NETWORKS – The Retail Enabler

Significant advances in networks in the past decade are transforming retail, as we know it. However, the transformation isn’t pervasive yet, as the adoption of the latest network technologies requires planning and commitment.

NetworkCorporate, regional and district executives expect instant access to sales transactional data, customer counts, and in-store occurrences via an IP-based camera system. Additionally, new networking capabilities have brought the expectation that sales associates are given visibility and access to inventory located anywhere in the supply chain in real-time. The network is also taking center stage by enabling a mobile world where consumers drive self-checkout on their smartphone, interact with their friends in real-time on purchase decisions, and receive discounts and personalized pricing as they are shopping.

Retailers are consistently looking for ways to improve the in-store experience by providing consumer experiences that surpass expectations. From training services and software to bettering speed and reliability at the point of sale, the demand for process improvement is continual. Yet, despite the desire for progress, a rut has been created in the market of networking. Because of contract obligations and short-term demands, companies end up paying more money for bandwidth, while never re-engineering to accommodate the powerful system that they need.

To illustrate the dilemma, in a 2014 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey conducted by Boston Retail Partners, more than one-third of retailers surveyed stated they have no plans to migrate from IPSEC to a private network. Further, around 30 percent cited they have no plans to utilize voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), instead continuing to use “plain old telephone service” (POTS) technology rather than actualizing on the cost savings of VoIP integration.

Taking the step towards change may be difficult due to concerns about downtime and blackouts. Though these are legitimate concerns, the fact remains that we now have one of the most robust and reliable network infrastructures in the world. While in the past, centralization of the point-of-sale process would not have been viable due to unstable telecommunications networks, massive investments in infrastructure have changed the landscape. In fact, research shows that the reliability of today’s networks provide 99.999% up time. (Source: Galvin Electricity Initiative).

We are at a strategic inflection point where the network is truly transforming retail and the customer experience.

How will you capitalize on this opportunity?

Walter Deacon

Principal
Walter has experience in both the retail and consumer packaged goods industries as an executive and consultant. His work as a partner at PwC Consulting earned him the Chairman’s Client Service award in his dealings with some of the firm’s largest clients. His experience includes planning, procurement, replenishment, logistics, allocation and customer marketing. He specializes in the strategic application of technology to retail and supply chain process.

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