Resilient Internet Connectivity Underpins the Customer Retail Experience

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Omnichannel and unified shopping experiences are set to be 2023’s biggest retail trends – with 90% of consumers now expecting brands to offer omnichannel experiences across their preferred online and in-store channels. Catering to these expectations will pay off, as businesses that offer robust retail experiences across various touch points could see a 20% increase in total revenue

But in order to provide consumers with a seamless, high-quality shopping experience across all channels, reliable, high capacity internet connectivity is crucial. In order to minimise latency and maintain smooth operations, connections must be constantly available with the necessary fast bandwidth.

Nick Sacke outlines how retailers can successfully attain the resilient connectivity needed to underpin every aspect of the customer shopping experience for year-round retail success. 

Meeting Expected and Unanticipated Demand 

Starting the year with January discounts, retailers are already off to a busy start to 2023 – both online and in-store. But even though the next ‘peak shopping season’ seems a long way away, retailers need to prepare now, not later. Over the past couple of years especially, the retail industry has highlighted how quickly organisations need to be able to transform processes when faced with adversity. Therefore, it is crucial that retailers have the right connectivity in place at all times of the year to meet both expected and unanticipated demand.

Excellent customer experience (CX) is key for retailers to captivate both existing and prospective customers. However, given that every component of the retail experience – even in-store – depends on a robust and reliable internet connection, many organisations struggle to deliver that experience – especially during busier periods. Even a slight reduction in connectivity will have an impact on how quickly payments can be processed, for example, adding to the wait time at checkout or counter, creating longer lines, occupying more staff time and discouraging customers from making a purchase.

Furthermore, the retail store of the future is looking ever more technology-intensive, including facial scanning and offering immersive brand experiences. In these new retail environments, internet quality and resiliency will be more important than ever as the cornerstone of a positive customer experience.

Irrespective of the time of year, no independent retailer should have to compromise on the quality of the in-store customer experience because of inadequate internet connectivity. Particularly considering the possibility that a negative encounter may permanently impact the consumer’s perception of the retailer’s level of customer service and harm their brand reputation.

Disruptive Supply Chains 

Whether it be current or emerging geopolitical conflicts, inflationary pressures, workforce challenges, or additional worries yet to surface, supply chain operations are likely to continue to be disrupted in 2023. These hurdles are urging retailers to embrace automation and innovative technologies – benefitting from greater visibility, data-driven decision-making and the use of robots to overcome labour shortages, amongst others – again, all innovations that demand resilient and robust connectivity.

To combat the growing complexity and hyper-connectedness of the current global business environment, it is crucial to create a supply chain that can support business continuity. This pivotal element of effective logistics is often the final factor to be taken into account – despite being one of the most important.

It can take weeks or even months to get the service provisioned, even if a fixed lined fibre optic connection is available – which is certainly not always the case, especially in rural locations. And, even then, a single fibre optic connection represents a single point of failure, and a brief interruption in connectivity can cause significant upheaval, disruption and financial loss. So how can retailers achieve dependable and flexible connectivity for both their retail locations and warehouses?

Ensuring Business Continuity with Connectivity

In order to scale up or down to handle peak demands throughout the year, whilst adding resilience to minimise the risk of disruption and outage, retailers urgently require connectivity that meets these needs. Additionally, to satisfy urgent business needs, it must also be quickly deployable – which is where wireless technology is becoming more and more important.

Stores and warehouse facilities can quickly implement wireless connectivity in a matter of days, giving them the bandwidth they need to manage rising demand. However, retailers should not depend on one connection; organisations of all sizes require a range of connectivity options in order to attain maximum reliability and resilience in their network infrastructure.

Uptime is preserved and capacity is maximised by using a bonded internet solution that coordinates these connections together into a single, aggregated pipe to deliver increased reliability. And, when 4G (or 5G) wireless connections are combined with current fixed line resources, the solution  becomes fully resilient, utilising wireless to improve bandwidth and performance, or as a failover in the event that the fixed connection fails; with the ability to automatically switch back to the fixed line when it is available. This ensures business continuity by enabling services to continue with limited downtime, resulting in limited disruption to customer service teams.

This inherently portable technology can be deployed effectively and rapidly to meet retailers’ immediate needs,from pop up shops to temporary warehouses. It also offers the sufficient bandwidth to deliver a customer experience that the consumer desires across all channels. Furthermore, the ability for bandwidth and infrastructure to be able to scale up (and/or down) as business demand changes and connectivity requirements fluctuate has never been more important. With business continuity plans in mind, bonded internet solutions can provide a robust, scalable and resilient solution for short-, medium- and long-term business goals.

Conclusion

This year’s peak trade will be a tremendous challenge for the retail sector to coordinate on  every level, from managing and fulfilling demand to sourcing and optimising stock.Irrespective of the challenge, though, dependable, high-performance connectivity has become a fundamental requirement for retail success.

Without assurance that retailers can quickly access data from all points of the supply chain to the store, retailers will not be able to adopt the innovation necessary to optimise the customer experience, or the automation required to enhance logistics processes and reduce reliance on an increasingly limited labour workforce.

Strong, scalable internet connectivity should serve as the cornerstone of long-term strategy and operational planning. This is not a short term demand Instead, retail businesses should prepare for the year ahead by investing in reliable , resilient and secure high performance internet connectivity that will underpin their business now and into the future.