Each and every day the wireless landscape is changing. Smartphones and tablets have changed the way we interface with the web in a number of different ways. However, all follow one common thread: the fact that “connectivity is becoming completely mandatory.” As a result of this, connectivity has moved beyond simply having an Internet connection in one’s home for access.
THE NEED FOR Wi-Fi AS PART OF THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
The popularity of smartphones continues to grow monthly as can be sited by the quarterly averages noted in the chart below noting 2013 statistics.
As this growth continues, so does the introduction and widespread use of “Apps” amongst the user base. Many of these are part of daily life no matter the time or place, as is allowable for the subscriber.
Whether it’s these software-driven tools, businesses becoming more open to the remote user, and/or the nature of “retail store hours” dictating that customers must service their vehicles during the hours of 9AM to 6PM, its relevance is that this time block is one that is especially important for connectivity for a potential visitor and/or customer to a retail automotive dealership.
As it has become more commonplace for “free Wi-Fi” to be available at a local coffee shop or restaurant, the expectations of the public user base also continue to grow. More and more locations that have public waiting or viewing areas that would typically not offer Wi-Fi connectivity in the past, now appear to have networks popping up on our smartphones.
Inevitably in the retail space, this will result in a happier, more pleasurable customer experience. This would especially be true where a customer is potentially spending hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on their existing vehicle in the service department, or on a vehicle purchase.
For those that have the ability or don’t have a choice, some time, either significant or otherwise will be spent in the service department waiting area for their vehicle to be completed and/or to get a ride from the service shuttle to their home or business. This is where the connectivity has tremendous importance.
A large number of these folks are visiting during working hours and need robust connectivity to continue with their day in as normal of a fashion as possible. Enabling them to work while in the dealership space if they choose is an added customer service bonus. Not to mention the potential of the more youthful crowd that might be tweeting or posting Instagram pictures of a possible new vehicle purchase with their friends and/or family. Free marketing and referrals are some of the best opportunities to take advantage of.
IMPORTANCE OF ROBUST DESIGN AND DEPLOYMENT
As was perhaps viable 5-7 years ago, many companies deployed Wi-Fi solutions within their respective facilities without a suitable design tool. This could go as far as an IT Manager or Consulting Firm simply assessing a set of dealership floor plans and making the suggestions as to the required equipment and access point locations. Likely locations would include the customer traffic areas such as the showroom and service waiting areas.
In addition to this, the network in some cases might be integrated with the existing WLAN that supports the store staff as well. While these are all smart ideas in concept, the growing number of potential users, and various applications and uses (data transfer, VOIP, apps, barcode scanning, etc.) on these networks has changed substantially from what it was even 3-5 years ago. Bandwidth being the potential main concern. These challenges could be in addition to other factors such as construction materials and interior design.
Because of all these factors, simply installing a Wi-Fi router or access point on the ceiling where you think it should go is not sufficient. There are specific software tools that are used for measuring potential solution performance and expectations prior to installation. They provide significant data such as signal propagation, signal to noise measurements, and possible interference from outside sources.
Such tools are Ekahau or Air Magnet. Most if not all reputable wireless solution integrators should be using them. As an addition to the pre-integration capability, they also have a built-in “validation” tool that verifies the performance against the initial design. This is essentially an insurance policy for the dealer’s investment in the Wi-Fi hardware and infrastructure. And it can also enable some solutions (depending on scale and environment) to be guaranteed for coverage, limiting further expense in the future as a result of poor design.
WHY IS Wi-Fi SO IMPORTANT TO THE RETAIL AUTOMOTIVE BUSINESS OWNER?
It’s expected that many retail store owners in the automotive space or others for that matter may not consider it their responsibility or necessity to provide wireless service for their customer base. That being said, customer experience and service are paramount. And while it’s an unfortunate trend, it’s easy and common for potential customers to shop at the nearest out of town store for the same product if they feel they will get a better service experience, as long as the inconvenience is minimal.
Also, why have existing or potential customers leave for a Starbucks or Tim Hortons just to be connected wirelessly? Making the service experience one that keeps customers in the store as long as possible (for the right reasons of course) is sure to both increase retention as well as customer base. To do this, enabling them to work from your service lounge area, and/or send pictures of a potential new vehicle purchase option to their spouse or friends from their smartphone, can only provide a positive visit within your dealership operation.
WHEN WILL Wi-Fi COVERAGE BE IN ALL RETAIL AUTOMOTIVE OUTLETS?
In an increasing number of locations, Wi-Fi is expected to not only be offered, but people also want it for free.
The current generation of youth expects service anywhere because they have grown up with it. And many of these folks are now entering the workforce or will be in the near future. Not to mention, their penchant for technology use often rubs off on their parents, the ones that are potentially paying the bills. How public venues respond seems to depend on their need to provide a quality service experience in retail environments.
We at CORE Cabling are going to continue to keep our thumb on the pulse of changes in the wireless industry, and we’ll be making our discoveries available through our resources section and the rest of this website. We’re all in this learning process together. CORE Cabling strives to be your go-to source of information for all things wireless. We’re here to help!