When formulating a plan in support of a corporate network design, a network roadmap is one of the most essential tools that a retailer can utilize. Advances in networking have made it an exciting time to be in retail, as the range of opportunities to satisfy the customer with superior customer service has grown substantially in the last decade. At the same time, with access to such a plethora of technological options, navigating through all the available possibilities can be overwhelming.
Use of a strategic roadmap in the planning stages can help a retailer focus in and ensure that all critical networking elements are included and work concurrently together and with other organizational objectives. The following list simplifies the process by stating 12 of the most elementary yet critical application considerations to make when preparing a network roadmap in a retail environment:
- Video Monitoring — This tool addresses the demand for instant access to store performance information. Whereas regional and district managers used to spend their days calling stores to inquire about performance and traffic, this technology gives them real-time visibility to all the relevant store-level data.
- Camera Systems — Camera networks can be used to track the in-store movements of customers, as well as create heat maps to glean learnings on customer activities and time spent in each area.
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags — These smart labels are replacing UPCs, and becoming prevalent in the industry as a way to curb lines at checkout and improve the customer experience.
- Digital signs — Providing a visually dynamic experience, digital signage not only amplifies the customer experience but also has been shown to influence customer decision-making at the point of sale.
- Digital shelf labels — This technology eradicates the need for store employees to change paper labels when price changes occur, and also eliminates discrepancies between shelf and register prices.
- Penetration testing and monitoring — By conducting ongoing self-evaluation of systems, processes and policies, retailers can stay on top of and identify cyber security threats.
- Tracking of unauthorized terminals and access point — As point-of-sale tampering becomes more widespread, monitoring in this arena curbs fraud and the illegal acquisition of payment card data.
- Guest connectivity — Many retailers now offer network and other permissions to guests at their home offices, as well as at their other corporate locations and facilities to encourage 24/7 connectivity.
- Easy access to “Buy Online” portal — In order to increase the number of transactions completed on the corporate website, this capability is being enabled by retailers either at the point of sale or at customer touchpoints.
- In-store media — Product demonstration videos, interactive training content, and other sources of in-store media are being increasingly installed to aid employee sales efforts.
- Bring your own device — Allowing customers to use their own personal devices to scan goods and make payments is trending in the industry. The capability gives customers increased mobility and offers an enhanced shopping experience by providing seamless shopping.
- Upgradeable in-store network equipment — This is becoming popular as retailers attempt to cope with the rapid expansion of the number of in-store devices requiring network equipment.
In this unparalleled era of retail potential, the need to stay competitive has never been more vital. By setting strategy and direction on future implementation of the key technologies above, retailers can put themselves in a position to offer best-in-breed practices that are tailored to the needs of their customer base as well as stay relevant as a marketplace contender.