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Surging Demand for In-Store Wi-Fi in the Retail Sector

Today, customers not only want to be online everywhere they go, they also expect connections to be fast. As a direct result, public Wi-Fi has become more and more popular, so much so that it's a service that is now required throughout the majority of the retail sector. In response, storeowners have increasingly turned to Wi-Fi technology, in an effort to boost customer satisfaction and offer an interactive shopping experience.

Although providing free Wi-Fi for shoppers obviously comes at a cost, retailers should consider this service to be a real investment, one that has massive potential to generously give back. Indeed, monetizing a Wi-Fi solution not only allows retailers to recoup the initial expense, it can also provide valuable data about their customers’ habits and preferences.

In order to embrace this changing retail environment and adapt, many shopping centers across Latin America have been actively implementing these kinds of solutions, and Palmetto Plaza, situated in the southwestern Colombian city of Cali, is no exception.

Home to more than 170 retailers and with a footprint of 23,000 square meters, the shopping mall has established itself as one of the most important in the whole country in recent years. Catering to a wide range of customers, it quickly realized the importance of offering its visitors free internet access, as well as the value it could expect in return.

Challenges Facing Campus Networks

Toward the end of 2019, Palmetto Plaza was struggling with its Wi-Fi network and connectivity issues. Indeed, the entire Internet service was poor throughout the mall, with only limited coverage and a barrage of persistent network stability issues. Elsewhere, from a commercial viewpoint, the mall's team was actively looking for ways to increase footfall, as well as understand their target customers better. They wanted to know what type of people were visiting, then use this information to promote the different brands populating the mall, as well as implement a range of marketing activities.

AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 and the Arara Analytics Platform Improve Network Performance and the User Experience

Having chosen Huawei and Arara — a leader in W-Fi Analytics and indoor positioning solutions — from a range of possible vendors, Palmetto Plaza deployed an AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 Solution coupled with Arara Wi-Fi Analytics. At first, the mall's staff had certain reservations over this technological shift, but all concerns were put to bed during consultations and Proof of Concept (PoC) tests. Indeed, the pilot test, which took place just prior to the signing of the contract, was of specific importance, since it let the mall's team see for themselves the superior quality of the solution compared to the alternatives, which proved ineffective as real marketing tools.

Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 leads the industry in terms of Wi-Fi 6 commercial deployments, and the company also has extensive experience constructing campus solutions. AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 products stand out with their remarkable innovations in antenna, baseband, and radio algorithm technologies. Deploying these products, enterprises experience lightning-fast speeds for mobile offices, enabling smoother mobile operations with zero packet loss and 100 Mbit/s baseline network access — anytime and anywhere.

Arara's Wi-Fi Analytics is a captive portal, marketing, and analytics platform that focuses on offering the best Wi-Fi user experience. The platform is able to identify the customer journey, create client clusters, and segment them based on similar interests and behaviors. This is valuable information that can then be used to create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) around customer behavior, generate personalized marketing campaigns, and optimize customer communications through the use of social media channels, such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as email.

In summary, based on detailed site surveys, expert network planning, and rapid solution deployment, Huawei and Arara successfully constructed an agile campus network and a complete Wi-Fi Analytics solution for Palmetto Plaza, covering the whole shopping mall.

Enhanced Customer Satisfaction During COVID-19 Pandemic

After upgrading its network to AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 and implementing Arara's Wi-Fi Analytics platform, Palmetto Plaza has enjoyed uninterrupted Wi-Fi service and coverage. This has given the mall's team the ability to livestream online marketing events with zero issues or disruptions, something unthinkable with the previous wireless solution. This has, of course, been hugely valuable to the mall during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing social isolation and distancing measures put into place. Indeed, the mall's team has seen an impressive increase in their customer database — representing 17% month-over-month growth — thanks to the use of Arara's captive portal, which customers use as an entry point to connect to the mall's guest Wi-Fi network. Using the complete End to End (E2E) solution, the mall's marketing team managed to reach 9000 Wi-Fi users in just two months after implementation, as well as achieving a number of other milestones.

Lina María Arboleda, Palmetto Plaza's Marketing Director, reports that there have been zero interruptions to the Wi-Fi network and that the network stability that was promised has been fully delivered. Plus, the additional benefits generated have been far greater than the solution's cost. Dolly Meléndez Bravo, Palmetto Plaza's Commercial Director, said: "With the help of Huawei and Arara's commercial Wi-Fi solution, we were able to become the only shopping center that has complete Wi-Fi coverage in all of Cali."

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