How Will Mobile Marketing Impact Wi-Fi Networks?

Working for a retail organization, consumer trends toward greater mobile information consumption and how organizational solutions for mobile commerce and marketing can be delivered occupy quite a bit of strategy and architecture discussions taking place right now.

With the steadily climbing rate of smartphone adoption by the masses, the general discussion of lack of adequate spectrum for 3G/4G cellular data services, existing problems with cellular capacity in highly populated and dense user locations, and the lack of viable cellular data services in most of rural america, it is becoming increasingly evident that Wi-Fi is being sought after to fill the gap.

This is evident with AT&T managed Wi-Fi hotspot growth. But I don't think this hotspot growth trend will be limited to the cellular carriers. We see evidence of retail outlets offering free Wi-Fi service for patrons as a method to directly interact with their customers, providing an avenue for mobile marketing.

Recent findings released by ABI Research points to the trend (free registration required):
"mounting evidence points to a broadening awareness that mobile will soon become a necessary way to engage with customers and prospects. Eventually, mobile will take its place as an integral part of marketing solutions, just as digital has become essential to nearly all marketing efforts. Is your brand ready to engage?"
Additionally, consumer attitudes toward mobile marketing appear to be trending significantly positive. Today, mobile consumer engagement may only be a small effort within your marketing strategy. But tomorrow, it will likely be a requirement to remain competitive.

For other retail wireless / mobile architects out there, how does your organization view mobile consumer engagement? What priority has been given to mobile initiatives?

Are you ready to provide free Wi-Fi hotspot service to your patrons? What gaps do you have today to rolling out a solution?

How do you plan on ensuring adequate performance for corporate-owned mobile devices in the face of a large influx of consumer-owned devices on your network?

What additional services will be required to provide consumers with a greater value proposition for mobile applications? Are location-based services required? How will location services be designed, especially within the brick-and-mortar locations where GPS is not adequate?

What approach to information delivery will your organization take? Will an in-house development team be required for platform-specific "thick" applications? Can your organization leverage "thin" web applications to reduce development effort? Does SMS/MMS make sense for broader consumer reach?

As a Wi-Fi engineer, we will be on the front lines of these fast-paced mobile initiatives. Are you planning for the future, or maintaining the current deployment? Change your mindset, think strategically, and get in front of these trends to maximize opportunity for success.

Food for thought.