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09 Apr 2024

How Cellular Connectivity is Pivotal to the CX and the Bottom Line for Physical Stores

Nextivity Stand: 4B38
How Cellular Connectivity is Pivotal to the CX and the Bottom Line for Physical Stores

With 2024 in full swing, the results are in from the 2023 retail peak season, and one thing is clear: digital is embedding itself as the channel of choice for shoppers. According to analysis by Mastercard, in-store sales during Black Friday increased just over 1 percent compared to 2022 figures, whereas digital sales shot up by an impressive 8 percent. According to an analyst from Adobe, online shopping on Black Friday totaled $9.8 billion, up 7.5 percent year-over-year, and more than half of that revenue came from mobile purchases.

Retailers that focus on in-store shopping therefore have their work cut out for them if they want to encourage consumers back into physical shopping. One method through which retailers can achieve this goal is by doubling down on a new generation of in-store shopping experiences. Success in this field will above all else rely on strong cellular coverage.

Mobile-Centric In-Store Digital Experiences

The runaway success of digital shopping comes down to one thing: convenience. People have grown accustomed to shopping journeys that are initiated and completed at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen. If physical stores are to compete, they must offer similarly convenient and seamless experiences.

Consumers’ mobile devices are the perfect means to deliver such in-store experiences. For instance, retailers can develop apps that enable consumers to scan product barcodes with their smartphones, providing instant access to information, reviews and price comparisons. Smartphones can also be integrated with in-store navigation systems, guiding consumers to specific products to save them time and effort.

Meanwhile, by using location-based technologies, retailers can send personalized promotions or alerts to consumers' smartphones when they're near or inside the store, encouraging targeted shopping and offering special deals based on shopping histories and/or preferences. Cellular also helps keep checkout lines moving by connecting to self-checkout kiosks.

The Cellular Coverage Imperative

Smartphones, combined with other data-centric technologies, open the door to a new generation of in-store services that will drive customer engagement and improve business operations. However, these and other compelling use cases are all reliant on good cellular coverage.

Cellular is the keyword here. Wi-Fi offers fast and reliable connectivity, but is ultimately not well suited to delivering the seamless digital experiences that consumers demand. The log-on process of Wi-Fi is often time consuming. People just want to pick up their smartphones and start using their apps, and most have little patience to waste time logging in to a guest Wi-Fi network. Increasingly, consumers are also aware that there are security concerns with some Wi-Fi connections, and they may therefore be unwilling to use it, particularly for applications where they will be making payments or sharing personal data.

Cellular connectivity, on the other hand, offers a completely seamless experience, as most consumers already have cellular access through their mobile service providers. In retail settings, the only real issue with cellular connectivity is coverage within buildings. We've all been in frustrating situations where we've wanted to make a call, send a text, or access mobile applications and websites, but the cellular signal has been too weak. If store owners can find a way to boost the strength of cellular signals within their buildings, then they will be ready to get their in-store digital experiences up and running in no time.

Assessing Signal Boosters

Given the need to boost signal strength and coverage (rather than capacity, which is more of a consideration for large-scale venues like sports stadiums), what should retailers look for in a cellular signal booster?

The answer in part depends on the type of store. For “big box” retailers (think Target, Costco, Walmart, and the like) active distributed antenna system (DAS) hybrid solutions are a great place to start. This technology offers a cost-effective cellular connectivity option that ensures the effective extension of cellular signals from the outdoor network into retailers’ buildings. This solution optimizes connectivity, allowing seamless integration with public networks.

“Small box” stores like gas stations, convenience stores, banks and mini-marts, on the other hand, should consider using smart signal boosters. These provide levels of performance and functionality that “dumb” signal boosters simply cannot match and are a rapid and cost-effective way to improve cellular connectivity with either a single carrier or multicarrier support depending on the retailer’s preferences.

In a world where people are ever more reliant on their smartphones to shop, bringing strong cellular signals from outside the building indoors is a must for most retailers. Retailers that haven't already done so should evaluate the signal booster solutions on the market and install them as soon as possible. Doing so will help them provide a winning customer experience today while future-proofing their stores for new digital use cases as they emerge in the future.

Stephen M. Kowal is the chief commercial officer at Nextivity, an industry leader in intelligent cellular coverage solutions.

Stephen Kowal - Author

Stephen Kowal is Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of Nextivity. Stephen is a technology industry veteran who has held strategic roles in sales, channel, and global accounts for nearly 25 years. As CCO at Nextivity, Stephen will be responsible for the company’s customer and partner facing teams, specifically those focused on sales, business development, marketing, product management, customer service, and order management.

Most recently, Stephen was at CommScope where he held progressively senior leadership roles during his 22-year tenure with the company. As the company’s Senior Vice President of enterprise sales, he led a team of more than 1,000 enterprise sales professionals, driving over $2B in revenue across the company’s line of Wi-Fi, DAS, fiber, and copper solutions used in enterprise, telecommunications, cable television, and residential broadband networks. While in the role of Senior Vice President of CommScope’s global partner organization, Stephen was responsible for developing the company’s global partner strategy and leading the team of 100 channel professionals who recruited, developed, and supported a worldwide partner network of 5,000 distributors, integrators, and installation partners.
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