This is the type of post that gets me excited. Today, I’m happy to feature a special customer guest author: Andrew vonNagy, CCIE #28298 (Wireless), and currently Technical Architect for a Fortune 50 retail company. Many of you may know Andrew from his active blog, Revolution Wi-Fi, or his Twitter feed: @revolutionwifi. Stay with us over the next two weeks as Andrew offers his take on the intersection of Retail and the Wireless LAN industry.
Retail Wi-Fi networks have long been dominated by inventory management applications and services that enabled a more productive workforce and leaner operations. However, brick-and-mortar retail is being disrupted due to the explosive growth from pure e-commerce competitors offering [often] lower prices and a more personalized shopping experience. In addition, the e-commerce sales channel offers deeper product information, community reviews, and greater levels of localization and customization that resonate with consumers.
Brick and mortar retail must adapt to compete in this new environment. A key component of this adaptation is delivering new IT solutions while leveraging the physical assets of the storefront, mixing the benefits of in-store product “touch-and-feel” with the personalization of e-commerce shopping. Merging these two worlds together will create an enhanced shopping experience through the use of mobile Internet devices, often connected through Wi-Fi networks.
This week, we will cover the first of 5 trends driving Wi-Fi growth and new capabilities in retail organizations:
Trend 1: Consumer Interaction and Business Analytics
Physical retailers have the most influence over consumer purchase decisions in the store, when they are standing in front of the product they are weighing whether or not to buy. Historically, this has been through in-aisle marketing and signage. However, customers are increasingly equipped with mobile Internet access and turning to external sources of information in real-time while within a retail store. This has been coined the emergence of the “smart shopper”. These external sources of information are much more comprehensive than what the retailer can provide through traditional in-aisle marketing and signage, and this leaves the physical retailer at a big disadvantage.
The research shows that almost half (47%) of mobile operators now think Wi-Fi is either very important or essential to their customers’ experience. The research also found that operators are planning a massive increase in Wi-Fi hotspot deployments – hotspots are set to rocket with a 350% increase by 2015.
The report confirms the Cisco VNI numbers, showing that mobile data is continuing its massive growth across the globe. The WBA Public Wi-Fi report predicts that mobile data traffic will hit 16.84 million terabytes by 2014. Operators are increasingly turning to Wi-Fi as a trusted extension to both fixed and mobile networks for offering their customers a seamless Internet experience.
Consider this. According to the second chapter of the 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report, one in three college students and young employees under the age of 30 would prioritize device flexibility and social media freedom over salary in accepting a job offer. In fact, 40 percent of college students and 45 percent of young employees said they would accept a lower-paying job that had more device flexibility and social media access, than a higher-paying job with less flexibility. Wow!
People are so in love and attached to their mobile devices that half of college students and young employees said they would rather lose their wallet or purse than their mobile device, according to the study. And their mobile devices are multiplying – 77 percent of employees have multiple devices and one in three employees globally uses at least three devices for work.
Their attachment to their mobile devices goes a step further. More than half of college students and young employees want to use their own devices to access corporate networks, and two in five consider it a critical function of their job to be able to connect to the network from any location at any time.
So, what does this mean for businesses? People will want to continue their love affair with their mobile devices at work, so it’s better to be prepared to support employee-owned devices as the “bring your own device” trend is only becoming more prevalent.
It is no longer a question of “if” your organization will face the new reality of mobile device proliferation, just an ever closer “how soon.” Users expect the network to enable trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and they aren’t just using smartphones and tablets to be more productive, they are falling in love with them. For businesses, simply allowing access isn’t the answer. It’s a question of relevant, secure access across the entire network, while protecting corporate assets and delivering an optimal user experience. Cisco focuses on exactly that -- how to enable a simple and secure mobility experience, with a consistent end-to-end architecture across wired, wireless and VPN access.
As a cornerstone of this wired-wireless access architecture, the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) has already been helping customers like Whittier Union High School, San Antonio Water System and BlueWater Communications Group apply consistent security across the entire network through a centralized, single policy source.
Whittier Union High School District, a California high school district serving more than 13,600 students, was facing the challenge of mobile devices. Both faculty and students were bringing their personal devices on campus, many for educational apps and tools.
“It’s becoming increasingly critical to provide employees, students, and visitors access to our network and extensive educational resources given the growing expectations of our tech-savvy population,” stated Karen Yeh, Director of Information Technology, Whittier Union High School District.
Whittier needed a way to apply differentiated policy across their student and staff populations, somehow managing access for both personal and corporate devices, all without increasing IT resources. Karen called Cisco, and two weeks later her team was deploying the Cisco ISE, implementing a single point of security policy for their networks across wired, wireless and VPN. Considering that Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the US went to Whittier High School, the flexible network access enabled by Cisco ISE may be empowering the next generation of leaders, scientist or artists. But, mobile devices aren’t confined to education. San Antonio Water System, a public utility owned by the city of San Antonio, is seeing surprisingly similar issues.
So, in my last blog, I pointed out that Manufacturers, and particularly car makers, will be driving the Internet of Things (IoT) by incorporating standard networks into their machines. I also indicated that evolving the standards is going to be critical to that adoption.
Applying standard networks (by that I mean Ethernet, IP, TCP/UDP, 802.11/WiFi, etc.) machines is going to be a distinctly different than the networking of computers, phones and the plethora of tablets and handheld devices that has driven the Internet and standard networks to date. Read More »