While we’ve entered one of the busiest times of the year for retail, the truth is that retail organizations always have to be prepared to support high customer volume and dynamic environments. Unlike offices that generally know how many employees will be in a building at any time, retail sites can quickly jump from twenty customers to two hundred, and then back again dozens of times a day. No matter how many customers and employees are onsite, the store must always promote a welcoming, helpful environment. Its ability to do so depends largely on the reliability of its WiFi network.
Why is a WiFi network important?
At first glance a retail store might not seem like a WiFi-dependent site, but that would be a mistake. WiFi is used by employees and customers in a number of ways, including:
- To support mobile point-of-sale (POS) devices
- Inventory management
- Coupon access
- Store app access
- Supporting devices that return behavioral data analytics
If the WiFi network is unreliable, it can make employee tasks difficult, if not impossible, and frustrate customers as well. It’s in a store’s best interest to prevent this scenario.
WiFi network challenges
What can retail organizations do to ensure WiFi assurance? They need to address these common challenges:
Plan for complete coverage for strong connectivity
Stores need a network designed specifically for them in order to avoid dead spots and dropped connections. The design must take into consideration building materials, furniture, storage spaces, and nearby stores – all of which are potential sources of interference.
The network design should be reviewed after any major changes – such as a store redesign.
Make the best capacity decisions possible
It’s difficult to plan capacity in retail sites because people will be in and out in unknown numbers all day long. For this reason, we recommend that stores plan their network around the assumed maximum capacity.
Organizations should also be as specific as possible about what the network needs to support. This includes the types and numbers of devices (both those used by employees and customers); and how the network will be used (for example, how data-intensive will apps be?)
Secure the network
With so many people hopping on and off the network, security is critical. Organizations should have a dedicated guest network for all customers. This network shouldn’t allow access to any confidential information. Stores can further protect information by dedicating another network to IoT devices, as many of these devices aren’t WPA2 or WPA3 capable (common WiFi security protocols).
How to automatically assure WiFi network reliability
How can stores easily and cost-effectively address connectivity, capacity, and security? With WiFi automation platforms.
We’ve moved past the days where networks could be easily, manually monitored. These days, with thousands of data packets sent a second, countless connected devices, and near-constant movement from devices and end-users, IT teams need the support of automated platforms. These platforms provide the 24/7 analytics that are necessary if an organization wants to guarantee network optimization. Here’s how they return time, energy, and money to retail organizations and IT professionals:
Automatic, Proactive Identification of WiFi Performance Problems
WiFi automation platforms provide a switch from manual, reactive troubleshooting to automatic, proactive resolutions. The platform keeps eyes on the WiFi network at all times, which allows it to alert IT to issues as soon as they occur. These proactive alerts will always be better than reactive ones because they allow retail sites to solve problems before end users are affected. This not only keeps customers happy, but ensures smooth operational efficiency and productivity from all employees.
It also means that stores have greater access to behavioral data analytics – the faster problems are reported, the quicker they can be resolved, and the fewer analytics that will be missed due to network issues.
For the best ROI, the platform should not only alert IT to the issue, but also identify the problem’s root cause and suggest actionable resolutions. This makes it possible for the network to return to an optimized state in a fraction of the time.
The only way to know the health and performance of the entire network is with complete visibility. This needs to include backend and frontend infrastructure, all connected devices, network applications, and any non-WiFi devices operating in the same airspace (like Bluetooth devices). It should also include device capabilities, which will come in handy when upgrade decisions are made. For example, if an organization wants to upgrade to the latest WiFi-standard, they need to know how many devices will also have to be upgraded and how many are already capable of connecting to new infrastructure.
This complete visibility means that IT can see at a glance if something isn’t quite right, not to mention it allows stores to proactively review coverage and network design at any time. Data that isn’t captured is data that can’t be analyzed – which means there are issues that can go unseen and unresolved until huge problems develop. Avoid this with WiFi automation platforms.
Not all stores have an IT professional onsite at all times. This can mean frustrating and costly delays when it comes to issue resolution – but not with a remote-capable platform.
With remote access, IT teams can solve problems and review network behavior at any time and from any location. This significantly reduces the Mean-Time-to-Resolution.
The historical data provided by some WiFi automation platforms is critically useful in a number of ways, including:
- It allows IT to review past network and device behavior – especially useful for resolving intermittent problems.
- It supports cost-efficient budget and network capacity planning by providing decision makers with details on long-term performance trends. This allows administrators to see exactly what upgrades/updates the network needs, and what it doesn’t, to best support future productivity and optimization.
Selecting a WiFi automation platform
The award-winning, vendor agnostic Wireless Intelligence Platform™ is AI-powered and delivers:
- 90% faster Mean-Times-to-Resolution
- 80% fewer remote site visits
- 70% fewer WiFi problem tickets
Contact us today for a demo or free trial.