Connectivity: Changing the Brick & Mortar to Click & Mortar

Posted April 9, 2015

Connectivity: Changing the Brick & Mortar to Click & Mortar
With the right merchandising, retailers succeed in engaging with consumers and inspiring them to buy more products. Merchandising can range from custom signage or corrugated displays to interactive kiosks –the right one for you is dependent on your company’s needs.
While a corrugated display may fit your business needs perfectly, more and more retailers are beginning to use interactive kiosks and tablet merchandising.  Today’s consumer prefers using an unmanned device over speaking to a sales associate. Interactive kiosks and tablets provide a point of connection for the consumer and have become a catalyst to purchasing. These connected kiosks and tablets are changing the Brick & Mortar store to Click & Mortar.
So, how do we connect these kiosks and tablets?
Typically, a kiosk will need its own network connection unless the owner of the kiosk is the same as the store.
Consider a shoe company owning a kiosk in a department store. The shoe company is an outside entity to the department store and is, thus, a potential security risk; so, the department store normally won’t allow the shoe company to use their network in order to connect to the Internet.
If the shoe company does not need remote access, they may decide to forgo any connection to the Internet and use USB drives to manually install updates and download information. 
However, if the shoe company wants to remotely access the kiosk to provide updates, software support and monitor performance, they will need their own network connection and will want to purchase a 3G/4G cellular modem, antenna and a service plan from a provider for a cellular connection [1]:
A cellular modem typically plugs into a USB port on the kiosk’s computer. Software must be installed on the PC to activate the card. Cellular connections are a fairly secure and offer a convenient solution but speeds can vary based on the location of the kiosk and the time of day. This signal is not always reliable and one should do a site survey of the store before choosing this option; high traffic areas can affect it. 
Now, let’s say that the department store allows the shoe company to connect to their network.
If this is the case, the kiosk could connect using a hard-wired or wireless connection:
A hard-wired connection connects to the store’s network by using an Ethernet cable. This is a more secure and robust connection than the cellular card and can allow for a faster connection.
A wireless connection connects to the stores network through Wi-Fi. This is not as secure and can be a slower connection speed. However, there is no need for additional wiring and thus provides added convenience. 
In the end, the right connection is dependent on your business needs and what is available to you. Whether through a cellular, hard-wired or wireless connection, utilizing a merchandising kiosk or tablet that is connected to the Internet further enables shoppers to make an informed purchase and provides you with added control over the in-store experience and influence on the buyer’s journey.
[1] Tablets have a cellular connection device built in and you would only need to purchase a service plan. 
Randy Amundson – Technology Manager, Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.