The Holy Grail of Retail, Part 2
by Devin Akin
This is part 2 of last week’s post The Holy Grail of Retail. In today’s installment, I discuss what it takes to reach it.
There is a set of coordinated technologies required to affect the Holy Grail. A complex set of variables if you will. It’s the responsibility of manufacturers to implement this set of technologies in such a way that they become a simplified, unified structure. This keeps the learning curve short, deployment and operational costs down, and assures a less error-prone implementation. Consider the following parts:
- Wi-Fi infrastructure with cloud management & social media authentication
- CRM system integration
- Mobile devices, operating systems, and applications
- Managed Service Provider (MSP) enablement (for those customers who want someone else to manage it for them)
- Security services, such as WIPS and PCI compliance and reporting
- Location services, which may be integrated with mobile applications
- Infrastructure analytics and reporting, which may be tied into other systems
What’s even more of a challenge is when one or more of these technologies are provided by multiple vendors who have loose (or no) integration.
Then there are the organizational challenges. While most people avoid this topic like the plague, I’m just the guy to bring it up because it’s reality and because ultimately those who care enough to investigate in this area will benefit.
I’m not young anymore, and I’ve been in the corporate world longer than I care to admit. If I know anything about corporate America, it’s that 9 out of 10 corporations are not operationally efficient or effective. We might have some bright minds and even good products or technology, but we often have poor peer (horizontal), reporting (vertical), and intra-/inter-departmental communication and even worse leadership and people management skills. It’s an epidemic and extremely costly, both to the individual corporation and to the American economy in general. Some other countries and cultures may differ, perhaps significantly, and I’m not speaking on their behalf, but being American, having lived in half a dozen states and worked in large and small companies across those states, I’m asserting that I know what I’m talking about regarding US-based companies.
So, to build upon that assertion, organizations are often unknowingly silo’d whereby, and THIS IS ONLY AN EXAMPLE, you might find within a prospective customer that a CIO and a CMO aren’t really communicating all that well. The CIO has her organizational perspective, goals, and tasks lists. The CMO has his organizational perspective, goals, and tasks lists. They should be coordinating and, at some point, their goals and execution should join hands for the benefit of the company and its customers, right? Well, they should, yes, but do they? Not always. In fact, not nearly as often as you might think.
In addition, most merchandising organizations within retailers are segmented by channel as well. What do I mean? The buyer who forecasts, orders, and is compensated on laundry detergent sales in-store is completely different than the buyer who forecasts, orders, and is compensated on laundry detergent sales online – within the same organization. If retailers want to truly enable ‘omni-channel’ services that are transparent to the customer and to provide a great customer experience, the internal organizational (which could even include the compensation structure) of retailers must change!
Obviously if you took a serious look at 1,000 companies of varied size across various vertical markets, you would find variations on high-level organizational issues, but you could expect findings like: poor communication, personality clashes, internal political situations, lack of leadership, lack of management skills, and probably more. These issues affect a retailer’s ability to execute on the Holy Grail just as much, if not more, than having the expertise and funding to execute on the operational implementation side of things.
How does AirTight, as a manufacturer, help retailers speed the Holy Grail process?
AirTight provides tightly-integrated technology solutions that are specifically tailored to the retail market. We understand the Holy Grail and how to reach it. Rather than just selling widgets to whomever will buy them, we have simplified a complex set of technology variables into a solution for the retail market.
AirTight provides enterprise-class Wi-Fi infrastructure with a user-friendly HTML5 management platform that can be delivered in one of four ways (hardware appliance, virtual appliance, private cloud, or public cloud) to offer flexibility and scale. Over the high-performance infrastructure, high-value services such as wireless intrusion prevention (WIPS), location services (RTLS), PCI compliance and reporting, robust analytics, social Wi-Fi authentication, BYOD on-boarding, and managed services enablement, and others are available.
Wi-Fi Holy Grail
The technology is there. Some vendors are ahead of others on integrating the complex set of system-wide components that enable the Holy Grail of Retail, and obviously I wouldn’t have spent my entire Friday night writing this blog if I didn’t believe that AirTight Networks was the front-runner among them. What I hope I have conveyed, however, is that there’s more to this puzzle than just some scattered technology and buzzwords. There are multiple technical pieces to the solution that have to be tightly integrated, and there is the human element, which is equally complex. Both are equally important if you are a retailer looking to nab your Holy Grail anytime soon.