Weis Markets is working with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, on an upgraded wireless infrastructure at its 205 stores in an effort to deliver improved efficiencies, drive sales and provide customers with a “top-notch mobile experience.”
According to Jacob Koch, manager of systems administration for Weis Markets, employing a secure, high-performance wireless infrastructure is critical to meeting the retailer’s key corporate objectives.
“From an operational perspective, secure, high-performance Wi-Fi allows our 23,000 store associates and 1,000 associates in distribution centers and headquarters to ensure that correct products are purchased, inventoried, selected and placed on retail shelves,” said Koch. “From a sales and service perspective, that same foundation will allow us to offer better in-store mobile experiences for our customers, adopt more sophisticated app services so we can push out offers via our mobile app, and gain insights into our customers’ behaviors and needs.”
In 2014, Weis replaced its Cisco access points (APs) and standardized on Aruba Wi-Fi companywide. The retailer determined that upgrading to Aruba’s Gigabit Wi-Fi Instant APs would provide “more robust connectivity, while reducing costs and helping Weis support mobile-first shoppers and associates,” says the company.
With approximately 5,000 APs deployed in Instant mode across its 205 stores, distribution and warehouse centers, and store support center in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, Weis was able to simplify wireless infrastructure deployment and management, rather than placing a controller in every location.
“Survivability was the primary driver for deploying Aruba Instant APs,” Koch said. “As we grow, Aruba’s controllerless model allows us to quickly bring new stores online at a much lower cost.”
Within its distribution centers, Weis uses a combination of wireless headsets and Honeywell’s Vocollect over the Aruba network to enable a voice controlled product pick system that helps associates select products quickly and easily.
The increased picking accuracy results in a higher percentage of correct product on store shelves, improving the overall efficiency of Weis Markets’ inventory processes and ultimately, impacting its sales positively, says Weis.
The addition of Aruba ClearPass for unified wired and wireless Network Access Control (NAC), allows Weis Markets to differentiate between corporate, personal, guest and—in the future—IoT devices on the network by adding more granular policy and management capabilities.
Combined with Aruba AirWave network management, Koch says that Weis Markets’ network administration team can make configuration changes and update software across all of the Instant APs quickly and easily. AirWave’s reporting functions enables quicker identification of excessive resource usage, verification of PCI compliance, and discovery of hardware inventory information. Robust alerting allows the team to identify any AP issues, rogue devices or network problems so they can be quickly resolved.
Weis officials say the new system has not only reduced costs and improved efficiencies, but also has gained a competitive advantage with customers, approximately 6,000 of whom connect to the in-store guest Wi-Fi daily.
“We leveraged AirWave to create a guest wireless SSID by applying a single configuration change on our APs that we advertise to our customers,” explained Koch. “This gives us an advantage, compared to our competitors, who might only offer wireless in a café area. Customers can download and use our app anywhere in the store without having to move to the cellular network and thereby, experience faster response times.”
The Aruba network is preparing Weis Markets for its future IT initiatives, as well. Koch noted that once the company has completed its AP upgrades, it plans to adopt analytics software that will help it uncover customer habits so it can better respond to customer needs and, ultimately, drive increased sales. In addition, Weis will evaluate the use of push notifications to send relevant coupons and offers to customers who authenticate to the network. Other future initiatives might include digital product pricing on shelves, asset tracking for grocery carts, and even robots for in-store clean-ups.
“With our Aruba infrastructure we can examine all of these initiatives, as we’re confident the network will enable us to continue innovating and improving,” said Koch.
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