Automation over global network map showing how retailers can leverage SD-WAN
How Smaller Retailers Can Leverage SD-WAN to Win on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Beyond by Cliff Duffey, President and Founder at Cybera

How Smaller Retailers Can Leverage SD-WAN to Win on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Beyond

Once considered a strictly U.S. shopping holiday, but now “celebrated” around the world, Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent two of the most important business days for retailers. And, with some of the most respected industry pundits, such as Deloitte, forecasting that Cyber Monday sales might approach Black Friday sales this year, IT and business professionals at both brick-and-mortar stores and e-tailers are feeling the pressure. That’s because they now understand that even though bargains will likely attract the attention of many consumers this holiday shopping season, the entire customer experience (CX) will truly win or lose them for the long term.

Today, the path to a consumer’s heart lies in technology. However, it isn’t always obvious which technology investment will yield the greatest return. Innovative technologies—such as virtual reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), payment and loyalty apps—are likely at the top of most retailers’ wish lists, given their high potential to deliver expedient, personalized, and immersive digital experiences.

However, these technologies aren’t always feasible for smaller retailers (including franchisees or even the remote retail locations of large retail brands) because they typically lack the budget and/or onsite IT resources to effectively integrate, manage, and protect the resulting platforms, apps, and data. Unfortunately, these limitations can put smaller retailers at a distinct disadvantage when competing against large retailers and e-tailers.

SD-WAN: The great equalizer this holiday shopping season and beyond

One of the greatest technology equalizers for a smaller retailer’s digital transformation this holiday season is a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) platform that provides the network foundation for greater business and IT agility, flexibility, and security.

SD-WAN is particularly useful for connecting remote business locations at the edge of a distributed enterprise network, where many smaller retailers tend to operate. It serves as a network overlay for remote sites to consolidate multiple network functions and applications over low-cost broadband connections. Because they are software-based, SD-WANs can be remotely customized and reconfigured to quickly address changing business and industry trends. By design, they also reduce the number of network devices and connections needed at each site, significantly lowering complexity and costs.

By leveraging SD-WAN technology as the backbone of their digital transformation, smaller retailers can quickly adopt new revenue-generating technologies that transform the retail experience by:

  • Overcoming the legacy burden
  • Increasing IT agility
  • Ensuring secure change and innovation
  • Enabling more immersive, personalized experiences

Overcoming the legacy burden

Recent research has revealed that retailers spend as much as 58% of their entire IT budget maintaining legacy systems, and traditional WANs account for 63% of network spending (Gartner). But using such a large percentage of the IT budget just to maintain legacy networks doesn’t clear the way for digital transformation. Investing in strategic IT—such as advanced platforms and applications that optimize the customer experience (CX), as well as the employee experience (EX), is a much smarter strategy for long-term success.

Deploying innovative technology, such as SD-WAN, can streamline digital transformation and dramatically reduce costs. In fact, an IDC SD-WAN survey revealed that nearly a quarter of respondents anticipated SD-WAN cost savings of 20 to 39%. That’s because improving network intelligence via software reduces both complexity and cost while increasing flexibility.

Increasing IT agility

To compete with online mega-sellers this holiday shopping season, smaller retailers must act more like tech companies—increasing IT agility and innovation while expanding their use of mobile technologies. Because consumers are living in a digital-first world, their behaviors and expectations are evolving as quickly as the technology itself.

As a result, smaller retailers that have found it challenging to keep up with technology must take a page from the companies that have learned to operate more nimbly and efficiently by leveraging technology as a competitive advantage. Fortunately, SD-WAN can help turn IT into a growth engine with more agile business processes, simplified networks, and automation to keep up with larger competitors and leapfrog similar-size retailers.

Ensuring secure change and innovation

Smaller retailers are often hesitant to embrace innovation unless they’re sure they’ll be able to mitigate potential cybersecurity risks. This is particularly true in today’s era when a single high-profile security breach can be enormously expensive, both financially and from a brand reputation standpoint. The truth is, the latest technology typically brings dramatically higher levels of security while opening new business opportunities.

By leveraging the adaptive security strategies of the right SD-WAN platform—such as active network monitoring, next-generation firewalls, secure payment systems, and automated PCI compliance tools—smaller retailers can enjoy a robust security posture for the digital age. To further protect their business and customer data, they can also isolate certain types of application traffic, such as keeping payment data separate from guest Wi-Fi traffic. Deploying these cybersecurity methods and technologies can help streamline the digital transformation of even the smallest retailers.

Enabling more immersive, personalized experiences

As customer experience rises to the top of long-term loyalty indicators, technology plays a critical role. Both in-person and online (“omnichannel”) experiences are a vital element of the shopping activity. If smaller retailers don’t realize that the two are intrinsically interlinked, they’ll be at a distinct disadvantage.

With an agile SD-WAN platform, these retailers can compete in a much more dynamic world, adapting to new consumer trends by quickly rolling out cloud-based apps and services to attract new customers and grow revenue. By replicating the type of immersive experiences typically associated with larger retailers, smaller retailers can create an “omnichannel” shopping experience that e-tailers simply can’t provide.

As we approach the busiest shopping season of the year, smaller retailers now have the great equalizer they need to deliver a truly compelling customer experience. By embracing a strategic, agile approach to digital transformation using SD-WAN, they can effectively compete against much larger competitors on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and every other day of the year.