By Doug Allen, CIO, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
If you offer Wi-Fi to your customers and it’s been a while since you upgraded your wireless infrastructure, it’s time to join the scores of businesses that are using data to better understand customer behavior in your organizations. Here are 4 key reasons to replace aging Access Points (APs) with 2016 technology:
Faster speeds, more Users— 802.11ac wave 2 is the standard to go for when upgrading or installing new Wi-Fi APs. As more people connect to streaming services and watch rich media inside your facility (and sometimes the content is provided by you), you’ll want to be known as a “connected” business to remain relevant.
Positioning and Way finding— modern Wi-Fi systems provide device location and when used with a smartphone app can provide way finding services. If visitors to your organization use signage or otherwise need help getting around, your wireless infrastructure provides the foundation for GPS-style indoor directions. Most wireless vendors offer APIs and App development kits to make use of the provided positioning services. Many will develop your App for a fee.
Improved Captive Portal and Application Visibility & Control (AVC)—Captive portal improvements include the ability to sign-up using social media and collect rich customer data during the connection process. AVC allows you to throttle users that are hogging bandwidth and drop or block nefarious users (many times automatically through the use of rules). You’ll also typically have the ability to see what actual applications are running over a Wi-Fi connection by user.
Device Demographics and Data— the current crop of APs can log the MAC address of devices it discovers. This can include devices that don’t even log into the Wi-Fi.
You’ll be able to see the make and model of the device, how long it was in the “connection zone” of your Wi-Fi, where it traveled, etc. If the device connects to Wi-Fi, you can decide what additional information you want to capture and store. If the device also has your App, then you have an ever richer level of information—including how they use your App and demographics provided by the iOS or Play stores.
Just like all of your business’s products and services, you’re offering Wi-Fi and an App because your users will benefit from and hopefully be delighted by this enhanced service. The real paybacks come from crunching the data you’ll be able to collect, whether you work for a hospital, retail store, museum, fitness club, sport arena, religious organization or any kind of facility that has visitors. If they “do things” while they are there, someone is (hopefully) trying to make that visit efficient or profitable or fun or productive or easy for the visitor.
The real paybacks come from crunching the data you’ll be able to collect
Let’s think about data from three key areas: Access Points, Wi-Fi connections and your App.
Access Points—using the log files that have capturing MAC addresses, you can almost correlate logged devices with the actual number of visitors. This gives you access to how many people are there, how long they stayed, how often they came back and (in some cases with a little effort) where did they go when inside the facility.
A minor point is taking advantage of the exposure to bandwidth usage. By studying how the bandwidth is used you can keep users happy by purchasing more of it and by throttling back or blocking hogs and hacks.
Wi-Fi Connections—think carefully about the process people go through when they connect. There is a trade-off between getting people to join and collecting lots of data from them. You may be OK with the default info that the APs are logging and just want to make it as easy and streamlined as possible. Try getting a little bit more (zip code, e-mail address, or maybe a single question such as “why are you here today?”) and see if people play along in order to get access to a reliable, high-speed network.
Smartphone App—Your App should exist because it provides real value to the time the visitor is at your location. It might ALSO provide value away from your location, but in terms of data gathering and improving the experience, make sure you offer functions that really engage. You have all the info you captured when they signed up with your organization, when they downloaded the App from a store (both Apple and Android share some demographic information) and what functions they chose while operating the App. When linked to the MAC address of the device, you can now join the logs from the APs to all the other rich information to get a full picture of that visit.
When you know:
How many people walked past your door without coming in?
How long they stayed when they did come in?
What paths they normally take through your establishment?
Where they lingered and what they avoided?
How often people returned during the year?
You have information that can help you improve their experience. Areas of congestion can be reworked. Cold areas can be treated for improvements. Better signage means better information.
While the data can be easily captured, you’ll need to work with your DBAs and your wireless vendors to get the right reports and real intelligence from the data. Much of the canned report info is useful and can spur action, but you’ll want to really dig deep to answer the interesting questions: “Are our products priced correctly?”; “Is the furniture comfortable?”; “How much do they spend per hour?”; “Did the improvements result in more visits?”; “How many visits before they become a member (or renew or don’t renew)?”; “How long do they shop before checking out and does that matter to the over-all sale?”; “Do people who use the App purchase more?” and so on.
Use the intelligence gathered to continuously improve that customer experience and then reap the rewards of delighted customers.