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Reliable and secure store connectivity bridges online and offline retail

Reliable and secure store connectivity bridges
online and offline retail

Deliver a transformative store experience that keeps the customer and associate connected with the brand

Here's how IT infrastructure and the right technologies bring this connectivity to life

Retailers are constantly looking to innovate to drive business growth. But with connectivity as a key ingredient, can your infrastructure and operations keep up? A reliable network ultimately drives the in-store experience, from inventory management to mobile engagement to clienteling, to name a few.

When business runs as planned, your current IT might be able to handle and deliver the expected retail experience for the customer and store associate. But what about those unexpected surges and traffic in-store? Will your IT infrastructure manage them effectively? Can you still deliver the personalized digital experiences for consumers without impacting associate productivity or business-critical systems?

Any discussion about in-store access will not go far without touching on security. The number of connected devices that shoppers and associates are using is rising. This opens the door to vulnerabilities, as sensitive data that must be kept secure passes from the store to headquarters. This calls for an integrated security approach built into the network that can handle threats, high volumes, and efficient connectivity.

How do you go about building a modern and optimized IT infrastructure that can provide a frictionless and holistic retail store experience, and also scale operations? Here is a checklist:

  • Ability to prioritize network traffic
  • Role-based access controls to
    protect corporate and consumer data
  • Wi-Fi connectivity for customers
    and associates
  • Eliminate the high cost of MPLS
    for connectivity
  • Multicloud infrastructure

What’s the opportunity?

How much of a retailer’s transactions really depend on a securely optimized and modern IT infrastructure? how much of a retailer's ROI depends on secure store connectivity?

  • 90% of retail is still happening in brick-and-mortar stores, and “digital interactions influence 56 cents of every dollar spent [in a physical brick-and-mortar space].” (Deloitte study)
  • Every minute of Internet downtime costs retailers an average of $4,700. (source)
  • More than 90% of consumers use mobile devices when they shop. (source)

Having fast, secure, and reliable Internet access and “brand uptime” in physical stores is the main ingredient for efficient retail store operations and compelling customer experiences. Delivering that experience consistently attracts new customers and increases brand loyalty.

  • A Nielsen study found that 83% of customers say they would stop using a brand after just one bad experience. It takes a brand 12 positive experiences to make up for just one unresolved negative experience. (source)

Managing a consistently reliable in-store network requires secure connectivity in which the most business-critical traffic is moved to the highest priority, particularly during surge traffic.

How can retailers make this a reality, and have a plan in place in case of an interruption? While keeping IT operations simple and effective, no matter the size of the team? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Secure Wi-Fi access for customers and associates
  • SD-WAN for prioritizing and routing network traffic
  • Properly tuned wireless and switching infrastructure that is centrally managed
  • A security strategy that protects digital assets, including threat detection and remediation
  • Failover and secondary routes for traffic to reduce the impact of a network interruption

How do I get started?

How can retailers optimize their IT infrastructure and network to enable
secure store connectivity? What is needed?

To modernize the store IT infrastructure and network, retailers should first and foremost consider optimizing store bandwidth to prioritize network traffic, using edge compute technology. Then they need to think about storage and routing of data, which requires a proper Software-Defined Wide area Network (SD-WAN) to look at the real-time traffic happening in their stores - especially when there is a surge in traffic.

A properly utilized SD-WAN working with access points and a switch within a physical store allows you to create policies that are specific to your needs – meeting the expectations of your brand’s customers and store associates. Being able to create software-defined attributes for this routing of traffic brings scalability to the next level. Using policy-based routing prioritization, you can optimize the traffic flow from the store to the cloud, data center, or directly to the internet - enabling even the most agile IT team to scale store operations more quickly.

In this way, you can secure your Point-Of-Sale (POS) data so that all transactional traffic is secure both in motion and at rest - and works as it is intended during times of surge traffic.

Deliver a seamless, omnichannel customer experience on a segmented network that helps prevent a security infiltration to your store's network or may otherwise impact prioritized connectivity (such as transactional traffic or traffic that supports associate productivity). Doing so will improve the overall store experience throughout the end-to-end customer journey.

From an IT and data optimization standpoint, this segmentation also includes detecting what data should be sent to the cloud rather than being left on-premises, such as video footage from surveillance cameras vs. customer conversion data. Available bandwidth resulting from this local storage can therefore be used to more strategically and directly affect business outcomes rather than to transfer loads of insignificant data.

Additionally, to ensure the store's IT infrastructure and network support a positive shopping experience, retailers need failover in the event of a network interruption. For example, if there is a single point of failure between the store and HQ, and the server operating your POS system goes down, or your primary provider experiences an interruption, a proper SD-WAN can set policy-based alternate routes into motion for load-balancing and redundancy. And, a well-designed SD-WAN implementation can keep that correctly routed traffic secure while making sure that you have visibility into your network to protect against phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware. Use software-defined segmentation to detect and stop anomalies, remediate attacks, and protect critical business assets. That way, whether or not an unexpected failure or breach happens, your store connectivity and the in-store shopping experience is not affected for customers and store associates.

Bringing it all together

Physical stores and retail spaces need a reliable IT infrastructure to prioritize traffic and manage data security and network security. This business-critical requirement, however, also enables greater scalability for store operations to deliver a consistently positive retail experience for your customers and store associates.

When you are able to establish a securely optimized and connected store IT infrastructure, you can strategically add on more capabilities, such as mobility and hyperlocation services, to take your store operations to the next level. Here are some use cases to consider:

Cisco DNA Spaces

Real-time insights into the in-store behavior trends of people and assets

Cisco DNA Spaces
Cisco® wireless

Providing real-time in-app or web-based promotions in-store

Cisco® wireless
Cisco Meraki® cameras

IP-based cameras that can provide real-time security scans as well as heat mapping and people counting

Cisco Meraki® cameras
Cisco AppDynamics®

Application performance and mobile management for in-store engagement

Cisco AppDynamics®

If this sounds like a lot, the good news is, Cisco can help connect the dots. Modernizing your retail environment’s IT infrastructure is the first step to transforming the brick-and-mortar retail experience.

When your digital solutions are all supported by one network infrastructure (that is proven to be reliable and has end-to-end security already built into it), setup and management for your store’s IT operations become that much easier.

Leverage technology to create a secure environment for access and connectivity to the store’s network and improve the overall retail experience inside the store – don’t let technology overcome your business objectives.

What’s next?

What’s next?

Whether you operate in a cloud, a data center, or a hybrid IT infrastructure, Cisco can help you build the right solution for your brand and retail store needs. By building a platform and IT ecosystem that is right for you, you can scale your store operations, develop new applications, and gain insights more quickly. In other words, you can:

Scale resources more quickly and optimize investments by managing store networks centrally and configuring new networks without the heavy lifting.

Save money on cloud and data center storage, rather than continually purchasing expensive Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and other point solutions that hinder agility and scalability.

Feel confident in the secure Internet access your customers and associates have.

Offer mobile POS, endless aisle, personalization, and push notifications for consistent, frictionless digital experiences.

Prioritize bandwidth to enable uninterrupted business and mobile engagement regardless of a surge in traffic or other network interruption.

Scale the efficiencies of your associates and your IT purchases with an end-to-end secure network infrastructure that builds loyalty and customer trust.

Scale the efficiencies of your associates and your IT purchases with an end-to-end secure network infrastructure that builds loyalty and customer trust.

To learn more, we recommend these resources:

  • Why SD-WAN matters for physical retail video
  • Meraki for Retail tech stack solution webpage
  • How retail innovation rises or falls on IT infrastructure 3-part analyst paper
  • The future of wireless connectivity for retailers and the traditional consumer white paper
  • The Cisco solutions for Retail webpage