Retail is changing as more and more connected devices and applications are making their way into brick and mortar environments. This trend will intensify in the coming years with the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and low-code rapid application development.

There’s a lot to be excited about in this new era of retail. New technologies will enable a variety of opportunities to engage with customers, streamline operations, and drive profits. There’s a catch, though. Retailers need to understand that new in-store technologies require robust and efficient connections to databases and applications in the cloud or in a data center.

In other words, next-generation technologies require next-generation networks that are agile, cost-effective and secure. Making sure all store locations are constantly connected and networking effectively with head office, distribution, and the supply chain is paramount for retailers.

For this reason, many retailers are now moving forward with software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). Gartner Inc. reports that American-based retail and financial service organizations have been the most aggressively early adopters of SD-WAN.

SD-WAN provides an ideal solution for retail companies. SD-WAN virtualizes networks, centralizes operations and makes it incredibly easy to deploy and manage a national or global WAN.

In a traditional network design, retailers would look for a single network provider to quote, deploy and manage their network. They’d typically get quotes from both large national incumbent telecoms and larger network aggregators that source network from multiple regional or national providers. SD-WAN provides an alternative solution. Large retailers may wish to host their own SD-WAN infrastructure and manage it themselves to get direct hands-on control. Other retailers may instead look to work with application providers or managed service providers that have bundled SD-WAN with their managed services.

Either way, the key value that SD-WAN provides is the ability to use any existing Internet connection, including fixed wireless or LTE, to provide quick deployment, always-on connectivity and reliability.

Here are some of the ways that SD-WAN is helping retailers:

Uptime and Availability

Most retail processes require connectivity today to function. For example, a typical store may have a Point of Sale (PoS) system, connected environmental controls, communications and collaboration systems, inventory tracking, and more. When the network goes down, a retail store can grind to a halt.

75% of retailers claim that connectivity has a significant impact on core business functions, most profoundly on PoS, Inventory management and Administrative applications. (IFSEC Global 2018)

SD-WAN maintains uptime by pooling multiple connections, from multiple providers. Aggregating services ensures that if one link goes down, several more will remain up and running. As such, with SD-WAN in place, a business will never have to worry about losing connectivity.

End-to-End Visibility

Full end-to-end visibility of the network & Point and Click configuration makes the networking process easy for retail businesses that tend to not have experienced IT personnel. Being able to know what’s going on in the network at all times and having the ability to simply trouble-shoot when need be is paramount to retail locations.

SD-WAN helps retailers solve network headaches such as jitter, latency, and packet-loss that create congestion in the network and delays in processing data and transactions – particularly irritating to customers during the payment process. In addition, real-time traffic and WAN health reporting are configured to align with their business policies.

Customer Experience

Many retailers are exploring different ways of driving revenue, to keep people coming in and buying products. For instance, stores are now hosting promotional events—sometimes partnering with bands, local breweries, and community organizations.

Hosting an event, however, can place a tremendous strain on a network as the resulting store visitors expect to be able to post to social media and capture the “moment.” Not being able to do so results in unhappy visitors and negative posts. With SD-WAN in place, a store can scale up bandwidth easily when its needed. Then, when the event ends, connectivity can be reduced to a normal operational level.

Selling Connectivity

In a recent white paper, we explored how restaurants can purchase white label SD-WAN, and then sell connectivity to global franchises—driving significant amounts of revenue, while also ensuring their franchises have reliable connectivity.

As it turns out, retail stores can do the same thing. A company headquartered in New York, for instance, can purchase white label SD-WAN and then distribute it to brick and mortar stores in any location. SD-WAN can be a great way to offset losses from ecommerce competitors.

In conclusion, SD-WAN provides retailers with the following key benefits;

  • SD-WAN uses any available connection, broadband Internet, fiber, LTE/4G wireless, allowing retailers to use multiple connections to provide bandwidth that is reliable and has sub-second failover.
  • All sites can be connected in a Private WAN back to Head Office or the Data Center and changes to performance can be made at store-level and pushed down to the device at each store.
  • Full end-to-end visibility of the network makes trouble-shooting easy for retailers, who often lack skilled IT personnel.
  • Pop-up stores can be turned up more quickly and simply than ever.

Want to learn more about Multapplied’s approach to SD-WAN? Contact the team today.