The world of retail is constantly evolving and adapting alongside new technologies.
Finding a network that supports the connectivity between different stores, warehouses and delivery hub locations across the globe is a major challenge for retailers. Then there’s cloud inventory management, point-of-sale applications, VoIP services and e-commerce. Don’t forget about free in-store Wi-Fi!
Legacy systems simply can’t handle such bandwidth-intensive traffic from many store locations at the same time. They weren’t built to cope with the workloads and complexities of most digital transformation initiatives.
Retailers need a networking solution that is:
- Secure; and
That’s where SD-WAN for retail comes in.
What is SD-WAN?
Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a virtual WAN architecture that uses centralized software intelligence to direct network traffic efficiently and securely.
SD-WAN is an overlay to the existing network. It uses tunneling technology to differentiate the physical network from the logical network.
SD-WAN solutions reduce expensive routing and hardware costs and offer your business the flexibility of multi-cloud services. Businesses are adopting SD-WAN to support new applications and services, reduce overhead and embrace digital transformation. This allows them to work towards greater profitability while reaping a number of real-world business benefits.
According to a 2017 TechRepublic report, 80% of companies said that by embracing digital transformation they managed to increase profitability. Let’s take a look at how SD-WAN has streamlined processes and helped retail businesses grow and achieve results.
Improved connectivity and bandwidth efficiency
A big challenge the retail industry faces is how to manage multiple connections to ensure optimal service levels and network operations. SD-WAN combines broadband, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and long-term evolution (LTE) into a single network, ensuring they can provide great service every time.
Moreover, SD-WAN enables businesses to meet growing bandwidth needs to deliver diverse Wi-Fi user experiences, application access, digital signage with audio and video content and more.
It prioritizes bandwidth-intensive retail tasks like setting up and maintaining an e-commerce site, online training and running an order management software, to enhance bandwidth efficiency.
Additionally, it provides the flexibility to prioritize and balance traffic across various WAN services and streamline additions or subtractions of services.
Better omnichannel customer experience
Retailers have a lot of competition these days. To overstep their competitors they need to be tech-savvy and take advantage of mobile technologies.
In a digital world, consumer behaviors and expectations are rapidly developing. Nowadays, customers expect an experience that integrates online and offline shopping experiences seamlessly. Delivering an omnichannel retail experience requires a reliable, sturdy infrastructure.
To meet customer demands, retailers need to leverage technology to streamline business processes.
SD-WAN businesses can use workflow automation processes to streamline inventory management (and tackle the great barcode vs RFID debate), marketing, sales and other e-commerce processes. This is all possible with centralized, failproof network control.
By leveraging the many advantages of SD-WAN technologies, small to mid-sized businesses can deliver innovative shopping and payment apps and other services. This enables them to compete against big players by attracting new customers as they increase revenues.
SD-WAN streamlines network complexity as the entire solution is managed from a centralized control system.
From a single management portal, businesses can upgrade software, scale bandwidth, provision new sites and manage traffic priority. This reduces the need for many distributed connections for individual sites. The result is a huge reduction in on-site network complexity.
Centralized management also takes the hassle out of opening new stores. Nowadays, businesses don’t need to configure a network from scratch as it’s all stored in the SD-WAN.
What’s more, the common network interface allows cloud and mobile apps access to data in real-time. Businesses use this data to enhance customer experience (CX), create a sales playbook and build brand authority.
The retail industry collects and stores an unparalleled amount of sensitive financial and personal data every day. It’s vital that this data is adequately protected to avoid security risks.
Many organizations that use traditional networks are lacking in unified security. SD-WAN’s standard security protects with encryption and tunneling, as well as any additional security measures retailers install.
Reduced maintenance time and costs with SD-WAN for retail
Technology continues to develop at a rapid rate. New network devices and applications are often incompatible with older ones. This can cause problems and result in slowed down, dysfunctional networks. SD-WAN reduces the use of on-site hardware, which in turn reduces the need for maintenance and site visits.
Updating and upgrading is simple with SD-WAN. Businesses can easily add applications and software, saving time and money. What’s more, they can easily trial or expand services to new locations.
It’s clear why more and more businesses are using SD-WAN in the retail world. As more employees and customers depend on mobile devices, the need for a robust, flexible network is always growing.
SD-WAN provides improved connectivity and bandwidth from a centralized control point while improving CX and lowering costs. All of which leads to better results and happy businesses.