WiFi Strategy Is Fundamental To Omnichannel Retail

By Chris Walton, CEO and founder of Red Archer Retail and Omni Talk

Introduction – The Building Blocks For The Next Great Innovation In Retail

Omnichannel retail, New Retail, whatever you want to call it – I make my living as an expert and pundit on the subject. No matter the moniker, the words all refer to the same thing, namely that the next great innovation in retail is coming soon.

Retail is a creature of habit. Every 30 to 40 years retail innovation cycles like clockwork. The pattern can be traced all the way back to the 19th century. But it is the last two innovations that deserve the most attention for what they portend.

In the late 1950s/early 1960s, the industry saw the rise of the first shopping mall along with mass merchants, like Kmart, Walmart, and Target, all in 1962. Then, in the mid-1990s, e-commerce was born, bringing the likes of Amazon, eBay, and others. The former was what I call the Mass Productization of America – large amounts of products became available more conveniently to consumers across the country, but at a cost. The shopping experience in a New Jersey mall was no different than from a mall experience in California. But, the latter innovation of e-commerce in the 1990s changed the game. It brought with it ideas like the everything store and a shopping platform itself (i.e. the web and later mobile) that could be personalized to every shopper. Once the iPhone arrived, no one consumer experience in the digital world had to be the same as anyone else’s anymore.

Which all begs the question – what’s next? 

Well, for my money, and according to the historical trajectory, the next great innovation in retail will arrive sometime between 2020 and 2030. It will be an artistic mash up of what has come before it. In the digital world, commercial experiences are already personalized to the individual, but let your mind wander a bit and ask yourself, “What if the mass physical experiences we all know and love could be personalized too?”

That is the answer -- the next great innovation in retail will bring personalized physical experiences in a way we have never seen.

While it sounds wild and crazy, physical experiences can soon be 100% tailored to the individual. All it requires is a few simple ingredients to come together, which is why I was thrilled when asked me to contribute my thoughts on WiFi as it relates to the subject of in-store omnichannel personalization.

Because omnichannel retailing is about leveraging data to develop physical experiences that act, behave, and can be understood like an e-commerce web browser. The right combination of technologies working in concert – i.e. cloud commerce, software applications and hardware, and location tracking and analytics – create unprecedented levels of data capture. Much like a multi-player video game, all the actions and reactions that occur in the physical world will be able to be understood and analyzed in real-time. The consumer will be the center of this new world, i.e. the main player character in the game, and those around him or her, both animate and inanimate, will become the canvases upon which smart retailers can paint new, individualized physical experiences for them.  

These types of experiences are already beginning to pop in the marketplace too. Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket is a great first example, as are Amazon’s latest Amazon Go and GH Lab installations.

But, none of them happen without one of the most important ingredients within the software application layer -- a strategic WiFi experience. WiFi, when one stops and thinks about it, is often the first touch point of a consumer’s experience once inside a physical building. It is the first thing with which a captive audience engages. Why just a few minutes ago, logging onto WiFi was the first thing I did before sitting down to buy a espresso and type this piece at my favorite coffee shop. But sadly it was a ho-hum experience because the log in screen was not personalized to me, Chris Walton, writer, blogger, father of two, and all-around geek. It could have been so much more.

In this two-part series, we will look at why WiFi should never be an afterthought and how it can go from being the blah experience it is so often today to facilitating entirely new opportunities for one-to-one connections with consumers. Because WiFi connectivity and strategy, if thought of correctly, is as critical as the air we breathe in facilitating the next great innovations in retail -- the personalized physical store.  

  • In Part I, In A WiFi-Enabled World, Shopping And Buying Are No Longer One And The Same, we will examine WiFi as the critical digital enabler of new and more engaging physical shopping experiences.

  • In Part II, Unleashing ROI – The Power Of First Party Data, we will conclude by discussing how WiFi marketing not only leads to new experiences, but also gives retailers a more fundamental and efficient understanding of their consumers as well.

Please join me and as we explore these concepts together in the coming weeks!

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