Shopping carts doubling as a cashier, personalized promotions to your phone depending on where you are in the store, and ordering your weekly groceries without lifting a finger — these are just some of the exciting technological advancements that are hitting retail outlets all over the United States. With retail technology advancing rapidly, retailers are racing to ensure that they keep up, and it showed at this year’s RetailEXPO. Some of the biggest names in the industry exhibited their latest tech advancements, from artificial intelligence (AI) shopping assistants to biometric robot mannequins. However, many are neglecting one major component that's essential for smart store success: connectivity.
A recent study of 200 retail professionals was carried out at RetailEXPO. It revealed that while 72 percent of retail professionals believe AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the industry’s biggest IT challenges over the next five years, the majority still experience unplanned network downtime and outages impacting their businesses during peak hours. Furthermore, more than a quarter of those surveyed don't have a network redundancy plan. A network redundancy plan is like a backup generator for your connectivity. It's a process whereby alternative network equipment and communication mediums are installed into a network infrastructure, helping to ensure connectivity in the event of a network path failure.
With no network redundancy plans, retailers are open to connection crashes during peak times that can last hours and cause distress to consumers, as well as serious damage to their reputation. This nightmare has been very much a reality for many retailers, especially during busy shopping seasons. Big names such as Lowe's, J.Crew, GameStop, Best Buy and even Walmart saw their websites go down for several hours during Black Friday, and Macy’s was unable to process credit cards or gift cards in recent years. The companies were inundated with tweets from angry shoppers who couldn’t partake in the annual sales.
Recently, other forms of retailers have experienced the horror of network connectivity issues. Both AMC and Fandango had their apps crash when the pre-sale tickets for the latest "Avengers" movie went on sale, leaving customers unable to purchase tickets for hours. In May, Apple’s App Store went down for several hours, which meant customers were unable to access one of Apple’s largest profit sources.
With summer sales quickly approaching and the increase of technology used for Black Friday, Christmas and other peak retail events, it's imperative that retailers focus on implementing comprehensive network redundancy plans to ensure they remain connected at all times. While AI and IoT are the future of retail and will revolutionize the industry, it will be impossible for retailers to take full advantage of these emerging technologies without reliable connectivity.
Todd Krautkremer is the chief marketing officer of Cradlepoint, the global leader in cloud-delivered LTE and 5G wireless network edge solutions.