By Michelle Arney, Cybera
The retail industry has been experiencing dramatic disruption from the moment e-tailers entered the picture. One major distinction in the world of e-commerce is how much more today’s consumers expect from retailers. The clearest evidence of this trend is the growing demand for a more integrated shopping experience, with the lines increasingly blurred between what happens in a retailer’s physical store and what happens online. All of this places tremendous competitive pressure on retailers—especially smaller retailers—to make their customer experiences as engaging and integrated as possible.
The path to achieving that goal, unsurprisingly, lies in technology—but it isn’t always obvious which technology platform will be the most helpful in this regard. Theoretically, some digital technologies—like virtual reality, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT)—are the way to go since they help retailers create digital experiences that are both personalized and immersive. But these technologies aren’t always feasible for smaller retailers that might lack the budget and IT resources to effectively integrate them. Unfortunately, these limitations can put smaller retailers at a distinct disadvantage when competing against larger retailers and e-tailers.
The Simplicity And Agility Of SD-WAN
However, there is one specific technology that can be a great equalizer for smaller retailers: a secure software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) platform. SD-WAN provides any size of business with the necessary network foundation to improve flexibility and security, as well as business agility. In fact, SD-WAN is the key to accelerating business at the network and services edge, where many smaller retailers operate. The technology allows retailers to rapidly deploy new technologies without requiring advanced IT expertise, an approach that can be particularly transformative for smaller retailers.
There are multiple ways that SD-WAN can help retailers increase customer engagement as part of their digital transformation. Here are four of the biggest ones:
- Leveling the playing field. When it comes to retail, online experiences have become interlinked with in-person shopping, and “omni-channel” has become the norm. Retailers that fail to recognize and embrace this reality won’t be able to compete in today’s marketplace. However, retailers with a smaller footprint can keep up with larger sellers if they increase their IT agility and incorporate more mobile technologies to reflect where consumers increasingly spend their time. In short, SD-WAN can help retailers increase agility, simplify their networks, and automate more of their processes to keep up with the latest consumer trends.
- Personalizing omni-channel shopping experiences. Today’s shoppers insist on personalized experiences. Smaller retailers can deliver on this expectation if they leverage SD-WAN to seamlessly incorporate platforms for online engagement with their physical locations. With an SD-WAN platform, retailers can quickly provide new services that help deliver the personalized omni-channel shopping experience today’s consumers expect.
- Strategically positioning retailers for the future. Gartner has reported that legacy WANs accounted for nearly 63 percent of network spending, thereby reducing the funds for strategic IT investments. In contrast, SD-WAN helps boost network intelligence via software while lowering complexity, reducing cost, and increasing flexibility. Whether retailers invest in virtualization, cloud-based systems, or software-defined networks, taking a more strategic approach to digital transformation will help them thrive. Companies are increasingly aware of this fact. A report from IDC noted that 75 percent of businesses surveyed were already using or planning to adopt SD-WAN within the next two years. A separate survey showed that around 25 percent anticipated that they could save up to 40 percent using SD-WAN.
- Ensuring that business and customer data is secure. An SD-WAN platform can help retailers overcome cybersecurity risks and add data protection strategies, from secure payment systems to next-generation firewalls. This is an important consideration when acknowledging that a security breach can damage a brand’s reputation and result in enormous regulatory fines and legal fees. SD-WAN can help ensure data protection for smaller retailers via advanced encryption, multi-factor authentication, and automated PCI compliance tools.
Digital Transformation For Continued Growth
When facing disruptive industry trends and larger competitors, smaller retailers must embrace the right digital strategy. An agile SD-WAN platform can help them grow their business by streamlining digital transformation and thus increasing customer engagement. These retailers can then compete more effectively by quickly rolling out compelling apps and services to attract new customers both online and off—all while watching their revenue grow.
About The Author
Michelle Arney is Vice President of product and leads the Cybera product team responsible for the company’s product vision, strategy, and roadmap. Prior to joining Cybera, she spent her career working with startup and enterprise IT and developer technologies—most recently at Microsoft, where she focused on server, cloud, and emerging technologies. To learn more about how SD-WAN can help retailers transform their business, visit Cybera.com. Follow Michelle and Cybera at: Twitter, LinkedIn.