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Why Application Assurance Is Critical for BOPIS and the Convenience Edge in Retail

Digital transformation is driving modern brick-and-mortar retailers into a merged environment of online expectations for offline experiences. In an era of hyper-convenience, consumers expect the ease of use in online purchases in any experience. In brick-and-mortars, consumers also seek a differentiator as a reason to make a trip to the store while still expecting similar levels of convenience.

The increased pressure on brick-and-mortars to remain relevant has led to innovations to give the store experience competitive parity – and possibly an advantage – with online shopping, such as Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS) in retail or Order Ahead services in dining categories.

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BOPIS experiences are now differentiators for retailers.

Consumers can check availability, pay online, then skip the lines while still getting to see the product before taking it home. For restaurants, it means the convenience of ordering online for what is still a predominately offline experience.

But innovations like BOPIS are only possible when you first transform your network to support its demands. Transformation, as we like to say, begins with WANsformation.

Innovations like BOPIS require application assurance.

Think about the BOPIS journey. Online purchasing and in-store pickup require a series of store, cloud, and Internet connections to function in tandem, demanding a scalable SD-WAN driven enterprise to support it. As cloud applications continue to grow in number and complexity, the need for more bandwidth for effective processing requires more connections, connections that can’t reasonably be achieved with legacy MPLS networks that were designed mostly to handle small amounts of POS data (Learn more: MPLS vs. SD-WAN) In addition to the bandwidth needs, ensuring the availability of business-critical apps is paramount. To meet customer expectations, it must work and it must work reliably wherever and however the customer initiates the experience.

This is where application assurance is paramount.

With BOPIS, retailers must deliver a quality experience when a customer accesses their app in the cloud to find a product. A retailer must then promptly and accurately deliver results to the customer by accessing a database in the cloud that is synchronized in real-time with local store inventories close to the customer. The transaction is then completed by safely and securely transmitting data over the Internet to the payment networks while simultaneously sending a fulfillment request to the correct store.

Any weakness in the path between the customer, cloud and store, due to a brownout, a blackout or poor app performance, could result in a disappointed customer and a lost transaction. (Learn more: Hughes 4860, the SD-WAN Appliance)

Application assurance means retailers get:

  • An always-on connection to the cloud so the application powering BOPIS can confirm local inventory and pricing, then display real-time status to the customer over the Internet.
  • High application availability, so the customer can always access it from anywhere.
  • High application performance regardless of where it’s accessed from so customers get the same experience whether on their cell phone, in-store Wi-Fi or a wired broadband connection at home.

Before, retailers could handle most transactions offline. Now, in the modern landscape where customers have online expectations in offline experiences, transactions require online dependencies, cloud connectivity and heavy allowances of bandwidth.

The ability to keep up with advances will determine whether your retail organization can stay relevant, not simply with online purchasing, but with SD-WAN driven, application assurance enabled brick-and-mortar enterprises.

Convenience is paramount in the modern buying experience offline or online. Convenience starts with the capability of your network. Capability begins with application assurance.

To find out if your network is giving your retail organization the capability it needs to compete, contact us for a free consultation.

About the Author

Nick Coval is a seasoned Enterprise Architect who builds complex enterprise-class network solutions for large organizations with distributed locations. He is a passionate technologist with a progressive vision for developing solutions with the customer and end-user objectives in mind.