The UK retail industry has had a difficult few years. Even before the pandemic, headlines regularly announced the “demise of the high street”, which has driven many retailers to embrace eCommence strategies instead, or as well as, their bricks and mortar stores.
Then Covid-19 closed numerous retail outlets completely, transformed car parks into queuing zones, with some shops becoming purely click and collect depots. Online retailers thrived and those without an eCommerce presence quickly deployed digital technology to keep them in the game.
Now, as business returns to ‘normal’, many retail IT teams are managing very complex technology estates. Physical locations often deploy legacy on-premise technology, connected using traditional networks like MPLS (multiprotocol label switching), whereas the eCommerce entity is all in the cloud. HQ has also been transformed, with back office teams using cloud platforms for remote and hybrid work, connecting to on-premise applications via VPNs, proxy servers and virtualisation.
IT teams are therefore spread thin managing complex networks to ensure that business users can access the systems and apps they need to deliver excellent customer service and ultimately collect payments.
With all these competing technologies, you and your IT team need ways to get visibility over the entire network to ensure that business critical traffic is sent by the optimal route: whether that’s sending data between branches and HQ, a warehouse and the cloud, or a customer’s device while using your in-store services.
Managed SD-WAN can help you achieve this because it overlays existing connectivity technology, such as MPLS, broadband and 4G/5G, and selects the most efficient and secure route depending on the traffic’s attributes.
Furthermore, while SD-WAN can replace legacy network infrastructure like MPLS, it’s not a prerequisite. Instead, it can allow you to extend the life of existing network technology until you’re ready to upgrade.
SD-WAN is beneficial for any business with multiple sites and utilising cloud and on-premise technology. However, for IT teams in the retail industry it can be a vital part of delivering an omnichannel experience for both customers and staff.
Put simply, omnichannel is about providing an equal experience for customers or employees wherever they are. For example, an omnichannel experience allows customers to browse your store on a desktop, compare prices on a mobile device, then visit a physical shop to make a purchase — all without having to restart their customer journey.
An omnichannel employee experience means that staff can access the apps and systems they need, and are not penalised with poor performance because of their location. It delivers an equality of user experience whether they’re working from a branch, HQ or in a home office.
Managed SD-WAN helps facilitate this by ensuring customers and staff have the connectivity needed to take advantage of omnichannel platforms. For example, SD-WAN supports API connectivity, which in turn supports the use of alternative payment methods as well as enabling value-added services like analytics. API connectivity is critical for delivering consistent user experiences across eCommerce and physical channels.
There are two ways you can deploy SD-WAN solutions. You could purchase and deploy a solution like Fortinet’s Secure SD-WAN and handle configuration, monitoring and management yourself.
Or you could work with a Managed Service Provider offering a Managed SD-WAN service, and free up your team to focus on other activities. The benefits of this approach - along with the benefits of SD-WAN solutions - are:
By optimising network performance, enhancing application delivery, providing centralised management, and ensuring secure and scalable connectivity, Managed SD-WAN facilitates quick access to critical systems, data, and resources necessary for launching products and services efficiently.
Gives customers and employees a consistent and equal experience, boosting their productivity and helping the business become more competitive and profitable.
SD-WAN is configured to prioritise business-critical traffic and real-time services and route them by the optimal path. This reduces latency issues, and packet loss, and improves productivity - and your ability to collect payments.
SD-WAN simplifies and optimises your network with a single, centralised solution in the cloud, reducing visits to physical branches. If you take advantage of a Managed SD-WAN, the service provider will be responsible for most site visits relating to the service.
A Managed SD-WAN service can reduce costs by aggregating licensing across multiple sites and reducing your total cost of ownership. It also moves traffic away from expensive MPLS networks, leveraging low-cost local internet access where appropriate as well as direct cloud access.
Customers want digital technology in-store such as interactive fitting rooms, free WiFi and charging hubs, mobile POS systems, electronic price tags, NFC and VR technology and in-store apps and kiosks. To deliver this level of in-store customer experience your network must do a lot of heavy lifting. SD-WAN improves network uptime, performance and redundancy.
SD-WAN can reduce the time it takes to install and configure the network infrastructure at new sites, and the time it takes to deploy new online services. SD-WAN scales and flexes with your business’ needs. It can also overlay and integrate any legacy networks that you “inherit” because of M&A activities.
Customers are often quick to complain about poor service and it’s never been so easy to give a retailer a bad review. Any inconvenience such as an issue with a POS or the free WiFi not working, could result in a negative comment on social media or on a review site. SD-WAN can prevent service disruptions by utilising automatic failover and, as it constantly monitors the network, it knows the optimal path to send business-critical traffic at any given time.
Enabling direct cloud access from a branch or remote site, eliminates backhauling traffic so cloud applications perform at their best. This also improves network performance across other areas of the network - as traffic to the cloud is no longer routed to HQ first.
Secure SD-WAN solutions incorporate robust security measures to protect retailers' network infrastructure and sensitive data. By leveraging technologies like encryption, next-generation firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems, retailers can establish secure connections between their various locations and data centers. This enhanced security not only protects against cyber threats but also ensures compliance with industry regulations, allowing retailers to launch new services and expand their reach without compromising data security.
Networks have become increasingly complex, especially when a business operates both from a physical location and in the cloud. Managed SD-WAN solutions offer centralised management and control, enabling retailers to efficiently provision, monitor, and manage their network infrastructure. With a centralised dashboard, retailers can make real-time adjustments, implement security policies, and manage network configurations across multiple locations. Better still as a managed service, this can be left in control the service provider or on a co-managed basis, the choice is yours. Automation features also streamline network operations, reducing manual errors and accelerating deployment times, which ultimately speeds up the time it takes to bring new stores or branches online.
Like many veterinary practices IVC Evidensia shares the same network challenges as other growing healthcare retail companies. A series of acquisitions meant that the IT team at IVC Evidensia was managing a very complex legacy network, at the same time as trying to provide a consistent experience for both customers and employees across the group.
Demand from customers and staff for digital services was also competing for the IT team’s attention. By using our Titanium Secure SD-WAN service, IVC Evidensia has substantially reduced management overheads and captured the following key benefits:
● High-quality, fast, dependable and consistent connectivity at all its sites
● More time to focus on strategic IT activities as TIEVA's manages the service and technical support
● Lower costs via bill consolidation and generating maximum economies of scale for the business
● Flexibility and scalability that’s aligned with the business’ growth strategy: a solution that can be quickly deployed across new sites
● Increased visibility and management across its whole estate from a single ‘pane of glass’
SD-WAN’s overlay functionality means that many retailers can get the benefits without having to replace the entire legacy network infrastructure. Its ability to scale and flex with business demand helps you to future-proof your network. A Managed SD-WAN service also gives you access to a team of networking experts who become an extension of your team, aligning their service with your needs and strategic objectives.
TIEVA is a trusted provider of Managed Secure SD-WAN services. By converging high-performance SD-WAN and Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) security into a single solution, Titanium Secure SD-WAN from TIEVA simplifies your IT architecture while meeting the security and performance requirements of today’s digital organisations. Titanium Secure SD-WAN is delivered as a managed service to ensure you capture the many benefits of digital transformation without adding more complexity to your IT team’s existing workloads.