Wednesday, March 9, 2011

5 Reasons Why Retail Needs Wi-Fi RTLS

I recently read an article on 5 Reasons Why Your Hospital Needs Wi-Fi RTLS. Historically, RTLS has been justifiable for hospitals which have very expensive mobile assets that are in high-demand and need to be found quickly. Likewise for providing high-quality patient healthcare through efficient operations with staff and patient workflow.

However, the justification and ROI for indoor location based services (LBS) in retail is a bit harder to quantify. This is becoming easier as mobile commerce and digital guest interaction models are now emerging as primary channels in the retail store of the 21st century. As a foundation, retailers are looking at deploying guest Wi-Fi services. I previously wrote about the reasoning for providing guest Wi-Fi in the Consumerization of Enterprise Wi-Fi.

In addition to guest Wi-Fi, retailers should be investigating Wi-Fi RTLS use-cases for the following benefits:

5. Mobile Device Inventory Tracking
Retailers have long-standing Wi-Fi networks providing labor expense reduction through mobile inventory management solutions. Managing a fleet of mobile devices in-store, including scanners, PDAs, and phones can be challenging. Wi-Fi RTLS can aid retailers in determining device utilization for accurately scaling the quantity of devices required in stores, and reduce device support expenses by locating lost / mis-placed devices and reducing device repair costs through better operational management.

4. "Expert" Location Tracking
Wi-Fi RTLS can enhance the in-store guest experience and satisfaction by teaming in-store experts with guests quickly and efficiently. When guests have questions they do one of two things: 1) Seek a in-store sales clerk that can (hopefully) answer their question, or 2) Provide self-help by turning to a personal mobile device to perform on-the-spot research. With the volume of SKUs carried in stores, the complexity of many modern products, and the specialized skills required for many do-it-yourself tasks, finding an expert to provide guidance is increasingly valuable to the retailer. Providing that "expert" advice to guests can provide assurance of product quality and aid in determining the appropriate product selection, translating into a higher likelihood of same-day sales. I like to call this The Home Depot model.

3. Guest In-Store Navigation
Providing guests with site-specific product location with store navigation maps (typically in mobile apps) can increase guest satisfaction by allowing them to quickly find the product(s) they are seeking. In addition, changes in store layout and stocking due to seasonal variances can be updated quickly when in digital form and provide more accurate information.

2. Business Analytics
Understanding consumer habits and trends is part of the core retail merchandising strategy. Wi-Fi RTLS can provide enhanced business analytics with insight into customer travel paths in-store, dwell times, effectiveness of in-store signage, and provide immediate feedback allowing the retailer to more quickly adjust strategy based on observed guest patterns.

1. Guest Interaction and In-Aisle Marketing
Research has long indicated that around 70% of the consumer purchase decision making process is made in-aisle while evaluating the product. Retailers have traditionally focused on engaging guests through in-aisle signage, but increasingly guests are turning to digital information research to influence their decisions. It is imperative that retailers engage guests through mobile applications to compete against web-retailers. Wi-Fi RTLS can enable retailers to provide highly localized product promotions and information to guests, and when coupled with opt-in brand loyalty programs can also provide highly relevant marketing based on knowledge of the individual consumer shopping habits.

Ultimately, retailers will need to determine the business strategy surrounding customer interaction, customer service, and corporate mobile device management to determine solution applicability and technical implementation details (RFID, Wi-Fi, NFC; consumer vs. cart tracking; etc.).



  1. Interesting! I'm curious about the order of importance from the retailer point of view? in your opinion, which resonates best with them?

    I'm asking because I'm currently working with a low-cost RTLS system and I'm looking for applications (here is a post.)

  2. I listed them in the order that I see value. But that is solely my opinion and every retail organization may have different priorities.