In today's complex and fast-paced retail world, smart consumers are expecting fast service, quick response to issues, and seamless purchase, delivery, exchange, and return of products or goods. All of these demands can put a lot of pressure on the retailers. In order to alleviate the pressure of meeting customers’ expectations and to keep up with the rapidly changing business landscape, retailers must look for innovative ways to deliver a dynamic, omnichannel customer experience that crosses the boundaries between digital and brick and mortar environments.
In the following article, Voip-Info addresses the challenges of digital transformation and the need for retailers to deliver seamless customer service both in-store and through omnichannel environments. Michael Wood, the Vice President of Marketing at VeloCloud, also shares insights on how retailers can take advantage of a cloud-based software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solution to deliver an agile, flexible, and limitless network model that will help them build the “store of the future”.
The Changing Retail Landscape
The advent of new technologies such as the cloud and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as well as the proliferation of mobile and wireless devices continue to reshape the business landscape. Amongst the top industries that are affected by the digital revolution is the retail business. Now more than ever, retailers face a number of challenges that hinder them from delivering exceptional customer experiences.
Although the goal of retail has always been focused on selling the best products to the consumers at the same time enticing them to come back, the delivery of this type of service is rapidly evolving and becoming more complex. Today’s customers expect retailers to deliver exceptional shopping experiences across all platforms, be it online, in-store, or through a mobile device and other communication channels. So how can retailers enhance the customer experience?
Wood believes that for retailers to deliver exceptional customer service, they need to implement an omnichannel strategy. “Customers today require instant gratification, complete knowledge from their retailer, and to be always connected regardless of their location,” shared Wood. “They are increasingly fickle if not provided with this type of experience. This means that retailers that want to remain competitive must deliver constant inventory access, access customer profiles and their buying behaviors, and provide access to their applications and the Internet at all times.”
However, as customers increasingly use various channels to shop (e.g. online, in-store, and mobile devices), providing a seamless shopping experience across different platforms may become a difficult undertaking for retailers. Just like other industries, retail is moving their business-critical applications in the cloud, with more and more in-store technologies and offerings that require high levels of bandwidth for a truly omnichannel consumer experience. All of this can be complex to manage and costly, especially if the underlying network is ill-equipped to handle this volume of data. So how can retailers overcome these operational and technology hurdles?
According to Wood, “A cloud-delivered SD-WAN strips away all these concerns, allowing retailers to enjoy fast and dependable connections, increased bandwidth, and complete network visibility that enables the components needed for a great customer experience. These include in-store kiosks and free Wi-Fi, business continuity for constant transaction-readiness, and no jitter or lag during voice calls.” By using an innovative cloud-delivered SD-WAN technology, retailers can achieve a better omnichannel experience and build the “store of the future”.
Building a Better Network for Omnichannel Retail
Deploying an omnichannel strategy at different stores demands a more flexible and agile approach to network operations. According to Wood, it is not just about delivering a fantastic customer experience with all the features that a customer requires. Creating an omnichannel strategy is also about the business imperatives that retailers must consider. "It goes beyond the cost of legacy infrastructure, which is quite high, but it’s about the freedom it offers around where a new retail branch can be deployed, how quickly it can be deployed, and how fast it can turn a profit,” explained Wood. “Time is all of the essence with these factors and SD-WAN delivers.”
As the leading provider of Cloud-delivered SD-WAN technology, Velocloud is helping the retail industry build the store of the future by delivering a more efficient networking model. “A flexible, agile, and limitless network infrastructure is what enables retailers to dream what the store of the future looks like and then make it a reality,” said Wood. “With legacy networks, this wasn’t possible. There just wasn’t any architectural flexibility, it was expensive, and it wasn’t easily scalable. Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN turns that on its head and we know this is the case because we hear it from our retail customers.”
Wood also shared his thoughts on the complexity of opening a retail business in the past. “In the days of old, like 3 years ago, if the management decided they wanted to open a store in a rural area, the IT team would have to source transport connections, send out high cost hardware, and have a high-cost engineer on-site for days to implement all the technology and infrastructure,” revealed Wood. “All of that could take months with no assurance of a high QoS.” But through SD-WAN, retailers are able to improve their network performance and get their business up and running in no time. “Through SD-WAN, customers have reported that they can get new locations up and running in less than 5 days using any best-case connections available and will have high QoS and constant reliability.”
Delivering Dynamic, Omnichannel Retail Experiences with VeloCloud SD-WAN
Achieving seamless and convenient omnichannel customer experience is the common goal of every retailer. While the retail industry is eager to offer exceptional omnichannel customer experience, many retailers are still striving to overcome technology, organizational, and/or operational hurdles that hinder them to deliver better service to their customers. To help retailers address the challenges of digital transformation and significantly improve the speed of deployment and the quality of end-user omnichannel experience, VeloCloud has developed a true cloud-delivered SD-WAN solution.
What makes VeloCloud SD-WAN unique? According to Wood, VeloCloud is a stand out from other network solutions in the market because it is truly cloud-delivered, cloud-designed, and cloud-networked. “VeloCloud SD-WAN is designed from the ground up to support the shift to the cloud, whereas the majority of networking solutions available today are hardware-based or have their roots in hardware or software that has been pivoted or re-designed to support the cloud,” shared Wood. “This creates a distinct difference because when network solutions are rooted in hardware or software, they will run into networking limitations or flexibility issues. A pure play SD-WAN has none of this and that’s what makes it so uniquely different.”
The Three Main Components of VeloCloud SD-WAN:
- VeloCloud Gateways. A few of VeloCloud's differentiations include hundreds of multitenant VeloCloud Gateways that are distributed around the globe. These multi-tenant gateways extend security, control, visibility, performance, and application prioritization on behalf of the Enterprise to the cloud. Additionally, the VeloCloud Multisource Inbound Quality of Service prioritizes inbound traffic from other branches, data centers, and the cloud to ensure that the bandwidth down the last mile to each branch is not exceeded.
- VeloCloud Orchestrator. Through the VeloCloud Orchestrator, the company delivers 100 percent GUI interface (no CLI) and a zero-touch secure deployment model.
- VeloCloud Edge. This is a full ecosystem of security virtual network functions and cloud security services and delivers a scalable site-to-site secure connectivity model. “VeloCloud Edges replace firewalls, routers, and other single-function devices so there is a small hardware footprint, and deployment can be done by any individual, not a highly skilled technician,” said Wood.
VeloCloud Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN also brings flexibility and security to the retail industry, enabling them to take advantage of inexpensive and scalable networks. “VeloCloud SD-WAN helps retailers to use hybrid WAN networks to ensure the highest application performance, even for real-time applications, and manage all the hundreds or thousands of outlets from a central location,” shared Wood. “This results in operational efficiencies, reduced costs, and ease of deployment and management that is unmatched in the industry.”
SD-WAN allows retailers to build an agile and flexible network model that is necessary to support a store’s omnichannel strategy as well as to deliver exceptional customer experiences across all platforms. As a leading provider of SD-WAN solution in the market, VeloCloud helps create the “store of the future” and accelerates digital transformation for retailers by bringing agility, efficiency, and security to their network infrastructure.
Headquartered in Mountain View, California, VeloCloud helps organizations simplify branch WAN networking by automating deployment and boosting performance over private, broadband Internet, and LTE links. As a premier SD-WAN service provider, VeloCloud has earned various accolades including being the Frost & Sullivan Product Leader in the SD-WAN Solution Market 2016, the winner of the Gartner Cool Vendor 2016, and the recipient of the Best of Interop and Best of VMworld.