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How SD-WAN technology is transforming the retail industry

How SD-WAN technology is transforming the retail industry

Onecom , , ,

As they face the challenges of a post-Covid world, retailers are increasingly under pressure to deliver the best possible experiences for their customers. Good use of technology and connectivity is a crucial part of this battle, whether it’s to rise above the rest in a highly competitive online environment, or to lure customers out of their homes and onto the high street.

Gold standard connectivity is crucial to successful retailing, ensuring that each location a business operates in – whether that’s in store or online – is connected and networking effectively with offices, distribution, and the supply chain.

For this reason, many retailers are moving forward with SD-WAN. Here are the main benefits:

Connecting retail

The old way of doing things was Multiprotocol Label Switching – or MPLS as it’s widely known. MPLS routing directs data across nodes by using short path labels rather than longer network addresses. MPLS links carry data via these labels from one network to another, essentially creating a WAN (Wide Area Network).

But now this isn’t enough for retailers with locations spread across regions, and more warehouses and delivery locations than ever before.

We’re also seeing a trend towards free in-store Wi-Fi and the adoption of cloud applications for point-of-sale transactions and stock management is also ramping up network demand for retailers.

Retailers need a networking solution that is robust, fast, secure and scalable and SD-WAN can tackle these critical needs head on.

One platform

Retail companies typically have a number of vendors supporting their SD-WAN, Unified Comms and Contact Centre environments. But when challenged with multiple suppliers, this can lead to unnecessary OpEx and inconsistent customer experiences.

All these services including SD-WAN can be consolidated with a single, market leading SLA (service level agreement) and a single touchpoint from Onecom – called OneCloud. This is all the technology your enterprise needs for a connected workforce and outstanding customer experiences, in one cloud-based platform.

The Onecom OneCloud platform proved valuable for The Central England Co-op, which had multiple telecoms suppliers but wanted a more forward thinking, cost-effective solution.

We delivered a unified telecommunications plan, including a SD-WAN solution.

As a result, the company have seen a 90% reduction in network issues, allowing their retail teams to focus on trading rather than having to log tickets with their IT help desk.

To learn more about the Onecom solution, read the full case study.

Rapid site deployment

A game changer for retail, SD-WAN uses any available connection to go live – broadband, fiber, LTE/4G – and multiple can be used at once.

SD-WAN can be swiftly deployed to quickly deliver connectivity to new locations, allowing retailers to get new sites (stores, pick-up locations, pop-up shops and more) up and running in days instead of months.

With Onecom, sites are able to go live within 24hrs of order, which means no more waiting on fixed connectivity to be installed. Often a site may be ready for trading only to be delayed by connectivity installation, but with SD-WAN you get quick deployment, always-on connectivity and reliability.

Omnichannel experience

To compete with others in their industry, it’s becoming important for retailers to go digital-first and expand their offering with technology, because consumers’ behaviours and expectations are evolving quickly.

Both in person and online experiences are a vital part of the shopping process. Fortunately, SD-WAN brings more agile business processes, simplified networks and automation to keep up with competitors.

Retailers can use SD-WAN for workflow automation, to streamline inventory management, marketing, sales and other e-commerce processes such as delivering innovative shopping and payment apps. Ultimately provide a consistent Omnichannel experience.

Resilience

Resiliency is a challenge for retail, and even more so over the last year and a half. Luckily, the fixed connectivity SD-WAN brings, ensures businesses in the industry can cope with changes and scale up to meet demand if necessary.

Launching a new store or customer service software? No need to start from scratch, you can easily add on a new location or devices to your network. Even if retailers have had to make the difficult decision to close physical stores, it’s easy to remove devices when necessary.

SD-WAN offers additional bandwidth which can be used in an active/active state (where two or more servers gather the network traffic load and distribute it to the network servers).

With SD-WAN, retail operations also have the flexibility to pre-determine where network traffic should flow, effectively managing cost and providing a consistently high level of service.

In the event of an outage, data services can seamlessly reroute to working lines to keep your network running seamlessly. SD-WAN reduces network downtime - minimising loss of productivity – by detecting outages in real time.

Flexibility

As we’ve mentioned above, the flexibility to quickly and easily prioritise traffic over multiple WAN services to boost overall performance is key in any SD-WAN design.

This means more control over how the network performs. You can oversee and manage traffic flow from a central dashboard (in our case, OneCloud) and instantly tweak usage, application priority and bandwidth.

SD-WAN also enables you to remove the clumsy change request process for your retail business and make changes such as firewall policies yourself, instantly – no waiting on a 5 day SLA for change control.

It’s not just in retail operations that SD-WAN can play a pivotal role – it’s also in the way of working. Many companies are adopting a hybrid working model, where employees are working both remotely and, in the office, so employees will need to access resources securely from wherever they are.

A wider area network means having the capability to cover employees wherever they are working – in your stores, offices, call centres or at home.

You’re also guaranteed full end-to-end visibility of the network. Being able to know what’s going on at all times and have the ability to trouble-shoot when needed is paramount.

Enhanced security

In the retail industry, where a large amount of sensitive data and traffic travels across networks and is collected and stored on a daily basis, securing this is crucial.

Customers today also have a range of options for how and where they pay for products: cash, card, QR code, mobile app, ecommerce portal, tablets and more. With so many ways to pay, payment infrastructure is growing more complex, while the need to ensure security of payments becomes more urgent.

SD-WAN provides the reliable connectivity to support all types of digital payment options within a retail environment, or even any location, without sacrificing reliability or speed and at the same time protect sensitive data and traffic.

Using SD-WANs can help to assure retailers that business networks are being protected by standard SD-WAN security features such as encryption, firewalls, tunneling.

Compliance with PCI DSS security guidelines is, of course, also critical. An SD-WAN solution from Onecom is designed to comply with PCI DSS data security requirements, helping to reduce the potential risk that new payment solutions coming to market may not be secure.

 

It’s clear to see why businesses in retail are turning to SD-WAN. As retailers and customers depend on new technology, the need for a robust flexible network is always growing. This year has also proven how important it is for retailers to maintain connections with customers and stakeholders across multiple channels and SD-WAN can ensure this.

We work with Vodafone to bring SD-WAN and SIP connectivity into our OneCloud platform, and it can be delivered as a managed service.

For an assessment as to how SD-WAN could be of benefit to your business, contact our experts at: 03300 888 999.