retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall StreetJournal.com has a piece about the importance and challenges of offering Wi-Fi to retail customers, noting that "shoppers are coming to expect it: in a recent survey by SapientNitro and GfK Roper, 63% said free Wi-Fi would enhance their shopping experience ... Wi-Fi also offers opportunities to improve employee productivity and customer satisfaction–for example, by allowing a sales person to check the stockroom without leaving the floor, or even to complete a sales transaction in the aisles."

But, apparently, it is more complicated a proposition than one might expect.

Here's what the Journal reports:

"In fact, Bain & Company’s work with retailers finds that rolling out Wi-Fi to a network of stores is among the most capital intensive and complex projects IT departments will tackle this decade. That’s true in other industries as well, whether it’s a cruise line installing Wi-Fi in its ships or a large company rolling Wi-Fi out among a network of offices.

"Much can go wrong. At one chain, IT managers planned for enough bandwidth to stream instructional videos, only to discover later that employees’ devices were too slow to run them. At another store, installers disrupted shopping when they dropped access points from 50-foot ceilings. One retailer had to convince its competitor at the other end of a mall to allow a network connection to pass through their store. Another was shocked to see its original planning estimate of a few million dollars balloon to more than $100 million over just a few months because its IT department lacked the experience to gauge the real costs, not only of hardware and connectivity, but of managing different building and electrical codes, varying regional labor laws and the full impact of business disruption in stores."

In addition, retailers have to ponder other questions, such as: How much bandwidth do we really need to offer? And what do you do about customers who use Wi-Fi to compare prices and services with other retailers?

You can read the entire analysis here
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