Wireless WAN: What it is and Why it Holds the Key to Unlocking Retail’s New Normal
COVID-19 forced great change on the retail industry, but this period only marks the beginning of how consumer habits are changing and the way retailers ultimately reach shoppers as well.
For example, PwC found that 45 percent of consumers say they’re using their mobile phone more as a shopping channel since the COVID-19 outbreak. Furthermore, the industry has also seen a sharp rise in BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store).
So, what's the key to unlocking the future of retail? It centers around the idea of Wireless WAN (Wireless Wide Area Networks) — the next wave of network transformation which enables connectivity with greater simplicity, agility and security.
What is Wireless WAN?
Wireless is becoming the preferred form of connectivity for retailers, enabling a flexible and unified approach to connecting people, places and things anywhere. Cradlepoint found 91 percent of companies are currently using or planning to adopt wireless, in the form of LTE and 5G.
Wireless is especially important in a time of pop-up stores or nontraditional floor layouts amid the pandemic, or for BOPIS, where the customer pickup location may be out of the range of the store Wi-Fi. With wireless, retailers can avoid costly re-wiring when a network must be shifted around, having flexibility in where their connectivity is.
ROI for Wireless WAN
Nemertes Research recently interviewed technology leaders at 12 companies, 40 percent of which were in retail. The report found that Wireless WAN provided significant value over legacy wired connections like MPLS T1s and DSL. Companies were able to save, on average, 53 percent, while at the same time experience much higher performance.
It also reduces the wait for setting up services by a factor of 1,000, delivering in less than an hour what normally takes more than a month. This is especially important in a time when retailers may need to pivot strategies quickly, like through the creation of pop-up stores.
A national retailer included in this report began rolling out Wireless WAN in 2019, and deployed it across its entire network. For that company, wireless has been a “wildly and widely successful” solution delivering “better response times, better bandwidth, better reliability, better consistency,” according to the network administrator cited in the report.
Steps for a Wireless Future
To get started on a Wireless WAN journey, retailers must ask themselves what they need from their agile networks. Do you need to flexibly move locations or employ an isolated network to support business needs away from production networks? Do you need to deploy a network right away vs. something that needs to wait for a wired connection? As we've especially seen in recent months, this agility is of growing importance to retailers.
Retailers also must explore the locations themselves and determine how needs may vary. For example, do you have many smaller locations or many larger locations? How networking savvy are staff onsite? Could your locations benefit from an all-in-one device to serve many functions?
Retailers can also benefit from having a secondary connection to maintain network uptime. For example, sometimes if a wired connection goes down, your wired secondary connection can also go down. This could cause a store to temporarily lose its entire network and, as a result, a key revenue driver. Having wireless as a secondary connection can provide a diverse path to a much higher network uptime potential — keeping money moving and applications functioning.
Regardless of the path taken, the time to invest in Wireless WAN is now. The retailers that do will not only come out of the pandemic with success, but will also lead the way in their industry for years to come. This is especially the case as retail enters the 5G era and wireless only becomes more enhanced and reliable.
James Weaver is a senior product marketing manager, and Dee Dee Pare’ is a senior product marketing manager, both at Cradlepoint, a provider of wireless edge solutions that unlock the power of LTE and 5G cellular networks to give your WAN the boundless reach, nonstop reliability, and real-time agility it needs to keep up with your business.
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