Mobile device? Check. In-store wi-fi? Check. Let the benefits of mobility begin…
For most retailers, establishing a wi-fi network is often a tad more difficult than a simple plug and go set-up. But getting a network in place is just the first – and far from the biggest – challenge you’ll face if you want to grab the opportunities offered by in-store mobility.
Make no mistake, it’s well worth all the effort. Wi-fi can be real-time. It can take stock management and customer service to whole new levels. And by plugging the gaps in data accuracy, it’s a massive step towards the holy grail of multichannel retail.
But to benefit from all of this, you need to understand what you’ve already got and know what you want – and then be able to manage it. Whatever your set-up you’re going to be faced with a plethora of apps, devices, access points and terminations that make up your mobile estate. And that’s before you even think about throwing your wi-fi doors open to the public, leading on to even more benefits…
Compared to a fixed infrastructure, wi-fi networks throw up additional challenges around managing components effectively from a central point.
This is a key issue, because you’re going to face a momentous job managing and monitoring all the various devices – iPads, handheld terminals, RFID readers – as well as apps, firmware and access points. For a large organisation this can run into tens of thousands of devices. And if you can’t bring all that together in one place to manage, you’re onto a loser from day one.
Retailers are finding more and more ways of using in-store and distribution centre devices. As a result, more and more are expanding their wi-fi estate. But given that retailers are increasingly carrying business-critical applications over wi-fi devices, you can’t afford to risk the infrastructure integrity.
We’ve rolled out a significant number of wi-fi networks and act as guardians for many of our customers. That means they hand over all the worrying to us and we keep an eye on things remotely, stepping in whenever there’s trouble on the horizon, and fixing it before it affects business.
Assuming you’re up and running with a wi-fi infrastructure, you then need to look at building the management solution. This involves bringing the end user devices into configuration control to provide the following functionality:
• software/firmware distribution
• remote scan to configure (allows devices to have software loaded remotely)
• infrastructure component performance monitoring
• remote management to provide help desk and diagnostic capability
• alerting and reporting
Which brings us back to the statement: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t monitor it and therefore you can’t manage it.” It seems mobility is all about the three Ms.
Posted by Eddie Dodds, Infrastructure services director, BT Expedite & Fresca