Monday, January 16, 2012

NearBuy Announces Captive Portal and Analytics for Retail

Analytics are the un-sung driver behind retail Wi-Fi hotspots. As I have previously written in 5 Retail Trends Driving Wi-Fi, retailers want to know who their customers are in order to tailor the in-store shopping experience which helps drive customer satisfaction and ultimately increased sales and profit. Consumers are increasingly using and relying on digital communications while in the store to perform product research, price comparison, and to make purchases. Retailers want the same reporting available from physical stores that they already get from their websites. The ability to tap into this information by offering free Wi-Fi to shoppers and report on usage is one of the main reasons retailers are offering hotspots in increasing numbers since late 2010.

NearBuy Systems is focused on helping retailers build competitive advantage from the smartphone revolution. The company has been around for a few years now, first getting retailer's attention with their unique micro-location solution for indoor location based services which combines Wi-Fi with in-store video cameras to reliably achieve aisle-level accuracy, something traditional Wi-Fi only systems struggle to accomplish.

NearBuy is announcing their captive portal solution this week at the NRF (National Retail Federation) Annual Convention & Expo, a show dedicated to showcasing retail industry solutions. The NearBuy captive portal differentiates itself through a rich analytics and reporting engine tailored for retail, dubbed Luneta.

NearBuy - Analytics for Retail Guest Wi-Fi Networks

The company is betting that retailers will want information on shopper behavior in their stores and are willing to invest in a more robust solution than integrated captive portal capabilities within wireless infrastructure equipment. Whereas integrated captive portals provide basic functionality with a focus on enterprise features such as authentication and network VLAN integration, NearBuy focuses on tailoring the guest user experience for a retail environment through frictionless shopper access (one-time registration across repeat visits) and providing rich analytics for the retailer.

Bryan Wargo, the founder of NearBuy, summarizes this trend:
Guest Wi-Fi is a major trend for retailers today. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to understand what shoppers are doing in their stores. With this tool we give them a way to quantify what and where consumers are shopping online while in the store, and what products they are purchasing.
The captive portal solution includes a standard guest access webpage which presents terms of use and can collect shopper identification through email address input. More interesting is the ability to integrate guest access with common web services providers such as Twitter and Facebook, allowing retailers to leverage consumer adoption of social media platforms as an avenue for subsequent customer interaction and outreach. This capability seems intuitive, and I'm surprised others have not offered it already.

The NearBuy captive portal provides
social media login for guest access

The back-end analytics include standard network-centric information on the number of users, new versus repeat users, volume of traffic, and websites visited. However, the Luneta solution differentiates by providing detailed information on consumer shopping behavior, including mobile device types being used, guest conversion (opt-in versus decline rate), mobile applications being used, search terms queried, top products browsed, and products purchased online from within the store. Data can be viewed across the entire retail chain (all stores), or broken down into region, store, or even department level reports.

NearBuy Luneta analytics include retail focused data on
products browsed and purchased by shoppers while in-store

From a technical standpoint, the solution architecture relies on a captive portal server which can live on a physical or virtual server of it's own. Depending on the WLAN architecture and traffic routing, the server can live in the store for distributed forwarding scenarios or at a data center when performing central traffic forwarding. Alternatively, for customers running a Motorola wireless infrastructure, it can be loaded as an virtual image on their NX 9000 series centralized wireless controller to reduce server footprint and offer an integrated solution for lower TCO.

The NearBuy captive portal can be deployed as a standalone server
or integrated as a virtual image running on a Motorola NX 9000 controller

The solution includes a RESTful API for integration with external systems such as corporate data warehouses or real-time systems for customer marketing and outreach while in-store.

For retailers, guest Wi-Fi requires a combination of excellent user experience with rich analytics, something that most solutions don't provide. NearBuy hopes to fill that gap by providing a solution that tailors to retail needs.

More information on this solution can be found on the NearBuy website. In addition, they will be providing product demonstrations this week at NRF in the Motorola booth.


No comments:

Post a Comment