WiFi Analytics vs. Beacon Analytics – Which is the best location intelligence setup for retail stores?

- 12th Apr 2017

E-commerce websites use analytic tools to understand, track and improve their customer loyalty and acquisition strategies. From a customer’s shopping cart history to time spent on product pages to the number of site visits — these metrics are all tracked through analytics. Although online retail sales have skyrocketed over the last few years, 90 percent of sales still occur in physical spaces — where stores are yet to install advanced technologies. Most physical spaces rely on hand tally counters and footfall trafficking cameras, where all they get to know are the number customer visits.

Today, LBS technology allows you to track (know) your visitors beyond footfalls and give you a holistic view of customer behavioral insights. Let’s take a look at today’s different approaches to analyzing visitors and customers at physical spaces and how they can match the experience of an online store.

Wifi Analytics

WiFi and Beacons are the top two technologies used in large physical spaces to engage visitors and track their activities.

How analytics are captured on WiFi:

In the case of WiFi, first-time visitors need to connect to the WiFi network of the place he is visiting. But if he is a returning visitor, he automatically gets connected to the WiFi (provided the WiFi receptor is turned on in his phone) and can be immediately engaged by businesses. Once the phone is connected to the WiFi network, the user is shown the captive portal.

A captive portal is a Web page that the users of any public-access network view in order to access the internet. There are two ways in which a visitor can gain access.

1. Businesses can choose to seamlessly onboard the visitor without having him divulge any information.

2. Or, they can be asked to share information like Name, Phone Number, Email ID before getting access.

If the visitor chooses option 1, their information can be captured at the time of billing and they are mostly optional. If visitors were not connected to the guest WiFi of the store and if they left without making a purchase, there would be no way to track their details. But the presence of WiFi solves this problem as it starts collecting info on the customer the moment they are connected to their network.

This WiFi network not only captures customer data entered in the captive portal, but also captures information like – when did the device connect to the network, which device got connected, how long was the connected session, which WiFi access point did it first connect to, which was the last one it connected to and so on. These types of data points helps a marketer understand how often a customer visits the place, at what time of the day, where they spend most of their time at and latitude & longitude of the device. Once connected, it can also open an app installed on the phone, and send relevant push notifications. So, when the customer is in the network enabled zone — custom notifications can be pushed to his smartphone.

Imagine the insights a business will get if the data captured at physical stores is integrated with the shopping history of their customers (the CRM data). Such data is much more powerful than what is collected in the virtual world. It is only location data that can enable a marketer to send relevant and contextual information to physical customers through apps, SMSs and emails. The result — much better customer engagement.

A quick summary of the analytics available from WiFi:


  • Since WiFi is a popular technology, retailers can acquire more than 70% of the visitor walk-ins their stores. In most cases, additional infrastructure is not required since many retailers already offer free guest WiFi to their customers
  • Visitors need not install native app on their device
  • Better coverage throughout the store since WiFi signals don’t get obstructed by walls and pillars


  • Location precision is low
  • WiFi receiver on device has to be switched on

How is analytics captured on Beacons:

Beacons can facilitate only one-way communication. That is, beacons can only transmit signals to your smartphones and not receive signals from them. Beacons signals can only trigger an action if a mobile app is installed if Bluetooth is turned on and if the phone is connected to the internet (in most cases).

When smartphones receive a beacon signal, how the app reacts to the signal is dependent on how the backend is designed. For example – you deploy 3 beacons at 3 different sections of your store, each hard coded with a different message. Now, depending on the location of the user in a store, the beacon that is closest to him (the distance is approximated based on the signal strength of the beacon) will push a notification to the user’s smartphone, asking him to take the necessary action. The moment an action is triggered, the data begins to collect on the customer and is stored in the backend. All these analytics can eventually be accessed through a dashboard.

Mobile apps can be designed to perform an action when it receives a low-frequency signal which is defined while building the app. Beacons do not store any information or data. They can perform functions like send a Push Notification through an app, indoor positioning, and navigation.


  • Location accuracy is high
  • Set up is easy. They are priced as low as $20.


  • Need a native app installed on the phone
  • Device should be connected to the internet
  • Signals can be obstructed by physical objects in the path
  • Data is not captured by technology but in the app backend
  • Needs power source. If powered by battery cells, it can run out

Comparing WiFi vs Beacon


80% of shoppers are online before they go to a store. In a store, conversion rates are higher, return rates are lower and best of all, shoppers spend more money in stores than online. A combination of WiFi Access Points and a location analytics platform is what physical stores need to beat online store experiences out of the park.

Here’s an infographic on WiFi Analytics vs. Beacon Analytics:


Analytics solve one part of your problems. A product like Proximity MX will help you derive meaningful insights from visitors and engage them at your physical locations. Request a demo to learn how.