Now that the most prolific e-commerce economy has taken hold for the busy holiday shopping season, it’s obvious that today’s consumers want a seamless shopping experience, whether online using their smartphones and tablets, or physically at their local retailer. Networks have become our medium for communication and access to vast amounts of information, giving consumers many choices. Retailers are keenly aware of consumer expectations, and they are increasingly moving to an omnichannel commerce strategy that combines online and physical in-store experiences that leverage digital technologies with localized content to create a seamless shopping experience.
Customer buying habits are rapidly changing, and they are seeking a more personalized, relevant and creative shopping dynamic. Satisfying the needs for quality customer service and protection against increased competition are creating greater demand for immersive applications.
More than half of the U.S. population use smartphones, making mobile connectivity top-of-mind for retailers looking to more effectively reach customers using transformative digital technologies. Digital transformation is beginning to have a huge impact on retail applications, systems, processes and business models. Those who take advantage of the new opportunities digital technologies provide will see a beneficial impact on their business. Retailers that engage customers using an omnichannel approach will give consumers a seamless online shopping experience from any device, no matter where they are nor traditional bandwidth constraints.
Retailers are bringing together diverse systems, applications and marketing approaches, to build a holistic environment that builds customer loyalty and helps win new customers. Every channel touchpoint is an opportunity to move customers closer to purchasing decisions. Retailers are improving their sales effectiveness with tailored customer interactions using real-time offers and local content relevant to the customer. Augmented and virtual reality, integrated mobile point-of-sale (POS), customer relationship management (CRM), in-store digital signage, Internet things, inventory support systems and digitally-enabled on-site customer support are driving consumer buying habits.
SD-WAN empowers retail digital transformation
Just as digital transformation is the key enabler for seamless omnichannels, wide area networks (WANs) are key enablers of digital transformation. To ensure these integrated systems and applications are delivered effectively at the network edge, i.e., closest to the application user, retailers need agile network connectivity with low cost infrastructure to improve margins, and network service delivery that improves both online and digital in-store application performance.
SD-WAN provides retailers direct cloud connectivity and seamless access to IT services by ensuring reliable, secure and fast application delivery at the network edge. Problems arise when latency from long distance networks negatively impacts customer application interactions. The increasing numbers of media-rich applications requires optimal bandwidth utilization, and easier and more transparent network management, and they deserve their own platinum-class QoS transport path.
The network edge is the “transmission gateway” between a retail store location and the network service provider point-of-presence (POP). Network edge transports and associated devices can be private networks that offer reliability, security and high performance, but at a high cost and long deployment time; or public Internet connections that offer low-cost and high agility, but lack security, application performance and reliability.
To overcome the public Internet challenges, SD-WAN combines multiple, low-cost broadband Internet types, like cable, DSL, LTE and other network transports into a diversified pool of bandwidth available to all applications, creating a dedicated, secure and reliable platinum QoS conduit exclusively for POS, in-store digital signage and other omnichannel applications. An app-aware SD-WAN avoids congestion, latency and packet loss within that path.
SD-WAN creates a virtual network overlay that takes advantage of all available WAN connections, while centralizing control of, and visibility into, the entire network. By decoupling network configuration from individual WAN transports and network hardware components, a software-driven, unified WAN fabric is created that supports all network-connected omnichannel apps. This topology provides the flexibility and agility needed to effortlessly add more bandwidth and functionality as retail channels expand.
SD-WAN optimizes omnichannel enablement, transforming the network edge from the rigid, complex and costly design of traditional WANs, to agile, cost-effective and reliable connectivity for retailers, manufacturers, logistics providers and their collective customers.
SD-WAN will provide retailers with that crucial competitive differentiation, as they deploy in-store edge appliances to improve customer engagements using advanced digital technologies. SD-WAN is the glue that bonds the user applications and the merchant engagements, to improve their customer experience and deliver new services through location-based personalized ads, offers, and signage, and next-generation immersive experiences like augmented reality. SD-WAN lowers costs, achieves greater agility, and provides a secure solution, while opening up new revenue opportunities and increased customer loyalty.