In the era of the digital shopping experience, one of the costliest brick-and-mortar retail mistakes is downtime. In-store network connectivity is increasingly at the center of both the buyer’s journey and point-of-sale payment transactions. The retail industry average cost of downtime is estimated at $4,700 every minute so if you’re not connected, you’re not only losing cash but you’re also losing customers. By offering increased bandwidth and reliability, SD-WAN is enabling Retail CIOs to move beyond basic network reliability so they can focus on omni-channel initiatives that deliver a rich digital in-store experience for shoppers.
Fast and Secure Digital Payment Transactions
Imagine that just as your customers are ready to make the purchase; all of the sudden your internet goes down. A recent payment study indicates that 89% of US consumers prefer making digital payments over old school cash transactions, and the preference for credit and debit transaction is even greater with more affluent shoppers and for big ticket items. This means the primary objective for every Retail CIO should be always-on connectivity for POS terminals so that your store is able tap into the digital wallets of the American consumer.
Other studies have shown that 1 in 3 customers will abandon your checkout line if they are forced to wait more than 5 minutes. Downtime can turn your potential customers from friendly buyers to frustrated shoppers who will likely bring their businesses to your competitors.
SD-WAN offers a simplified way to increase reliability through automated circuit failover. Look for a seamless SD-WAN failover solution that enables you to use multiple links from diverse carrier. Best-of-breed solutions will even protect in-flight payment transactions from link outages, so you never lose another customer due to downtime.
Omni-channel Shopping Experience
Internet shopping is putting tremendous pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, but as of Q1 2017 government statistics indicate that only 8.5% of U.S. retail sales are ecommerce. Modern shoppers know there is a wealth of product information online that will help them make a more informed purchase decision, but 85% prefer touch and feel products. Potential buyers are visiting your store to try before they buy, and the omni-channel strategy is design to increase the chances they will buy it from you.
Savvy retailers are adapting to modern shopping behaviors. Omni-channel commerce – and more recently unified commerce – makes it easier for clients to find, compare and buy products by offering coordinated channels that combine the benefits of online and in-store shopping into a seamless retail buying experience. Consider that Google Shopper Marketing Council reports 84% of smartphone shoppers are using their phone to help them shop while in-store. Whether you embrace the omni-channel shopping concept, it’s clear that your customers and likely your competitors already have.
Guest Wi-Fi Access
In-store Wi-Fi is the most fundamental technology for enabling the in-store omni-channel experience, and it is projected that 56% of retailers will offer it by 2017.
Public Wi-Fi allows smartphone customers to quickly and seamlessly access your website, online product demo videos and social media, all of which can help inform their purchase decision. This is a great way to extend customer stays during a critical phase of the buyer’s journey, giving you a greater chance to capture their purchase live and in-person. Aside from that, customers tend to return to stores that offer a rich shopping experience, helping you improve loyalty and drive higher average sales per customer.
More advanced brick-and-mortar retailers increasingly use bandwidth-hungry technology to attract customers, such as digital signage, streamed entertainment, electronic point-of-purchase (POP) displays, and virtual assistance for those who prefer DIY. Running these additional applications alongside guest Wi-Fi requires special networking capabilities to ensure that mission-critical POS and voice systems get adequate bandwidth and priority. SD-WAN simplifies network design and policy control. Retail CIOs should look for an SD-WAN that optimizes all your applications over any broadband connections and a dynamic security perimeter that is centrally managed in cloud.
SD-WAN and the Retail Store of the Future
The trend towards a richer, more immersive in-store shopping experience is still in the early stages. What’s already clear is that legacy network solutions like MPLS and IPSec VPN are ill-suited for the new generation of digital brick-and-mortar retail stores. On a price-per-megabit basis, MPLS is simply too expensive and it can take months to turn-up new stores. While IPSec VPN provides encryption to secure low-cost broadband transport, it doesn’t address the downtime risk and there are hidden costs due to the complexity.
SD-WAN offers a 10 times faster network at 70% less cost, plus the genuine peace of mind of hitless failover that keeps all your voice, cloud and payment solutions connected with no manual intervention. Retailers also need the agility to quickly turn up new stores, scale bandwidth on demand plus real-time visibility and actionable analytics to manage store networks. The best SD-WAN solutions will include intelligent packet-based routing to ensure quality and performance for your mission-critical POS and voice systems. For retailers with limited in-store IT resources, consider looking for an SD-WAN as-a-service provider who can manage your SD-WAN deployments to help you focus more attention on your customers instead of your network.
Be sure to download our free infographic for Retail CIOs that provides 8 key facts behind what’s driving brick-and-mortal retailers toward digital transformation, plus clear insights on how each statistic directly correlates to SD-WAN decision drivers.