Really interesting article in Forbes by Verne Kopytoff on the reasons retailers have recognized the value of Wi-Fi for their customers and business processes. He notes that after years of resistance, stores have conceded that the shoppers have won the war. They want Wi-Fi and they will use their smartphones to check out deals.
There is no doubt that Wi-Fi has many positive effects on the shopping experience and, I would suggest, those effects outweigh the negatives of comparison shopping online in a store. There is also the obvious benefit of making sales associates more efficient and able to serve more customers faster. Anyone who has ever gone into an Apple store near Christmas - and really who has not - has experienced just how fast one can get in and out even in a crowd.
However since retail stores have been late to this party, they need to think about the security implications of adding Wi-Fi and continuing to comply with the PCI DSS wireless scanning requirements. Kopytoff points out that several large retailers added Wi-Fi capabilities just before the holiday season, which is unusual in and of itself since retailers rarely want to disrupt their systems too close to the holidays. In haste, they may have overlooked adding true Wi-Fi security processes to protect credit card data. It will be interesting to see if any problems arise during this season of manic shopping.