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Retail-ready networks


By Beatrice Piquer-Durand, [email protected]

With retailers moving their operations to the cloud, network performance is becoming more diverse, complex and central to the industry than ever before. Major retailers now operate through many disparately located stores, manage multiple suppliers and operate numerous systems such as websites and loyalty cards. Take, for example the French retailer Leroy Merlin which employs 19,000 people and has over 150 outlets Europe-wide. An operation of this scale requires a large number of business critical applications such as POS, ERP and CRM not to mention applications such as email and SharePoint to be delivered over the network simultaneously to many locations such as stores, warehouses and branch offices.

High-volume traffic generated by a plethora of applications can be problematic especially at peak business times. As retailers add killer applications such as fixed mobile convergence and digital signage or photo booths to the network this problem grows still further. Congestion on the network can build up and lead to significantly slowed application performance or can even interrupt network availability completely.

Whilst this can be disastrous for any business it is particularly so for retail where revenue relies so much on real-time customer experience in-store. Application performance brownouts slow down supply chains, negatively impact store inventories and lead to long lines at the checkout causing customers to abandon their purchases. Overall, Gartner Dataquest estimates that these problems with application delivery can cost major retailers up to $90,000. Chain Store Age reported that downtime on Black Friday = >$1,500 a minute.

The answer to these problems is not to throw more bandwidth at them: traffic elasticity and constant growth will always create congestions, hence poor performance (without mentioning the increased cost). The solution lies in controlling application flows according to their business criticality in real-time, prioritizing the key ones ahead of applications such as email and social media. This means that the delivery of crucial applications remains consistent even at times of peak network traffic. This is here that Wan Governance becomes a critical asset for the retail business.

As Leroy Merlin have recently found, this immediately impacts the in-store experience. The retail group helps customers during the decision making process by providing information, advice and services including sales and financing tools. These critical business applications run on the network and are essential to meeting customer expectations. Customer wait time in the store is reduced, the purchasing process is simplified and as a result, customer satisfaction is improved.

Moreover, by reducing the time and resources spent troubleshooting ongoing problems retailers are free to focus time, personnel and above all money on other projects which will drive their revenue and continue to ensure their success.

Beatrice Piquer-Durand, marketing director, Ipanema Technologies, which develops next-generation solutions for enabling large enterprises to have full control over their global network. She can be reached at [email protected].

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