Omnichannel retail involves delivering a seamless shopping experience across web, mobile, instore, mail order and phone channels. Working with many retailers in our business, we felt the subject was relevant and timely. Indeed, as online competition heats up and a surprising 58% of retailers found that changing customer preferences and behaviors were negatively affecting their businesses,[1] making omnichannel experiences a strategic mandate for retail.

New Network Pressures

Promising as it may be for retail growth, omnichannel retailing does put some new and increased pressures on wide area networks (WANs) that serve retail locations. For the retailer’s IT organization, omnichannel operations means supporting new applications for mobile shopping and instore customer tracking. It requires delivering a more personalized shopping experience based on customer behavior. Omnichannel may also mean providing streaming media instore and improving the supply chain. All of these strain legacy networks, many of which are a complex composition of multiple provider connections. Creating a unified customer experience across all of your channels requires a new kind of network – one that is more dynamic and can adjust in real-time to these increasing pressures.

SD-WAN Benefits for Retailers

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) offers a potential solution for retailers because it virtualizes WAN functions making your network application aware. The result is that you can increase bandwidth and improve performance of your applications utilizing your existing hybrid network connections and delivering the seamless user experience that your business requires.

SD-WAN helps retailers improve:

  • Omnichannel Shopping and Fulfillment –As you deploy more applications to improve your customer shopping experience and supply chain processes, you put increasing pressures on your network. Any slow-down can turn your customers away so ensuring the best service is critical. SD-WAN provides the kind of flexible, high-performing connectivity needed for omnichannel fulfillment and modern in-store services while keeping transactions secure.
  • Agile Change Management – As retailers learn about customers’ omnichannel shopping patterns, they may want to change locations to become a more preferred retailer or increase capacity to support new technologies. SD-WAN allows retailers to turn up new services or locations quickly so they can respond to customer demands.
  • Streamlined Network Operations – SD-WAN works with any transport type and any provider while giving retailers one centralized portal to manage their entire WAN. This simplifies operations, provides needed security at the edge and enables retailers to take full advantage of available network capacity. The results are improved overall performance and reduced costs.

SD-WAN allows retailers to make progress with their unified customer experience strategies without being held back by their legacy network infrastructure.

You can learn more in our executive brief: SD-WAN: A Better Network for Omnichannel Retail.

[1] “State of Retail 2016” survey by Retail Touchpoints

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