Cutting-edge technologies such as Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) can be deployed quickly across retail locations and in branches to help provide the necessary quality of connectivity for clever in-store experiences.
Any technique that moves customers closer to a purchase decision can have a significant impact on a business’s bottom line. A mixed-reality installation described as a “magic mirror” uses a camera and video overlay so customers can see themselves dressed in various outfits – and sidestep the change room altogether.
The technologies used in retail may be changing, but the fundamental principles remain the same. “It goes back to how you sell more,” VeloCloud’s Vice-President, Asia-Pacific, Joseph Chung, says.
“If you can bring friends there’s a better chance you’ll start buying. Now your friends aren’t always available, but they are through this magic mirror” – Chung goes on to explain that it includes features for sharing on social media.
“All of this information, getting friends connecting securely, making sure that the video resolution is good, that the voice is heard loud and clear, that all comes down to the networking element.”Joseph Chung, Vice-President, Asia-Pacific, VeloCloud
When physical goes digital
Online shopping has changed customer expectations forever. Customers compare prices, check stock availability and readily provide details and preferences online. In response, retail branches are integrating increasingly sophisticated digital offerings to keep pace.
“Retailers want to personalise the user experience and do things more efficiently,” Chung says. “They want to make sure back-end systems and inventory systems are always up to date. They want to look at analytics to anticipate the stock quantities they’ll need next week.”
Supermarkets are even dabbling in location-based techniques such as geo-fencing, through which customers are offered deals as they wander the aisles and impulse buys when they reach the checkout. “As they start adopting these new technologies, all the information about the user and the checking of inventory is done as a service or in the cloud,” Chung says.
Need for speed
In the fiercely competitive retail sector, there’s pressure to deliver reliable bandwidth in greater quantities to support better customer experience.
The need for network security remains constant for any organisation or industry, but can be especially intense in the retail sector with customers steadily providing data for personalisation.
Another key driver for SD-WAN is its high tolerance of underlying infrastructures, which means it can be deployed across diverse locations, provide reliable bandwidth and access to applications. It provides a tidy management layer to existing infrastructure, reducing complexity and helping drive down operational costs.
These are especially attractive features in the heady world of retail, where mergers and acquisitions are common.
"When you have two environments running two different networks, two different types of devices, two different networking strategies, that could be a challenge,” Chung says.
However, with an SD-WAN solution overlaid on top, you can easily provision service without worrying about their differing architecture.
Implementation time is also a critical factor. Just as retailers enjoy a speedy sale, they also seek the shortest deployment times. “Time to market is always top of mind when gobbling up other organisations,” Chung says.