What do you get when you cross Cisco's mobile networking with Facebook's social networking? A collaboration that aims to drive brand recognition and target promotions based on customer preferences and demographics using Wi-Fi.
The Cisco Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) with Facebook Wi-Fi is now in pilot mode. Some of the world's most popular retailers, hotels, restaurants and other public gathering spots are testing the concept.
"Guest access provisioning for most companies is a brutally difficult thing. First-time users have to set up a name and password. Among a lot of demographics, Facebook has become the de facto authentication method," Zeus Kerravala, a principal analyst at ZK Research, told us. "Once you have the person's Facebook ID you can do cool things like redirect them to the company's Facebook page. So this make a lot of sense."
Improving the Customer Experience
CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi promises to help improve the consumer experience and offer a faster way for consumers to access Wi-Fi by checking in on Facebook. It also promises businesses more opportunities to connect with their customers. For example, the solution helps businesses generate more likes and check-ins for their Facebook Pages, increasing the demographic data on their customers so they can better serve them.
Here's how it works: A consumers connects to the network of a participating businesses, open a browser on any mobile device or laptop, and a Facebook check-in page appears. After checking in, the consumer is directed to the business' Facebook Page, where he can receive the latest information about the venue.
Facebook provides aggregated anonymous insights about people's activity on their Pages, including demographics such as age, gender and city. Businesses can analyze this data to better understand their customers' preferences and deliver targeted promotions. The companies said driving more check-ins through Facebook Wi-Fi will also increase a business' brand exposure by increasing the number of stories generated about it, and it will make businesses more discoverable in Facebook's Graph Search.
Mobile Shopping Trends
Why the push in this direction? Consumer mobile shopping trends from 2013 reveal the immediate business opportunities for retailers who wish to customize their service offerings through shoppers' mobile devices.
According to data from 2013 Cisco Customer Experience Report, 54 percent of consumers use mobile phones when shopping in a store. Sixty-five percent of global consumers are comfortable receiving retail advice based on their locations through their mobile devices.
What's more, 39 percent would reveal their personal incomes in exchange for more personalized service, discounts and sale promotions. And consumers also want to track sales and promotions (62 percent), coupons (46 percent), price changes (47 percent), and product availability (45 percent).
The Cisco Angle
Technology-wise, the CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi solution is built on Cisco's Unified Access architecture. It uses a software connector on the Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) G2 or Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 1000 routers with UCS blades or the Mobility Services Engine to enable end-users to connect to the Wi-Fi network and "check-in" to the venue's Facebook profile.
"For Cisco, this shows off the programmability they've built into the product, including the ability to customize the solution to work with a Facebook environment," Kerravala said. "For retailers that really wants to leverage their Facebook community, it makes Cisco a better choice. It helps from a competitive perspective."