How to ensure network connectivity across stores
By Mark Savage - Feb 13th 2018, 14:29
Most stores utilise a vast amount of technologies to keep running smoothly. In order to remain competitive, retailers are embracing mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to deliver an in-store and customer experience that wasn’t possible before.
Whether used to connect modern point of sale (POS) systems, digital signs or kiosks, improving the quality of retail operations requires a deep reliance on network connectivity.
Indeed, a strong Internet connection is an essential lifeline for stores. The days of using a piece of paper to track inventory and mark sales are gone, and more technologies like ATMS and kiosks rely on WiFi to function.
Unfortunately, many occurrences, like damaged lines and system crashes, can instantly take a store or many stores offline if they’re all on the same network. These outages can ruin a retailer’s bottom line, as analysts calculate that for each minute a POS system is down, it costs retailer $4,700.
Aside from revenue loss, the long-term effect of outages is another concern. Customer wait times for service increase, causing dissatisfaction in service. This, in turn, can deter new customers from entering the store and old customers from returning. While waiting in line, customers may use social media to express their frustration, which quickly damages a store’s reputation.
Retailers have the opportunity to proactively prepare for interrupted network connectivity and avoid the side effects of disconnected connectivity. Retailers need dependable means to ensure the Internet is running across all their stores with uniform solutions, such as:
LTE router with failover cellular to maximise uptime
Retailers shouldn’t rely on their primary landline-based connection as their only source of connectivity. To avoid costly outages, they should implement a cellular failover solution. If the primary source goes out, the failover cellular network kicks in immediately, just like a generator for your house. When the power goes out, the generator kicks in.
When disconnection occurs, a wireless connection ensures connections are automatically switched to 3G or 4G LTE. Most wireless operations offer a “four-nines” connection, ensuring 99.99 percent reliability – meaning that when the fixed line goes down, a business has assured connectivity. On-premise wireless routers have the ability to connect with multiple carriers, which is advantageous if one network is down or if an area has spotty coverage from a certain carrier.
An LTE router allows for scalability across chain store locations and enables synergies with administration and implementation. Network technicians can monitor and make repairs remotely, which reduces the cost of repair times, network downtime and overall cost from the retailer when we consider the time needed for technicians to travel and complete network repairs and updates on site.
Another bonus of using this technology is that cellular data plans are less expensive, more reliable and faster than a wireline. Purchasing a pooled data plan can greatly reduce annual costs.
Separate networks to secure data for consumers and retailers
Consumers expect to access high-speed Internet within stores, and with more devices connecting to a store’s WiFi than ever before, there is also an increased risk of security threats. Eighty-eight percent of retailer (according to 2017 Thales Data Threat Report, Retail Edition)
were vulnerable to data breaches in 2017, with 60% claiming they had been breached and 75% of consumers believe that keeping shopper information safe is the retailer’s responsibility.
By offering various networks that have separate connectivity routes for the main and other offered networks, retailers can leverage network diversity to guarantee continuity for themselves and their customers, while keeping information separate and secure. Investing in separate networks for consumer Internet use and the point-of-sale and asset management systems allows shoppers to register on the in-store WiFi, which provides them with the opportunity to link their identity with beacon data on the same networks. This enables shoppers to browse freely, while also allowing the marketing system to send shoppers personalised offers based on their browsing habits without putting the store’s sensitive data at risk.
BYON solution brings connectivity to locations with no fixed-line capability
To extend their brand presence in a cost-effective manner, retailers are introducing kiosks and digital signs, so they can remotely swap out content. These techniques can skyrocket business as 76% of consumers say they entered a store based off of seeing a digital sign, and 46% of retailers (according to a study by Technavio) rely on kiosks for sales. While these sales tactics allow retailers to deliver an omnichannel shopping experience and increase consumer touchpoints, they have also brought a new set of challenges given the lack of fixed-line connectivity.
Bring-your-own-network (BYON) is the simplest solution as it takes advantage of the benefits of cellular primary connectivity, can be quickly set up and reduces security risk. Digital signs and kiosks can use cellular modems as a single point of connection on each display or as an aggregation point when combined with secure WiFi, depending on the location and density of deployment, the possibility of WiFi being overloaded and the possibility of traffic interference. Each installation can be assessed based on cost, usage security and location.
The versatility of the solution means that signage and kiosks can be placed anywhere and repositioned easily as layouts change. Digital signs and kiosks use completely separate networks from corporate network and can be managed from a central point, making continuous availability of connectivity secure and convenient.
The bottom line: chain retailers are becoming more dependent on connectivity for simple, day-to-day operations and to offer enhanced service to shoppers. With the proactive connectivity solutions available, there’s no reason to miss out on sales due to downtime. Many solutions are now easy to setup and maintain and offer retailers peace-of-mind knowing that if their primary connection goes down, their business won’t have to go down with it.
© 2018 Chain Store Age.
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