offer to a timely alert about an in-store event or product demonstration about to begin.

Beacon-driven technology is a particular favorite of the early adopter segment that already loves mobile coupons, a field that generates billions in incremental sales.By tracking how individuals and crowds flow through the store, beacons provide data for floor heat maps that help merchandisers optimize product placement and stock levels.

2. Location-based services

Location-based services invite customers into the store, help them navigate the floor, and optimize their purchases once they arrive. Big-box retailers can now offer in-store guided directions to specific products with familiar turn-by-turn mapping. Instead of hunting down an associate or lurking at a department desk waiting for service, apps can summon help without having to wait for it.

Retailers can even send text or app alerts to opt-in consumers who drive or travel within range of a store they haven’t visited recently. When this data is combined with known visits to partner retailers and to websites, retailers can now build detailed, individualized offers previously only available to sophisticated e-commerce brands.

3. Mobile payments

High-profile consumer data theft and incidents of in-store card skimming have rattled consumer confidence in traditional payments, yet retail consortium efforts to create industry-wide mobile payments have not gone particularly well.

Fortunately, the tech industry has forged ahead with near-field communications (NFC) payment schemes to address the problem. Tap-to-pay with a mobile phone introduces a new consumer experience that has made checkout fun again. The next frontier will be further synchronization with mobile coupon and instant rebate services, further rewarding consumers on the cutting edge.

Not long ago, there were earnest discussions about how retailers could best block cellular signals to discourage in-store mobile phone usage. Today, facilitating ubiquitous access to networks is the best way to enhance the in-store customer experience and to protect the future of retail.

Jason Compton is an internationally published writer and reporter with extensive experience in enterprise technologies, including marketing, sales, service, and collaboration. All opinions are his own. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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