January 04, 2022

Article
3 min

Three Pillars of Retail Modernization

By focusing on these essentials, retailers can set themselves up to adapt in a rapidly changing field.

Wali Azim

Even before the COVID pandemic hit the U.S. in early 2020, many retailers were embracing digital strategies that emphasize the use of technology tools to increase brand loyalty, enable seamless omnichannel communication and enhance the customer experience. The events of the past two years only accelerated the need to modernize, as customers increasingly turned to digital channels to buy the things they need. 

But while workers in other industries stayed away from the office, shoppers largely returned to brick-and-mortar stores some time ago. To keep them coming back — and to compete with major e-commerce sites — retailers must provide the best experience possible. They can do that by focusing on the three main pillars of retail IT modernization: connectivity, applications and point of sale.

Connectivity

It’s no longer acceptable for shoppers to experience dead zones inside of stores. By providing adequate connectivity, retailers can not only improve the customer experience but also use their Wi-Fi networks to track shopping patterns and encourage customers to download their mobile apps. Robust connectivity is also a must to support peripherals such as digital signage and mobile point-of-sale devices.

We’re seeing more retailers opt for software-defined wide area networking, which provide higher bandwidth, improved network visibility and lower lifetime costs compared with multiprotocol label-switching networks. Perhaps most important, SD-WAN centralizes management. In fact, some retailers are outsourcing the management of their software-defined networks, freeing up internal staff for more strategic projects.

Applications

Traditionally, most retailers maintained monolithic applications that ran inside their data centers. The data generated by these applications was typically very dispersed, and the applications themselves usually were not well integrated.

Now, we’re seeing a move among retailers to make their applications cloud-native. This improves application agility and allows organizations to add an intelligence layer around their data, leading to better insights for business. The rapid pace of change in retail makes application agility crucial. Retailers simply can’t afford to completely redesign their websites, customer-facing mobile apps or other applications every time conditions shift. Rather, they need to be able to make quick changes — such as offering a new promotion — without interrupting uptime or performance. Cloud-native applications allow them to do that

Point of Sale

Many retailers are adopting point-of-sale devices that improve both employee productivity and the buying experience. These include mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) units, kiosks and devices that support endless-aisle functionality. Additionally, tap-and-go (or contactless) payments are becoming the norm. 

It’s increasingly important for POS systems to be fully integrated with inventory applications so that retailers have access to real-time data and can automate ordering. This is especially important as they look to turn their physical locations into micro-warehouses through initiatives such as buy online, pick up in store, or BOPIS.  

Retail is a complex industry, but its goal is simple: to get the products that customers want into their hands as quickly and conveniently as possible while creating an enjoyable in-store experience. IT modernization is essential to help retailers hit that target. 

Story by Wali Azim

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