Archive for March, 2023

Game On: Enhance College Programs With Esports

esports team celebrating

In the summer of 2016, the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) was formed. Three years later, ESPN Events announced the first-ever ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship (CEC), where hundreds of colleges across North America would compete in a variety of online games—from League of Legends to Call of Duty to FIFA. 

Then came 2020, just a year after the inaugural tournament, and it felt like “game over.” With the pandemic leading to canceled events and in-person activities, schools were forced to close their doors and open virtual classrooms. From kindergarten through graduate school, populations of students from around the globe were online in remote settings, but still connected with peers thanks to the web. 

Attracting a new team of student athletes 

While many athletes could no longer compete on their respective playing grounds, some found footing in a new competitive gaming environment and were connected to an already growing community. This increased interest helped to level up collegiate esports gaming by capturing the hearts and minds of student athletes during this time of hybrid learning flux; schools took notice—and acted.

By building competitive programs, modernizing facilities, and updating their technology, colleges and universities have learned and are continuing to find they can attract new students and enhance intercollegiate athletic experiences for both players and spectators alike, regardless of where they are. 

Transforming spaces into multi-use arenas: Ottawa University

Ottawa University (OU) in Kansas took an innovative and sustainable approach to creating an esports space for their Braves gaming team by repurposing an unused theatre from 1906 into a multi-use gaming area

Adam Caylor, the school’s CTO, worked with Cisco Meraki alongside his IT team to power the space with a reliable, secure connection that could support up to 200 devices at a time as well as segment the network. 

Because of the multi-use nature of the space, OU relies on Meraki to segment the on-campus network from the esports network, which comes with its own unique requirements for online gaming. The wired network infrastructure is essential to the competitive online environment to prevent ping or latency. 

Because of the multi-use nature of the space, the old theater went from not being used at all to becoming a place for learning and gaming all in one. 

Glitch-proof gaming for the win: Illinois College

When deciding to launch their esports program, Illinois College knew they needed a high-density, reliable, and secure network to support a room full of gamers eager to win the League of Legends championship without a glitch. 

They built a brand-new facility in the middle of campus and equipped it with Meraki MR access points, MS switches, and MX security appliances, which help create a reliable, secure gaming environment for students. The team can now compete in tournaments without latency or network outage issues.

Illinois College currently has a dedicated gaming center powered by Meraki solutions, complete with computer and console gaming stations, and is continuing to grow. The college’s athletics program now provides full-ride scholarships to students wanting to join the esports team, opening up new opportunities and incentives to prospective students. 

Hybrid learning, hybrid sports

NACE collegiate members with varsity esports programs have grown from 7 in 2016 to over 240 in the United States today, with no sign of slowing. As colleges and universities reimagine how they can offer enhanced student experiences in a hybrid environment, offering competitive esports programs may be just the assist they need for the win.

Learn more about how Meraki helped Ottawa University and Illinois College take an innovative approach to esports.

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Hit the Physical Security Jackpot at ISC West

It’s that time of year again! The Cisco Meraki team is packing their bags and heading to Las Vegas for ISC West 2023. ISC West is a great place to meet new people and reconnect with your network. It’s also the perfect place to discover the latest innovations that can help you meet your safety and security needs. 

At Meraki, we understand the challenges facing physical security teams today—the need to improve agility and resiliency, to adapt to an ever-changing security landscape, and the need to do more with less. But doing more with less doesn’t have to mean working harder to resolve security incidents or provide safe and secure experiences.

With cloud-managed smart cameras and sensors, Meraki offers an unmatched solution that combines simple, scalable architecture with practical effective security on an open platform that empowers organizations to protect people, places, and things—today, and into the future. We’d love the opportunity to show you how.

Get the most from ISC West in three easy steps

Wondering how to maximize your Meraki experience at the show? Here are three ways to connect with us at the event:

  1. Stop by our booth, #30063, and experience smarter physical security with the Meraki platform. In addition to camera and sensor demos, we’ll be highlighting some of our newest innovations and integrated solutions, including:
    • Powerful, secure, and scalable video wall monitoring with Meraki Display and Apple TV
    • On-camera analytics, like people counting, and line crossing for entry/exit detection—powered by one of our newest cameras, the MV93 series
    • Ecosystem partner applications, including V-APP, Analytiks AI, Kisi, Genea, and Cogniac, all designed to help you realize more value from the Meraki platform
  2. Schedule a meeting and lock in some one-on-one time for a more in-depth conversation with our IoT team 
  3. Attend the panel session—featuring Wesco, Intel, Convergint, Cisco, and— and learn how to leverage your security platform to support use cases beyond traditional physical security

Our team looks forward to connecting with you during ISC West 2023! Visit our Cisco Meraki at ISC West event page for updated information on our presence or register for a complimentary exhibit hall pass. If you won’t be able to make it to ISC West, visit our website to learn how you can transform your organization’s physical security.

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Find Out What Your Retail Customers Want

customer picking up digital order in retail store

This article was contributed by Techflipp, winner of the 2022 Meraki Hackathon.

Every successful retailer strives to answer the question, “What do my customers want?” It’s been a relatively easy task for online retailers. They know exactly what their customers are buying and how they connect on social media, enabling them to build precise shopper profiles—or personas—that give them a clear idea of who their customers are, which products they want, when and how often they shop, and what kind of marketing motivates them to buy.

Now, brick-and-mortar retailers can play that game too, if they have the right tools.

Digital, physical… or BOPIS?

Gathering data for in-store personas is even more important thanks to shifts in shopping behavior. With nearly 40% of shoppers making an in-person purchase each week, retailers have a unique opportunity to capture insights and understand their behaviors and buying habits.

Connecting with in-store shoppers also gives retailers an incredible opportunity to close the loop between digital and physical shopping thanks to a skyrocketing trend in retail: BOPIS, or buy online, pickup in store. A 2020 survey revealed that half of consumers said they used a “click and collect” service, and of those, a majority said they use them often. More recently, 70% of consumers report they prefer the convenience of BOPIS. 

One more stat underlines why this is important for physical retailers: Two-thirds of people who pick up orders also buy one or more additional items. Knowing how they spend their time in store—and connecting it back to their online shopping—could give you a powerful edge.

Unlocking the in-person persona vault

You can start to gather those valuable insights by offering your shoppers guest Wi-Fi access. Not only does this provide an elevated service, it also enables customers to do product research while in store. For the retailer, offering in-store Wi-Fi unlocks valuable insights that can be used to better serve customers and improve sales. 

In addition to learning about your shoppers’ mobile devices, visit duration times, and applications used, the sign-up splash page allows consenting customers to provide contact information and other details you can use to build out an ideal customer profile. 

Guest Wi-Fi also makes it easy to deploy a post-sign-up welcome page, where you can present a service rating survey, solicit product feedback, or offer wishlist capability. 

The need to know

Guest Wi-Fi can also go beyond individual visits by identifying frequent visitors with precise information (aggregated or per guest) on a number of physical visits, branches, or locations visited, and dates and times of those visits.

You can also extend your analysis with third-party integrations. For example, connect with your point of sale (POS) system to further classify your customers based on their purchases or correlate those purchases with their online presence. 

This unique solution by Techflipp, called Kaptifi, won the 2022 Cisco Meraki Hackathon. It integrates with POS systems to help retailers break down guests’ online behavior in connection with their purchases.

A powerful tool

Guest Wi-Fi is an accessible, flexible, and powerful tool that’s becoming essential for businesses that want to stay competitive. The better you understand your customer, the more effectively you can design products, services, promotions, social media campaigns, and other marketing initiatives that speak to your customers in the ways they prefer and offer the products they really want.

With Kaptifi’s suite of guest Wi-Fi services, powered by Cisco Meraki, it’s easy to design customer interfaces to collect the information you need to answer your burning customer questions.

To learn more about how Kaptifi can help your business gain full visibility on customer online behavior and usage trends, visit the Meraki Marketplace or request a demo.

If you are a Meraki reseller interested in participating in the 2023 Meraki Hackathon in September, visit the training page on the Meraki Partner Portal and register for either the AM or PM kick-off sessions. You’ll get a complete rundown of what you need to know before you dive in and get started.

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In-store Customer Data Served by Wi-Fi

retail store concept

This article was contributed by Cloud4Wi, a Meraki technology partner.

It’s no longer enough to just have a physical retail presence. More than great products and attractive prices, retail brands need to offer distinctive customer experiences, particularly if they want to encourage loyalty. Now, more than ever before, the shopping journey must bridge the divide that has traditionally separated physical retail from digital commerce. 

What if retailers could apply digitally native concepts to their brick-and-mortar stores?

Digital marketing in a physical world

Guess, one of the world’s leading fashion and lifestyle brands with more than 1,500 stores worldwide, saw this potential and wanted to leverage in-store Wi-Fi to identify customers visiting their stores and launch highly personalized, perfectly timed messaging campaigns.

Guess had three main goals:

  1. Provide seamless connectivity services in their stores.
  2. Grow their first-party database and collect customer data in line with compliance regulations.
  3. Leverage in-store customer data to create personalized customer journeys.

All they needed was the technology and expertise in place to make it happen. 

Tapping into the world of in-store customer data

Guess identified Cloud4Wi, a Cisco Meraki technology partner, as the perfect solution for ramping up their Meraki IT infrastructure. Their technology allowed Guess to provide seamless connectivity in their stores while also helping the marketing team collect valuable in-store customer data.

The project began with a pilot rollout across 90 stores in Europe, which helped the company identify the winning elements of its hybrid digital marketing strategy. Guess launched branded, localized Wi-Fi onboarding experiences in these stores to incentivize customers to connect and subscribe through a 100% consent-based process. 

Cloud4Wi’s solution collects customer data, such as email address, phone number, and demographic information, via this process and syncs it with the company’s customer data platform. Cloud4Wi is also able to generate and sync data to the CDP about the in-store behaviors of consenting customers who log on to the Wi-Fi network. Crucially, the system knows a customer’s subscriber status anytime they log in and checks for duplicate records in real time. Not only does this maintain data hygiene, it also provides a more tailored guest experience when new or preexisting customers join the network.

The power of in-store customer data

In-store customer data is the future of brick-and-mortar retail marketing, enabling brands to effectively deliver personalized journeys that connect with customers, not only at the right time, but in the right place. But who would have thought Wi-Fi would play such an integral role in gathering such valuable information? By learning more about how customers behave in their stores, Guess can now create 360-degree customer profiles to deliver more relevant, timely messaging campaigns. 

To-date, Cloud4Wi has been deployed across more than 500 global stores, enabling Guess to collect actionable first-party customer data on more than 27,000 new subscribers monthly. The company is planning continued rollout to more than 700 stores worldwide. 

Read the full Guess success story

To learn more about how Cloud4Wi can support your business, request a demo today by visiting the Meraki Marketplace.

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Retailer Boosts SD-WAN Support and Cost Savings

Woman in retail shop working on tablet PC

Craig Smith, Technical Account Manager at Highlight

With more companies turning to SD-WAN, the market needs solution providers with the technical knowledge and experience to deliver its full capabilities. These businesses want providers who understand the need for centralized management of network services to reduce the burden on their IT departments.     

The Highlight Service Assurance platform, paired with Meraki, increases the efficiency of centralized network management by providing users with a unified view of service performance on all connections across network estates. This includes Meraki SD-WAN and Wi-Fi as well as cellular, broadband, and LAN, all from a single dashboard.

The challenges of centralized multi-site network management

Here is one example of the Highlight Service Assurance platform in action. A U.S. retailer installed Meraki SD-WAN across its estate of around 500 stores with two devices at each location, managing a primary broadband connection and a cellular backup, all supported by a small, centralized IT team. 

Despite the increased efficiency enabled by the adoption of Meraki SD-WAN, the retailer still faced significant challenges managing such a large estate. The small IT team needed a way to prioritize and contextualize the wealth of performance metrics made available via the Meraki management portal.

For example, if the primary connection had failed at several sites and it switched over to the cellular backup, the team then had to go through a manual process to determine the locations, how long each outlet had been running on cellular, and if it was an error with the SD-WAN setup or an unseen wider network issue before working with the service provider to investigate and solve the problem.

The IT team also needed a historical record of the issues for analysis. This presented a heavy manual burden to capture the details from one day to the next, particularly with a small team on rotating shifts. 

Maximizing existing resources with Highlight

After adopting the Highlight platform to support their Meraki deployment, the team can now see a clear picture of how connections are performing from one application. Highlight’s Grid View enables them to group multiple technologies into layers of connectivity, showing performance of both the SD-WAN connections and the underlying services that support it. 

They can now spot if a fixed line connection is live or down, how long that connection has had an issue, can identify if a branch is running on cellular, and check if the primary broadband connection is ready and available to be restored. This ensures cellular secondary connections are only used when they’re really needed.

Highlight’s customizable alerting is another key benefit, providing alerts for all services and connections throughout the network, enhancing the alerting features available through the Meraki management system. Highlight enables users to set alerts for specific conditions, set active times, and alter the sensitivity of the alerting system on a per-connection basis.

Meraki, paired with Highlight, has enabled this retailer to leverage their limited and centralized IT resources to successfully manage their large multi-site networks through comprehensive visibility and service assurance.

To learn more about Highlight Service Assurance and to request a demo, visit the Meraki Marketplace.

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