An SME WiFi product suite announced today by Aruba, a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is making it possible for bricks-and-mortar small businesses to launch digital storefronts that allow them to add a digital element to their in-store experience.

Targeting small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses (SMEs and SMBs), Aruba Instant On has been announced today at the Aruba EMEA Atmosphere 2019 event in Croatia. The product leverages the same technology as Aruba’s established enterprise WiFi solutions, but is designed to be easier and more affordable, making it accessible to individual shops, boutique hotels, clinics, pop-ups and startups.

“Our partners have given us a lot of feedback that they want that same technology research that we do for the higher end of the market in the small and medium sized enterprise networks,” said Keerti Melkote, Aruba co-founder and President, at a press conference today.

“So we’ve taken our Aruba Instant technology and we’re refactoring that to give to small businesses. The idea is to leverage all the expertise in wireless that we’ve built over the years but make it very, very cost-effective and very, very easy.”

SME WiFi gives small businesses a digital footprint

Designed to be set up through a simple mobile app, and supporting both cloud-based and on-premise technologies, Instant On will allow small businesses to operate their own digital offerings over WiFi with the same security as larger companies. This will enable the same digital augmentation of physical locations that is currently being embraced by large brands through apps and other location-based digital services.

“They walk in the door and they’re on your WiFi, you at least know who they are and you have the opportunity to do digital things,” Melkote told Verdict.

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“So it’s a way to collect the digital identity of your customer, so you can stay in touch with them when they’re not in the store.”

The technology will provide what Melkote refers to an “omnichannel opportunity”, allowing small businesses to gain far greater insights into their customer base.

“In the past if you’re a pure bricks-and-mortar operator you know about your customer but only through your billing system, so whatever they’ve bought, assuming it’s not a cash transaction, you actually know about what they bought and so on,” he explained.

“But it just sits there and you can’t act on it when they come back to the store, and you can’t act on it to bring them back to the store – it’s very inactionable data. So with WiFi the goal is to bring the customer into my digital footprint, so I can now stay in touch with them.”

Technology embraces small business

The announcement is part of a growing trend by technology companies to focus on small businesses, seeing them as an under-developed market in the space. Some solutions have come in the form of physical options, such as digital payment technologies, while online companies such as Instagram have also seen the potential.

For Melkote, it is a sign that a digital presence is now essential for all sizes of business.

“I think it is part of this part of this broader digital trend, where people are looking at: it doesn’t matter the size of the business, I need a digital footprint of some sort, and WiFi is a very important part of that because that is the way to connect with your customer, no matter who you are.”

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