Don't Let Your Network Impede Your Application User Experience

When we talk about digital transformation, one thing is clear: the user experience is king. This is true for all stakeholders — from the customers, where a compelling experience can turn prospects into lasting relationships, to the business itself, where a better user experience can bolster employee productivity, greater competitive advantages and a more robust bottom line. Whether the applications are customer facing or aimed inwardly at business operations, digital transformation goes hand-in-hand with a better application user experience.

The user experience qualities associated with brands like Uber and Netflix — interactive, self-explanatory and designed in a clear-cut manner — have shaped our expectations to demand the same experiences out of retailers, manufacturers and financial institutions. But, knowing that, why do these industries continue to fall short of these benchmarks? One thing is certain: delivering a best-in-class user experience starts with a best-in-class enterprise network.

We commissioned a global study with EnsembleIQ Research Solutions (formerly EKN Research) to dig into this by surveying enterprises across North America and Europe across 3 industries: retail, manufacturing, and financial services. The findings were illuminating!

For retailers: network affecting customer experience and store performance

Although 86 percent of retailers know that it's extremely important to clearly define a set of standards for the user experience, it's fair to say that these same retailers are also not delivering an experience that lives up to those expectations. The problem lies with the network.

Nearly three-quarters of retailers cite network performance as a major obstacle to the user experience. To get around this, these same retailers acknowledge that they need to prioritize bandwidth to the most mission-critical applications — particularly their inventory management, point of sale and workforce management systems — whose performance is integral for both managing store operations and delivering a seamless customer experience.

Interestingly, while three-quarters of retailers believe that the key to solving this problem is to add more capacity to their networks; only one in four believe optimizing their current capacity is the solution, despite this being a more cost-effective solution!

For manufacturers: employee devices are driving bandwidth allocation

Network capacity is not just a problem exclusive to retailers. Manufacturers are also lagging in delivering a consistently strong employee user experience at factory and supplier locations — afflicting as many as 70 percent of manufacturers — due to an out-of-date network capacity management strategy.

Among two-thirds of manufacturers, the predominant driving forces behind network capacity are employee devices and the increasing number of critical business apps on those devices. Consequently, there's a much greater focus on prioritizing network capacity allocation for their demands, perhaps even at the expense of customers' user experience standards. It shows that manufacturers are still challenged on how to optimize their network capacity in a manner benefitting customers and employees.

For banks and financial institutions: walking the line between user experience and security standards

The user experience conundrum is especially problematic for banking and financial services enterprises, who must comply with strict data security standards to protect sensitive consumer information. As customers increasingly treat banks like online stores — handling all their banking needs from home and while on the go, with a swipe here and a click there — financial institutions must walk a very delicate tightrope between accommodating these expectations with their security requirements. Customers don't want to have to jump through hoops while visiting a branch just to pay their bills, make deposits, and apply for loans, but you also can't go too far in relaxing these protections if it raises the risk of jeopardizing data security.

Despite this challenge, the vast majority (80 percent) of banks and financial institutions are confident they can maintain security compliance without compromising on the user experience, and vice versa. However, like their retail and manufacturing peers, banks also acknowledge that that user experience is impacted negatively by limited network capacity. More than half of financial institutions, in fact, have reported feeling the effects of such limitations at local branches. But, unlike their peers in the retail and manufacturing worlds, most of these banks see optimizing current capacity — rather than adding more capacity — as the ultimate solution to the network performance problem.

Network performance is key to the application user experience

At the end of the day, optimizing network capacity and ensuring visibility over network capacity are the two key guideposts for improving network performance — and consequently, improving the application user experience. While the implementation and prioritization of these two methods can and will vary across different industries, the end goal for retailers, manufacturers and banks alike remains the same.

One-third of all enterprises across all three of these industries are already looking at optimizing existing capacity as the most effective means of bolstering network performance. It would be good practice for the other two-thirds to revisit their network management strategies as well and plan around how best to leverage existing capacities before investing in new added capacity. Our Application Aware SD-WAN solution, Ipanema, is designed to solve this challenge for enterprises in each of these industries. Visit the resources below to learn more about how you can upgrade your network with Ipanema as part of your digital transformation journey!

Download our new eBook, “Foundation for Digital Transformation: Optimized User Experience and Network Readiness,” for more insights about the impact of new consumer expectations on applications, digital transformation and networking systems initiatives within the Retail, Manufacturing and Banking/Finance industries.

View the infographic identifying key trends in digital transformation across all three industries.

Watch this video infographic to learn more about how enterprises in each industry are tackling the top challenges in their digital transformation journey.

Learn more about how InfoVista's solutions can dynamically protect business-critical application performance for the Retail, Manufacturing and Banking/Finance industries over a secured and application-aware SD-WAN.

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