With the advent of the Internet, the challenges faced by retail initially appeared to sound its death knell. Instead, the industry has transformed and morphed. From a business process perspective, the Internet is an integral part of retail operations and, with fewer people now using cash and having the ability to pay with NFC-based smart wallets and mobile points of sale, it is apparent that wireless Internet connectivity is an essential lifeline for most retailers.
One of the fastest-growing trends in retail is the concept of "omnichannel marketing." The always-on consumer shops, compares, experiences and purchases a product across multiple devices, properties and websites throughout the day. The opportunity for brick-and-mortar retail locations to be a physical digital experience center is slowly coming to fruition. The introduction of digital displays on counters and shelves will provide prolific content combined with physical inventory. Linked with proximity beacons that tailor content to those shoppers who have already indicated interest in items online, its possible to tailor promotional offers that take the friction out of making a purchasing decision at the point of interaction.
The combination of technology and big data with analysis and insight enables completely different contextual shopping experiences. This evolving digitized shopping environment accelerates the blurring of offline and online worlds, and also recognizes the distracted nature of the shopper by presenting digestible chunks of information that feed their need to be engaged, participate and enjoy an immersive experience that will ultimately convert them.
Being in the right location at the right time and creating an interactive environment has given rise to the concept of the "pop-up store" that brings its own network. This $8 billion business has been around since 2000, when they first started sprouting up around Europe as "flash stores." Pop-ups can temporarily transform mobile spaces in malls or vacant spaces in retail strip malls. They can also be mobile vehicles touring farmers markets, festivals and sporting events. In many fashionable locations, the pop-up retail trend is linked with the "recycled container" phenomenon that creates boutique-type bars and stores from practical lockups. In all of these situations, the concept of a permanent fixed Internet connection is both cost- and time-prohibitive.
The advent of high-speed 3G and increasingly pervasive as well as consistent 4G LTE mobile broadband from all four national carriers, as shown in Figure 2, has allowed these pop-up stores to use wireless broadband as a primary connectivity mechanism.