Some 82% of large to medium-sized retailers have already deployed in-store Wi-Fi, and 27.5% reported that customer loyalty had increased as a result of providing in-store Wi-Fi for customers, according to research from cloud solutions provider Earthlink, Wi-Fi solutions provider AirTight Networks and research consultancy IHL Group, which examined the retail industry's plans for store networking, in-store Wi-Fi, store security and retail shopper engagement. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The goal of the study was to establish an actionable benchmark that could help retail IT executives compare the state of their own stores' technology against others in the industry. The study found that 57% of enterprise retail companies offer both customer and employee Wi-Fi, with 70% outsourcing their store-level WAN to managed service providers.

Because many plan to invest in technologies such as in-store Wi-Fi, payment systems, PCI compliance and security to help keep their customers loyal while protecting their data, IHL, EarthLink and AirTight plan to release a benchmarking tool to help retailers to compare their own configuration with their peers, understand best practices, and develop a technology roadmap that differentiates the store experience and supports business growth objectives.

According to IHL Group, nearly 70% of specialty retailers are designing their next POS (point of sale) system based on a central order management system, which could put up to five times more load on the network for core store transactions than most retailers use today. To accommodate this load, the company warns, retailers may need to update their WAN infrastructure at the same time.

"Research findings show that retail has the necessary infrastructure in place and is poised for growth around multichannel engagement using in-store Wi-Fi," said Kevin McCauley, director of retail market development for AirTight Networks. "The companies that implement within the next year will have the 'first mover' advantage to help perfect their engagement strategies."