Navigating the digital and physical worlds of retail with enhanced customer engagement

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The retail industry has been on a rollercoaster ride ever since online shopping first appeared on the scene in the late 1990s. And it's not over yet.

Today's shoppers have so many options, it's hard to actually pin down what they want, and when they need it. What will they buy online, and what do they need to see and touch in a retail outlet?

Society's mobility metamorphosis means most of us are walking around with at least one highly capable mobile device on our person at all times. It's a game changer of epic proportions that's redefining how we think about the world around us.

The bottom line: The dividing line between the physical and digital world is disappearing.

If customers' attentions are constantly divided between what's in front of them and what's on their device, how does physical retail thrive, even survive?

If recent sales figures are any measure, brick-and-mortar retailers have a lot of catching up to do. Year-over-year estimates show physical stores steadily declining while online giants such as Amazon boast massive growth. In fact, by 2018, retailers that don't optimize for omni-channel commerce, the Internet of Things, and social convergence will have to close 10x more stores than competitors.1

The message is clear: The world has changed, and retailers who want prosper in this bold new world must embrace mobility both online and in their storefronts. Those industry leaders who successfully navigate the confluence of the digital and physical worlds will inherit the future.

Mobile technology has handed retailers an unprecedented opportunity to redefine the in-store experience. For instance, what if your mobile app could totally transform the retail experience for customers in both the physical and digital worlds?

Picture a consumer that researches a sofa from home, drives to the store, uses in-store turn-by-turn directions to find the product, purchases it directly from their mobile app, and then is notified when the product is ready to be picked up. Imagine the loyalty this would create and the priceless knowledge it would give retailers about customer preferences.

With the right mobile engagement and analytics tools, retailers can connect with customers to drive an immediate purchase decision, up-sell merchandise, and boost brand loyalty. Before retailers can take advantage of any of these new opportunities, they need great in-store wireless connectivity that can facilitate these transactions between smartphone-carrying customers and store digital technologies.

That's why we have developed a networking portfolio that combines high-performance Wi-Fi, wired and beacon infrastructure with software-based solutions for access policy, centralized management, and location-based services. Because these features are offered in a single, integrated solution, they can be deployed quickly and easily so owners can get back to what they're best at retailing.

Our Mobile Engagement Solution leverages location, device, and other contextual data to engage shoppers in a more compelling, personalized manner. Visitors who connect to a store's Wi-Fi network can specify their preferences to let the business know how they want to be engaged. When customers download a retailer's Meridian-powered mobile app, their shopping experience can be enhanced with personalized, location-relevant push notifications and wayfinding directions.

Meanwhile, that same in-store network solution can be leveraged to securely connect inventory management systems, store associate apps, and point of sales systems with the necessary PCI controls.

To truly meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities brought on by the mobile revolution, retailers need to take the next step toward mobility-centric networking.

It's your turn to meet your customer in between the digital and physical worlds to create a new way of shopping.

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1 IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Retail 2016 Predictions, Doc # 259837, Nov 2015