Omnichannel Retail Strategy Starts with the Network
By AJ Moul, Vice President, Media, Content, Commerce & Technology at Zayo
Today’s retail customers demand a deeply personalized, consistent, connected, and convenient experience whether they’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, through online channels, on a mobile device, via social media platforms, or through a combination of channels. This is something we refer to as an “omnichannel retail experience.”
With 73% of shoppers using multiple channels to make a purchase decision, retailers must optimize the omnichannel customer journey to succeed. In this blog, I’ll share what a good omnichannel retail experience looks like, the common challenges barring retailers from achieving omnichannel success, and how networking technology can help.
The Characteristics of a Good Omnichannel Retail Experience
So, what does the ideal omnichannel retail experience look like? There are a few characteristics that define a good omnichannel retail experience.
A good omnichannel retail experience is:
- Data-driven. A robust data strategy is one of the first steps in achieving omnichannel retail success. Data gathered at customer touchpoints related to customer behavior, transactions, website interactions, preferences, and general trends reveal meaningful insights. Omnichannel retailers use these insights to drive great customer experiences and improve customer satisfaction.
- Consistent across platforms. A customer’s experience in-store, online, through applications, and other channels should be consistent. Messaging, promotional offers, and products should be the same across channels. Retailers should store and integrate data in real time for coherent experiences.
- Customer-centric. Retailers should gain a deep understanding of what customers want by gathering consumer feedback through surveys, questionnaires, and their own collected touchpoint data. This can help retailers understand where to improve product and service offerings and in-person and virtual shopping experiences.
- Hyper-personalized. Personalization is becoming an industry standard for retailers. According to research from McKinsey & Company, 71% of consumers expect personalized brand experiences. Data should inform tailored marketing messages, product recommendations, promotional offers, and post-purchase follow-ups.
- Transparent. Retailers should use data and automation to update inventory information in real time. Customers want accurate product availability information wherever they’re shopping. Incorrect inventory information can erode trust with buyers and encourage them to shop elsewhere.
- Convenient. Omnichannel retail experiences enable customers to shop where and how they want. Retailers should offer various options for shopping, payment, delivery, and returns.
What’s Standing in the Way of an Omnichannel Retail Experience?
Though retailers aim to achieve a seamless customer experience, many still encounter challenges in achieving true omnichannel retail success. 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better shopping experience. This makes addressing these challenges critical to a retailer’s bottom line.
Four common challenges often stand in the way of retailers’ omnichannel success.
Divergent Networking Systems Breed Poor Data Integration
A lack of data sharing among the network, point of sale system, internal software, and processes fragments customer experiences. Divergent systems can result in lost opportunities for personalization, ineffective marketing, improper inventory management, data security risks, and misinformed customer service. Legacy networking systems, a lack of data interoperability and strategy, and vendor lock-in often cause divergent systems.
Legacy Networking Systems Stifle Innovation
Legacy networking systems not only block data interoperability, they also stifle innovation. Retailers relying on legacy systems often can’t tap into modern technologies like cloud computing. This limits their ability to adopt applications like artificial intelligence, automation, and IoT.
Older networking systems are often slower and less flexible, scalable, and reliable than modern networks. Antiquated systems also incur larger maintenance and labor costs. The upfront cost of modernizing systems may hold retailers back, but the cost of retaining existing systems is higher.
Data Privacy is Complex to Manage Across Channels
Retailers know data privacy is incredibly important. However, the complex web of platforms, systems, and the data traveling between them make security a challenge.
To add to concerns, if the network goes down because of something like a DDoS attack, any downtime can be detrimental. If customers are unable to visit a retailer’s website or checkout online or in-store, they may choose to shop elsewhere. Plus, retailers must comply with data privacy regulations, and the penalties for non-compliance can be severe.
Technology and Networking Investments Strain Tight Budgets
Supplied with shrinking budgets, retail IT teams seek to maximize return on investment. However, it can be tough to navigate POS systems, security, eCommerce, and networking options while staying within budget.
Solving Omnichannel Retail Challenges with Networking Technology
Retailers facing legacy systems, complex security, and tight budgets can enhance omnichannel strategy and boost ROI by streamlining and modernizing network infrastructure. The key is to partner with a network infrastructure provider with a comprehensive suite of solutions.
Look for the following qualities when assessing network service providers:
- Scalable Bandwidth: Retail tech demands substantial bandwidth for innovation. Modern providers like Zayo offer up to 800G bandwidth, providing the scalability to meet ever-increasing bandwidth demands.
- Low Latency Connections: Real-time data is vital for applications like IoT, analytics, and POS systems. Zayo offers low-latency fiber routes and SD-WAN for optimal network performance.
- Always-on, Reliable Connectivity: Downtime harms revenue and reputation. Trusted providers like Zayo ensure 99.99% uptime with redundant, diverse fiber networks.
- Holistic Security: It’s essential to protect sensitive consumer data from edge to core to cloud. Seek a provider with a robust security strategy. This should include built-in and add-on features like SASE, DDoS protection, and private cloud connectivity.
- Efficient Edge Routing with SD-WAN: SD-WAN enhances performance, security, and scalability. It enables low-latency, high-speed connections for real-time data exchange and cost savings.
- Expert Support and Managed Services: Working with a trusted managed service provider ensures expert monitoring and support. This helps retailers avoid long-term overspending that results from building and managing one’s own SD-WAN solution.
By modernizing and streamlining the network, retailers can improve operations, confidently take on new technologies, save money, and ensure maximum data security, ultimately creating a true omnichannel retail experience for customers.
Take a Deeper Dive Into the Network Implications of Omnichannel Retail
Our whitepaper goes one step further. Gain key omnichannel retail trends and challenges and how network technologies solve common problems and create new opportunities. Read the whitepaper.