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Aruba, Digby and Nearby join forces to create richer in-store mobile networks

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The rapid spread of smartphones is seeing many retailers looking to make 2011 the year of in-store mobile services – but the networks aren’t always up to it. As a result, Aruba Networks has rolled out a new wifi solution for in-store mobile marketing, developed in partnership with Digby and Nearbuy Systems, that enables retailers to provide highly-personalized and differentiated customer interactions.

Nielsen Research projects that 50% of the US population will own a smartphone by the end of 2011, with two thirds of them researching products and prices online while in stores. Innovative retailers are racing to create compelling in-store shopping experiences to establish and maintain customer loyalty. 3G networks and legacy 802.11a/b/g wifi networks, designed and deployed for simple inventory management applications, lack the performance and intelligence needed to enable these personalized customer experiences.

The combination of 802.11n – the code name for 300Mbps wireless broadband – wifi performance with advanced wireless network security and management enables retailers to connect with their customers in new and compelling ways. 

In a December 2010 survey of retail IT departments conducted by Aruba, 78% of respondents said they had in-store wifi, but 53% noted that its primary use is currently “Inventory Control”. “Wireless point-of-sale (PoS) Enablement” and “Associate Productivity (voice)” were listed as the second and third most common current uses for in-store wifi. This will likely shift toward more customer-experience focused applications, as demonstrated by the 38% who list “Customer wifi Access” and the 29% who name “Self-Shopping” as targets for deployment in the next two years. Thirty-six percent of survey respondents represented organizations with more than 1,000 stores, while 19% have 50 or fewer stores. 

The Aruba Wifi solution for in-store mobile marketing consists of:

• Secure and Scalable In-Store Wifi 
Aruba’s 802.11n Wifi solutions include an ICSA-certified stateful firewall to protect retail networks from public access, and adaptive coverage management to ensure uninterrupted operation even when hundreds of customers connect at the same time in the same store. Per user firewall policy enforcement allows quality of service (QoS), bandwidth limits, and time-of-day and location restrictions based on the relationship between the customer and the retailer.

• In-store Customer Wifi Engagement
Aruba’s Amigopod software enables retailers to securely register customers and reliably deliver personalized access and targeted messages including special merchandise offers and advertisements to them.

• Wifi Optimized Smartphone Applications 
Collaboration between Aruba and its partner and mobile commerce leader Digby enables retailers to offer a rich and personalized shopping experience to its customers with smartphone applications. Performance and location intelligence available through Aruba’s Wifi improve application responsiveness and increase the relevance of offers made to customers inside the store.

• Presence and Location Intelligence 
Aruba’s 802.11n Wifi provides real-time presence information to enable store-level message targeting. Aruba’s partnership with Nearbuy Systems allows retailers to get granular, product and area level message targeting as well as in-store navigation capabilities.

“Retailers’ success depends on their ability to provide the best possible in-store shopping experience to their best customers, who are increasingly using smartphones in-store for product and price comparison,” said Andrew Borg, senior research analyst for Wireless & Mobility at the Aberdeen Group. “With their partners Digby and Nearbuy, Aruba is the first WLAN vendor to put together a compelling Wifi solution that enables retailers to deliver a highly personalized and differentiated mobile shopping experience.”

“Legacy retail Wifi networks are designed for simple mobile worker applications,” said Manish Rai, director of retail marketing at Aruba Networks.” The explosion of smartphones and tablets has made customer Wifi access table stakes for retail businesses. Aruba’s in-store Wifi solution enables retail customers to connect more directly and more intimately with their customers.”

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