Facilitating an OmniChannel Retail Experience with SD-WAN

  • 7 min read
SD-WAN for Retail Industry

In this hyper-connected world, more and more retail customers are demanding an integrated online and in-store shopping experiences. This new ‘phygital’ trend has impelled the retail industry to deliver a world-class, omni-channel experience across geographies. Retailers need to embark on various strategic digital transformation initiatives by leveraging IoT and various cloud technologies to meet the expectations of today’s customers.

Astute retailers are already working towards blurring the line between online and offline shopping experiences. They are slowly and steadily rolling out the latest, most innovative shopping features across their stores to stand out from their competitors. For example, retailers are equipping their stores with hybrid services like AI-based recommendation systems, smart mirrors, self-checkout, online appointment booking, virtual consultations and contactless payments.

However, a research commissioned by Forrester Consulting found that more than 70% of surveyed companies don’t have confidence in their ability to deliver a seamless hybrid customer experience. The reason? The ability to add new unique shopping features across both online and offline channels is completely dependent on the agility, resilience and scalability of their existing network infrastructure. As a retailer, you should evaluate your network in order to fulfil the evolving expectations of your customers.

Taking a fresh look at your network infrastructure

Consumers of all ages, including 58% of Gen Zers and 62% of Baby Boomers, like to shop from a brick-and-mortar store. Understandably, retailers are using a wide range of technologies to function optimally and attract, engage and retain customers within stores. For instance, they have adopted in-store digital kiosks, free Wi-Fi, AR/VR-based mirrors, and smart cameras to name a few. Fast and stable internet connectivity is essential in such environments.

The same goes for online stores. These stores depend on a responsive, form factor website with features like multi-touchpoint product pages, virtual try-on, advanced payment options and more for customer engagement and acquisition. This means that both online and offline store applications require resilient connections to databases and applications in a data center or in the cloud to run smoothly.

If these bandwidth-intensive applications are hosted on multi-clouds or data centers, your traditional WAN infrastructure might not be equipped to sustain it. Such networks struggle with high latency, frequent downtimes, sub-optimal performance and security issues. This may affect your ability to support innovative digital capabilities and applications. These WAN systems are also expensive to maintain and require periodic, manual intervention from your IT personnel.

Meanwhile, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is one solution that can save you from the hassle of spending too much time and effort on your current networking infrastructure. You can virtually manage WAN and integrate different connections conveniently through a dashboard. This will, indirectly, enable you to boost your overall agility and customer shopping experience.

Revolutionising the Retail Industry with SD-WAN

As you expand your retail presence – both online and offline – the number of locations you operate from will increase. The form of transport you use to connect your applications will also diversify. An SD-WAN solution can help you seamlessly manage these challenges while offering a plethora of other benefits. This is just of the one reasons why 45% of retailers are looking to adopt SD-WAN services.

Here’s how this advanced networking solution can revolutionise the retail industry:

Improved connectivity

An SD-WAN solution can work with a range of connectivity options, including MPLS, LTE and broadband internet. It enables you to prioritise bandwidth-intensive, critical business applications and intelligently route them to available connections with the lowest latency. Besides, SD-WAN technology comes with a built-in auto-failover mechanism to create network redundancy.

Simplified and centralised management

Retailers have a distributed environment, with stores spread across tier-1, tier-2, tier-3 and tier-4 cities. An SD-WAN decouples the networking hardware from the way it is managed and controlled. This ability can help you intelligently streamline the management of network traffic to and from your online stores, applications within offline stores and data centers via a centralised management console.

Flexibility and scalability

SD-WAN allows you to supplement your existing connectivity solution with secondary and tertiary connections. For example, you can expand your WAN environment by adding public broadband from local carriers to reduce bandwidth costs across all retail stores. SD-WAN can easily facilitate this expansion while allowing you to easily scale up or down your network as per your traffic requirements.

End-to-end visibility

SD-WAN can provide you with complete visibility into your network track. You can easily track and monitor traffic in real time to easily route it to connectivity models with optimal bandwidth. This ability is especially vital when you need to accommodate traffic surges. The proactive 24×7 monitoring of your network helps to reduce the mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR), thereby improving uptime and availability.

Better application performance

SD-WAN enables you to eliminate the challenges such as packet loss, network congestion, outages and more. It allows intelligent traffic steering of your customer-facing and business-critical applications to low latency, more stable connections. This kind of traffic prioritisation ensures improved performance across all point-of-sale applications.

Enhanced network security

SD-WAN offers integrated security protocols like next-generation firewalls, URL filtering, encryption, DDoS prevention, unified threat management, anti-malware features and more. This convergence of network and security allows you to reduce risks, prevent outages and be FIPS compliant. It also makes your software-based payments infrastructure more secure, thereby building trust among your customers.

Time and cost savings

With SD-WAN, you can reduce the cost of purchasing additional bandwidth and managing traditional WAN infrastructure. This not only decreases unplanned downtime but also minimises deployment costs. SD-WAN also facilitates rapid provisioning, thereby reducing the time-to-go live for new site deployment and on-boarding new services.

Delivering a seamless retail experience with Airtel Intelligent VPN

It is imperative to provide exceptional shopping experience while optimising business operations in today’s competitive retail landscape. The cosmic shifts in this industry requires you to reliably and effectively support a more connected environment. A state-of-the-art SD-WAN solution can help you achieve just that.

Airtel’s managed SD-WAN solution, Airtel Intelligent VPN, can be a game-changer for modern retailers like you. We are a one-stop solution provider with our SLA-driven solution being offered in three different SD-WAN engagement models – DIY, co-managed and fully-managed. We also provide various handholding services, ranging from network design, solution planning, network spend optimisation, project deployment, management and support, for a successful SD-WAN adoption.

On top of this, Airtel has decades of experience in offering a wide range of diverse solutions, including data connectivity, voice and message, cloud and data center, cybersecurity, IoT, enterprise mobility and more. This unique, bundled product portfolio combined with our SD-WAN solution positions us to meet all of your needs and expectations.

That said, Airtel Intelligent VPN can make it easier for you to integrate it with your existing networking infrastructure. It also provides end-to-end network visibility, edge-to-edge encryption and dynamic multi-pathing to eliminate the scope of any customer dissatisfaction. Besides Airtel Intelligent VPN facilitates rapid provisioning to ensure that you can seamlessly add new applications with zero-touch reconfiguration.

Additionally, Airtel’s managed SD-WAN solution can help you improve your store conversion and customer satisfaction rates, enhance application performance to align with business priorities, reduce your network CAPEX and OPEX, boost network security and reduce IT complexity. So, what are you waiting for? Create a hybrid WAN infrastructure with Airtel Intelligent VPN today.