January 15, 2020 | Jeffrey Neville

NRF 2020: Discover the state of retail and beyond

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Jeffrey Neville, Industry Go To Market Lead - Retail

Jeffrey Neville

Jeff is a business-focused technology strategist. His experience includes both managing e-commerce and SaaS businesses and consulting with clients on their growth strategies, business and operating models, and customer and market strategies.

Despite the breathtaking speed and impact of the e-commerce revolution, physical stores still play a vital role in the buying journey. While consumers will use their mobile devices to research and compare goods, they still enjoy the 360-degree experience of shopping “IRL.”

NRF 2020 and Beyond

But as Amazon and other direct-to-consumer e-merchants refine their ability to deliver immersive marketing experiences—enabled by augmented reality, virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT)—brick-and-mortar retailers need to keep innovating the ways they blend physical and digital shopping.

I recently had the opportunity to attend one of the largest events in retail, Retail’s Big Show & Expo, hosted by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The show highlighted the new digitally enhanced shopping experiences retailers are starting to incorporate into their stores to adapt to this hybrid sales environment. These innovations encompass both shop-floor and back-office functions.

POS & transactions

  • Self-checkout machines
  • AI-assisted shopping carts
  • Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) purchases
  • Customer pickup lockers
  • Curbside pickup

Customer analytics

  • Omni-channel analytics and tools
  • Beacon-based analytics
  • Interactive aisle displays and shelf labels

Customer experience

  • Smart mirrors
  • Digital signage
  • Music management
  • Guest WiFi
  • Mixed reality tools
  • Smart dressing rooms

Store operations

  • Associate productivity apps
  • Inventory management systems
  • Visual shelf monitoring
  • Intelligent IP cameras

New experiences need new networks

All of these technologies depend on robust, resilient network connectivity. Legacy retail networks, typically MPLS-based, don’t deliver the capacity and reliability required to support them. Giving customers and sales associates new apps and systems that run sluggishly and inconsistently just leads to frustration—and lost revenue. To enable these new shopping experiences, seamless bandwidth and constant connectivity are mandatories.

For retailers, that means migrating to integrated, high-speed cloud-based networks. Depending on the size and expertise of their in-house IT staff, moving to the cloud can be challenging to implement and support. What’s more, the initial investment can seem prohibitive.

A robust, reliable network builds confidence in cloud application availability

New UCaaS- and CCaaS-based customer care and associate applications, including the ones listed above, are 100% cloud-enabled, enabling rapid deployment and scalability.

To support those apps, SD-WAN networks can provide a seamless, secure, centrally managed overlay to existing MPLS networks—no rip and replace required. This agile combination gives retailers a cost-effective way to update their customer experience capabilities and accelerate them as new technologies become available.

What’s more, by partnering with a qualified cloud networking provider, retailers can allow their IT staff to focus on what they do best, while gaining the planning, deployment and management expertise they need for a successful cloud migration.

Implementing an advanced network this way can significantly reduce both capital and operational costs, and make a strong business case for a technology upgrade.

Want to know more about what’s in store for your stores?

Experts from Windstream Enterprise are ready to answer questions about your specific business goals and the best options for achieving them—the first step toward reimagining your store of the future.


Industry Go To Market Lead - Retail

Jeffrey Neville

Jeff is a business-focused technology strategist. His experience includes both managing e-commerce and SaaS businesses and consulting with clients on their growth strategies, business and operating models, and customer and market strategies.