Powering the Next-Generation Store: Is Your Network Ready?

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By Mike Tippets - 01/30/2019

If you believe the rumors, the brick and mortar store is a dying breed. However, at Hughes we are witnessing a rebirth of the retail store as the hub of the customer experience. In fact, retailers committed to the digital transformation of the customer experience in stores are thriving. We see successful retailers empowering their employees to become brand champions by investing in training and company communications and equipping them with technology, such as iPads and tablets, so they can offer targeted suggestions to customers strolling the aisles. They’re deploying easy and convenient mobile checkouts from anywhere within a store. They’re maintaining up-to-the minute inventory accuracy so customers can purchase online and pick-up at a store within the hour. And, in most instances, we see them doing all of the above!

This next-generation store depends on its digital infrastructure – the always on, always available digital foundation that enables a brand to communicate with their customers and employees and surround them with clear and engaging information. That means every store across a brand must have an always on, always available network that enables:

  • Direct cloud access to providers and apps
  • Fast, secure payment transactions
  • Interactive store platforms
  • Ubiquitous cloud access for data analytics, voice-assisted technology and other artificial intelligence (AI) applications
  • In-store WiFi for customers and employees alike
  • Dynamic digital signage and point of sale promotions

Building and maintaining the network to support the customer experience and employee engagement initiatives that enable a brick-and-mortar store to thrive requires nothing short of a digital transformation.

THE MYTH OF MORE BANDWIDTH

Too often, retailers look to keep pace with the ever-increasing number of in-store digital apps and innovations by adding more bandwidth. After all, they reason, adding more bandwidth to existing networks will eliminate delays and congestion. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Adding bandwidth increases costs; yet it doesn’t necessarily deliver better or more efficient network performance. This is because available bandwidth fluctuates significantly and most applications expand to use all available bandwidth regardless of the circuit size. In this environment, any portfolio of applications attempting to send 60 Mbps of traffic across a 50 Mbps  circuit will cause congestion and dropped packets. Instead of increasing efficiency, more bandwidth alone often (and counter-intuitively) fails to address the root cause of application failures and continues to deliver a poor user experience.

Only 27% of retailers are very satisfied with their store network's capacity. Source: A study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Hughes, April 2018. To read the full report, click the image.

CRACKING THE CODE OF CAPACITY AVAILABILITY

What’s the solution? Determining exactly how much capacity is available at any given moment. As available bandwidth varies, and the network’s ability to serve the application load grows or contracts, the trick is to match network traffic to the exact available capacity. Any additional traffic that a network tries to push through beyond that capacity bogs down the network and degrades the user experience.

Source: IHL Group, " Prime Challenge – How Amazon Prime Has Changed Retailing"

The HughesON Managed SD-WAN solution with ActiveTechnologies determines the capacity available in real-time and fits traffic within those precise limits. While some providers measure capacity once every 30 minutes, we measure capacity four times every second. Automatically, our technologies shape and reshape the network traffic at sub-second speeds to ensure the efficient handling of all traffic. And Hughes technologies can be overlaid onto any existing WAN connection, whether it’s a DSL in Duluth or a T-1 line in Tampa. The result is an always on, always available network – even over low-speed broadband connections.

BECOMING A NEXT-GEN STORE

Retailers that embrace true digital transformation are finding new ways to deliver a powerful customer experience. For example:

  1. With customer insights, such as those offered by HughesON Presence Analytics, retailers gain understanding into customer behavior to guide decision-making. When they know that the customer is in a specific store, they can provide targeted product recommendations through a brand app. They might also suggest items that are in stock or on clearance. As they gather additional data, retailers become better positioned to set staffing levels to improve the customer experience.
  2. With a digital signage network like the HughesON Digital Signage solution, retailers can display store-specific content and promotions to engage customers right at the moment it will be most compelling. Signage in a breakroom can deliver video-based training on products, promotions, and customer engagement to empower employees to serve customers. And all of this signage can be delivered via LG SmartTV’s with integrated video player technology and our cloud-based content management system, requiring no additional wiring or hardware.
  3. And with a robust WiFi service, like our Hughes Managed WiFi, stores can leverage guest mobile devices like cell phones into their customer experience, and enterprise solutions such as mobile POS and employee mobile platforms.  Allowing the customer to engage via their most commonly used tool, their phone, and meeting them on the store floor where the shopper is interacting with products, is a powerful way to elevate the customer experience.

In Hughes' experience working with dozens of major retailers, including 40% of the National Retail Federation top 25, brick and mortar stores are as important to brand success as its online presence. The great news is, when every location across a brand has an always on, always available network, the possibilities for the next generation store are endless.

About Hughes

Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES) is a leading provider of managed network services under its HughesON brand. For large enterprises and governments, the company’s HughesON managed network services provide complete connectivity solutions employing an optimized mix of terrestrial, wireless and satellite technologies. The company’s approach is anchored by deep relationships with broadband service providers that span the range of technologies – from cable, fiber and DSL to microwave, wireless (4G LTE), and Hughes own market-leading High Throughput Satellite service. With more than 40 years of experience in enterprise networks, Hughes has helped organizations scale to meet their digital needs with twice the bandwidth, at prices between one-third to one-half the cost of dedicated service lines. Headquartered outside Washington, D.C., in Germantown, Maryland, USA, Hughes operates sales and support offices worldwide, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corporation.