The retail industry is undergoing a rapid transformation as stores are being forced to evolve into “brick-and-click” operations that meet the demands of today’s mobile phone-wielding customers, make the most of their physical location and the internet, and embrace the networking technologies that best-fit their operations. The retailers that survive these far-reaching business challenges are the ones that can learn to adapt to these quickly changing times.
Without further ado, here are three of today’s most important networking technologies that retailers should consider adding to their digital toolkit, if they haven’t already.
Software-Defined Wide Area Networks
Eight in 10 smartphone owners use their phone when shopping in a retail store, usually to gather more information, such as product reviews. Retailers can provide these customers with a state-of-the-art Wi-Fi experience by switching to a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), which outperforms today’s more common multi-protocol label-switching (MPLS) networks. The benefits of SD-WANs include increased network flexibility, more bandwidth, and sometimes dramatically lower costs.
The time to switch to SD-WANs is now – i.e., before your competition does. The SD-WAN industry was worth just $225 million in 2015, but is expected to grow at a more than 90% compound annual growth rate during the next four years. By 2020, it will be a burgeoning $6 billion industry.
The Internet of Things
To understand how the Internet of Things (IoT) enables retailers to collect valuable data about their customers’ shopping behavior and increase in-store sales, look no further than The Dandy Lab. A luxury men’s fashion shop located in London. The Dandy Lab uses IoT technologies – in this case, Cisco’s CMX, a location analytics and engagements platform, plus Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi and access points – to collect and analyze data about every visitor’s behavior. This data includes things such as store traffic patterns, or how much time shopper’s spend examining a particular item of clothing. Armed with this knowledge, The Dandy Lab is constantly fine-tuning and improving its overall business operations. One bottom-line benefit, thanks in part to its RFID-enabled loyalty-card solution: A 20% increase in customer retention.
Wi-Fi, Sensors, RFID Tags, and More
In the future, many retail stores will evolve into high-tech showrooms, according to IBM. A customer will examine and purchase merchandise in a store location, but the items will be shipped from a warehouse to a customer’s home address. IBM expects this showroom model to account for at least 50% of retail sales by 2025.
One of the companies paving the way for this showroom model of shopping is Reveal – an innovative startup that has developed a popup clothing boutique that can be assembled in just 22 minutes. The Reveal boutiques’ high-tech arsenal includes free Wi-Fi for guests; touchscreen computers for ordering merchandise; and customer-aware sensors and RFID-tagged clothing, so a retailer knows which items are (or aren’t) popular. All of the resulting data enables retailers to more precisely determine future clothing production, selection, and prices.
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