WiFi has become an important way for retail businesses and restaurants to improve their customer engagement and build a loyal following. It is also an incredibly valuable tool for you to gather your visitor metrics, better understand your customers and provide a mechanism for you to reach them easily and cheaply. Retail WiFi and Restaurant WiFi challenges do exist though, as follows.
When WiFi was first introduced, people were happy with having enough bandwidth to send emails and browse the web. Since then, requirements have increased and the expectation now is that you offer a lot more capacity on your network if you want to attract and then retain new customers, each of whom may have a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop with them. They will use those devices to perform bandwidth-consuming tasks, such as video chatting, streaming or downloading, not unlike what they do at home or in their office environment.
This means that you have to initially provide more bandwidth, which may be even more challenging if your retail shop or restaurant is located in an area without the required coverage. You will also have to invest in a more powerful WiFi network that can more effectively handle a number of data hungry devices at any one time.
From a capacity standpoint, it makes sense to separate your corporate network that you use for your own systems (EPoS, KDS etc) from your guest network. That will provide your corporate system with more resilience and will ensure that it runs smoothly, while also helping with your security setup.
Depending on how important offering WiFi is for your guest experience, you may also want to consider adding a second connection type to your setup in order to offer redundancy should your primary circuit fail. You could also look at adding a load balancer, if appropriate, in order to aggregate different connectivity circuits to help ensure maximum uptime and service satisfaction for your guests.
To ensure that you have the right capacity for your business, it makes sense to engage with a provider with an excellent track record who can advise you on the best options for your particular circumstances. It is also important your engage with someone who can supply both your connectivity and your WiFi solution. This ensures that you will enjoy a highly available system that can be monitored from end-to-end, ensuring that when something does go wrong it can be repaired quickly and without a huge amount of finger pointing between different providers.
Having a highly reliable solution with the required capacity will cost more than your home ADSL setup, but it will be worth it in terms of customer satisfaction and the reduced amount of time your team will have to spend trying to support a less reliable solution. It will also provide you with incredibly valuable insight by way of integrated analytics, allowing you to better understand your customers and their habits.
You can invest in a system with a lot of capacity, but you can still be let down if your WiFi coverage isn’t suitable. You may find that you have areas on your premises that cause endless problems and frustrations for both you and your visitors.
When you engage with a provider, they will most likely carry out a site survey that will highlight the number and type of WiFi access points that you will need to deploy for effective coverage, taking into consideration elements of your premises design that may prove challenging. Those include elements such as your fixtures, ceiling height and the building materials used as these can all affect your signal strength and quality of service.
Poor coverage will end up in disappointed customers and a frustrated team who have to handle the complaints from the poor service, as well as impacting your ability to capture precise visitor data.
If you do find that you have an unreliable service, you may discover that you do not have the correct density of WiFi access points available. The obvious answer is to add additional or stronger access points in order to increase your WiFi density and cover any problem areas.
Snags can arise in shopping centre situations, where your signal is competing with all the other retail shops and restaurants in the vicinity. In that situation, you may find that your signal is being impacted by other providers. The temptation is to again add both additional and stronger access points, but the fear is often that a mini arms race to provide the best coverage begins, to the detriment of all. In that scenario it makes sense to enter into talks with your neighbours to agree on the best plan to proceed.
Generally, the greater the number and the greater the strength of WiFi access points you have, the better your service.
Obviously security has to be at the forefront of your plans when it comes to offering guest WiFi.
A wise first step is to segment your guest network from your corporate network. it also makes sense to ensure that you have robust user policies in place detailing yourWiFi terms and conditions and ensuring that you have policies to handle how and what your guests can access while on your network. Policies could include limitations at certain times of day, limitations on what can be accessed, as well as limitations on bandwidth usage.
The best solutions all include a captive portal that allows you to track your users, find out more about them and let you know what users are connecting to, where they are and when they are connecting.
Modern, up-to-date hardware and software will go a long way to help keep you and your guest WiFi secure. This is definitely a situation when it pays to be better safe than sorry. By investing in your guest WiFi solution, you will be able to deliver reliable guest access, while protecting your business network from potential security vulnerabilities.
Like many technology decisions, a balance needs to be found between cost and functionality. You need to find a complete solution that meets both your needs and your budget. Areas of cost include items such as the supporting connectivity, the WiFi hardware and licenses, as well as the system support and monitoring.
6. Monitoring and Support
Monitoring and support backed by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) comes with a cost, but it also brings peace of mind knowing that your network is constantly being monitored and that potential issues will quickly uncovered and repaired. You can be confident that your visitors remain happy, returning time and time again.
We suggest that at least two of your onsite team are trained on your WiFi solution so that they can respond to immediate trouble reports and can also be a point of contact to help the remote team with help as a first step. If working together an issue can’t be fixed, then an engineer will visit your site to get you up and running again. If the site or the uninterrupted provision of WiFi is important to your business, we also suggest that you keep replacement parts or equipment on-site for immediate replacement of malfunctioning components.
At the end of the day, by engaging with a WiFi partner with a great deal of experience in the sector, you can be confident that you will get the right solution for your business needs and that it will be a WiFi solution that enhances your visitor’s experience, rather than detract from it.
Wanstor have a great deal of experience overcoming retail and restaurant WiFi challenges. Contact us on 0333 123 0360 or contact us online to discuss the right solution for your business needs.