Networking Technology Enables Modern Shopping Experiences
In a hybrid world with online shopping options for everything, consumers rarely visit brick-and-mortar stores simply to shop for products — they want an engaging, cohesive, seamless shopping experience. To succeed in 2022, retailers must make it easy for consumers to find products, make purchases or learn about promotions, all at their fingertips, no matter where they’re located. Innovative digital solutions that improve the shopping experience have become more and more popular, but they all rely on one common denominator — the quality of the retailer’s network.
Location Services Are Creating Hybrid Experiences
Creating better hybrid experiences is fundamentally about two things: providing new benefits or eliminating frustration. A key to the latter is making sure that customers can, at any point, determine how to navigate the store to find an item or plan their trip. Indoor tracking through Wi-Fi location services is one tool leading retailers are using to improve the in-store shopper experience.
Technological developments in networks now allow for new levels of accuracy in tracking to be achieved by combining Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals from smartphones, allowing location accuracy to within one meter to three meters, and therefore provide retailers with the precision that's needed to track and guide shoppers inside malls and department stores. The network mesh can be defined virtually and becomes much more flexible for any retailer wishing to modify the layout of its points of sale, giving retailers of all sizes new tools to engage with customers more deeply, simultaneously in person and on their phones when they’re in-store.
From Scan & Go to Augmented Reality: Retailers Want to Provide New Shopping Experiences
For all retailers, the quality of the network has become a prerequisite for creating positive shopping experiences that will attract and retain customers. As retailers continue to design new, hybrid shopping experiences, this only grows in importance.
One example is the growing number of "Scan & Go" applications that remove the need to go to the checkout from the shopping experience. The customer can scan the barcode of a product and the application transfers all the commercial and marketing information to them, while offering payment options. Scan & Go can also be used to improve the operational processes of teams at the point of sale or in the warehouse.
However, if a large quantity of items are being purchased, Scan & Go via smartphone can be restrictive. Already seen in Amazon GO, the connected shopping cart can also be equipped with detection systems (i.e., computer vision or Bluetooth reading). Again, it automatically generates and updates the customer's bill as they add or remove products from the basket. For its part, the retail brand can follow the movement of its shopping carts in real time and deduce valuable behavioral information to optimize its point-of-sale devices.
Augmented reality (AR) also stimulates retailers' creativity. It allows for the display of contextual data. A connected shopping cart could display on its screen all kind of animations directly interacting with the products and offers located around the customer. It also allows customers to "test" products without having them physically and thus stimulate in-store ordering. AR technologies require the transmission of a large volume of information to consumers' terminals. The slightest failure of connectivity can turn the "wow" effect into a disappointment.
From marketing and sales to the supply chain, all departments within retail organizations are responsible for transforming their business and improving their performance. While in the first instance, the network is not their business, it's no longer the sole responsibility of IT departments. The business departments are the architects of their brand's future. These two entities participate in the same project but don't always share the same language; as a result, there's often a silo between them that hinders the company's ability to innovate. Therefore, it's essential that the business departments shaping the future of retail can participate in the choice of these network solutions to exploit their full potential.
Christian Gilby is the senior director of product marketing at Juniper Networks, a leader in secure, AI-driven networks.
Christian has 20-plus years of product marketing, management and engineering experience in the networking industry with a strong focus on mobility, AI, cloud and wireless and speaks often at industry events globally. He currently leads product marketing for the AI-Driven Enterprise portfolio (AI, Wi-Fi, switching, routing, SD-WAN), having joined Juniper through the acquisition of Mist. Previously he led product marketing for wired, wireless and branch solutions at Aruba (acquired by HPE). He led product marketing and product management for Agito Networks product line (acquired by ShoreTel). Prior to Agito, he was an early member of the Meru Networks (FTNT) team leading product management and partnerships in VoWLAN and Wi-Fi solutions. Christian started his career at Nortel Networks where he held several networking and VoIP project lead and software architect positions and was also granted a patent.