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How SD-WAN is transforming retail

Michael Cabra, Senior Product Manager at Cybera, looks at why retailers of all sizes should be investing in technologies such as SD-WAN.

When it comes to shopping in-store, today’s consumers expect a truly connected experience that lets them switch between physical and digital channels – without missing a beat.

Little wonder then that smart retailers are striving to combine their physical and online retail platforms to serve customers better and integrate the ease of the online shopping experience into a physical store location. They’re also exploiting new technologies, like IoT and virtual reality, to deliver fluid, interactive, immersive and personalised in-store shopping experiences that truly resonate with customers.

Making this all happen, however, requires a flexible network foundation that enables any retailer, regardless of size, to realise the positive impacts of digital transformation in a fast and affordable way. And that’s where a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) can help.

Making the move to SD-WAN

To compete with online mega-sellers and deliver against the fast-evolving expectations of today’s digital consumers, retailers need to boost their IT agility and expand their use of mobile technologies.

That’s no easy task, especially for smaller retailers who find their complicated legacy networks are hampering their ability to unleash digital innovation and compete in an increasingly dynamic world.

Fortunately, SD-WAN platforms make it easy to simplify networks, integrate each and every store, and initiate fast and reliable access to both on-premise and cloud-based applications. Paving the way for digital transformation initiatives that can prove pivotal – especially for smaller footprint retailers.

Whether that’s initiating new in-store digital technologies and enabling automation and more agile business processes that level the playing field with larger competitors. Or managing and monitoring remote sites and inventory to increase profitability and enable the faster collection of customer online orders in-store.

Securing retail innovation

We’re living in an era when a high profile cybersecurity breach can prove costly and have a big impact on brand reputation. So, when it comes to the distributed network, smaller retailers need to be certain that IT teams can cope with new digital initiatives and changing customer demands without compromising on security.

The good news is that with the right SD-WAN platform in place, IT teams can leverage a single set of adaptive security strategies – such as active network monitoring, next generation firewalls and secure payment systems – to ensure the business and its data is protected.

They’re also free to focus on higher order security functions; for example, isolating certain types of application traffic into logical networks to ensure payment data is kept separate from guest Wi-Fi traffic.

Utilising these sophisticated cybersecurity methods and technologies, even the smallest retailer can take an integrated security approach that both streamlines digital transformation efforts and makes it easy to mitigate against any associated security risks.

The store of the future is physical

Tech-led retail is going mainstream and smaller retailers will need to keep up with consumers, for whom the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds are blurring. The fast-paced adoption of augmented reality, virtual reality, beacons, 3D printing and touchscreen kiosks means retail brands need to embrace a digital strategy fast – or risk being left to play catchup with the rest of the market.

Investing in technologies like SD-WAN can help redress the balance for smaller retailers that want to initiate tech-driven stores. Whether that’s enabling customers to sign-in the moment they walk through the door and enjoy a personalised shopping journey that’s packed with recommendations and offers. Or initiating in-store tech that makes shopping efficient, differentiated and seamless.

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