While most of us are still thinking about the sunshine (or lack thereof), retailers are already in the throes of preparing themselves for their busiest time of year – the festive period.
The festive season is the busiest time of year for most retailers. In 2015, UK retailers took in £24 Billion over the festive period alone (IMRG and Capgemini). This means it is vital for retailers to put in place networks which are not only able to withstand the high levels of traffic, but are also optimised to support critical business applications from the warehouse to the shop floor, and can deliver applications which maximise in-store customer engagement, such as digital signage and guest WiFi.
More and more retailers are adopting digital technologies to drive efficiencies, increase employee productivity, increase shopper engagement and ultimately improve their sales. These expansive technologies are putting new pressures on retail networks, demanding more flexibility and scalability than ever before – and this is all before the added stresses of festive traffic levels set in. Retailers are changing their approach to networking as a result, investing in hybrid models that enable them to leverage the benefits of different types of connectivity to get, and keep, their stores online.
Downtime; the Ultimate Blocker to Christmas Shoppers
According to eMarketer, 94% of total retail sales still come from physical stores. As a result, the cost of downtime can be highly damaging, particularly during the busy festive period.
When a store loses connectivity the immediate impact is to their Point of Sale system which requires it to process PCI-compliant card transactions; according to the Standish Group, every minute of POS downtime, on average, costs a retailer $4,700.
It’s not just Point of Sale (PoS) systems that are impacted though, many other business applications that run through central, back office systems are also affected – reducing employee productivity and the quality of service delivered to customers.
As well as this immediate impact, retailers face long term damage to their brand; 50% of retail businesses said IT outages damage their reputation, and 18% described it as “very damaging” (CA Technologies). In order to prevent such high business costs, a failover and Out of Band Management (OOBM) solution is required. This is where a 4G LTE networking solution comes in.
A cellular networking solution can provide seamless failover when the primary line is knocked out – providing an uninterrupted service to keep stores fully operational for employees and customers alike. The same 4G LTE networking solution can also provide OOBM, enabling remote access to the primary router (over the cellular network) so that central IT resources can troubleshoot and configure it – all without requiring a dedicated fixed line or OOBM modem. Failover and OOBM is therefore top of the wish list for the retail Christmas period; keeping the network online and shoppers shopping.
Bandwidth That’s Fit to Burst
During the busy holiday periods retail networks have to process a high number of transactions at one time, putting the network under constant pressure, which can result in slow networking speeds or even the network potentially toppling completely and causing downtime. As well as being the perfect failover solution, 4G LTE solutions can seamlessly integrate with the existing retail network to increase bandwidth and reliability by intelligently converging wireless and wired networks at the edge – adding burst bandwidth to maximise network performance and keep it available in even the busiest peak periods.
In addition to increasing availability, 4G LTE networking can create separate, “parallel” networks to run non-critical applications on, such as digital signage, kiosks, CCTV or BEMS. This deleverages the core network in order to maximise its performance, while also helping to improve its security at the network edge. Many hackers today target Edge applications as a way into an organisation’s network; by running these over cellular though, they are kept separate from the core which keeps it secure.
Keeping Spirits High with WiFi
More and more retailers are increasing their use of Wireless LAN in store as it can be easily scaled and has the ability to increase coverage on demand. It is a highly flexible connectivity option that can enable both indoor and outdoor retail applications. As a result, WiFi solutions are being deployed to connect systems such as RFID asset tracking and pop-up PoS, as well as delivering customer WiFi access – maximising employee productivity, optimising store floors and engaging customers.
WiFi is not just a customer service add-on, or a tool for increased employee flexibility though, it has also become a valuable source of customer intelligence. Retailers are now able to use WiFi analytics tools to understand traffic flow through the store, in order to optimise their shop floor experience and as result, convert more sales. By using the data in real-time, it also means retail employees can make sure they are in the right place at the right time – ideal for the busy festive season.
Hybrid Networking That Keeps Retailers Jolly
Whether it’s to drive efficiencies, optimise shop floors, prevent downtime, or improve customer service, hybrid networking is the key to enabling all these factors:
A wired network is the base for the majority of retail companies, keeping stores and their applications connected to their head office or network operations centre.
Enterprise-grade 4G LTE networking offers a scalable, cost-effective alternative that can be deployed quickly and securely – making it ideal for back-up connectivity or to connect non-critical applications such as digital signage and kiosks, removing pressure from the core network and increasing security at the Edge.
Wireless LAN delivers flexible networking that connects applications not possible with only wired options, for example mobile employee devices and asset tracking solutions.
Combined, these multiple forms of connectivity can deliver a retail network that ensures retailers and shoppers alike can all have a “wonderful Christmas time”.
For further information on protecting retail businesses during the busy festive period, take a look at our whitepaper; “Protecting Your Business: The Importance of Failover and OOBM to Retailers”, or our retail solutions webpage.