As motivational speaker Garrison Wynn once said: “Action and adaptability create opportunity”. For retailers, there is an opportunity to future-proof your business by taking action on initiatives that maintain and drive customer loyalty. In saying this, they must be adaptable in this quest for change.

Today’s successful retailer has already digitally transformed to offer shoppers an omnichannel experience, with findings from The Next Normal: Outlook for Australian Retail in 2022[1] revealing that Australian retailers have commenced the shift away from a single channel focus to a multi-channel proposition. In line with, 65 percent of retailers are doubling down on efforts to deliver a fully integrated experience.

However, consumers have since upped the ante, with customer expectations around online delivery speed and options, and general customer service expected to increase. They don’t just want shopping experiences that work in tandem online and offline, they’re now after incredibly engaging and personalised purchasing journeys that flow seamlessly between physical and digital platforms. This modern consumer is discerning, and an evolving economic climate has only made them even more deliberate in where and how they spend their money.  

To compete for wallet share, retailers need to rise to the occasion. Technology is core to meeting new shopper expectations, meaning the burden of “action” will largely fall to retail IT teams who need to be at the peak of their digital innovation and agility game.

Why network agility is essential

Just as consumers now seek flexibility in how they shop, retailers must also seek flexibility in their network. Network adaptability will not only support IT teams in meeting buyers’ demands – it could also carve them out a space for innovation to drive greater business efficiency and retail operations, while pleasantly surprising the customer base.

At Aruba, we partnered with global trends agency Foresight Factory to explore how retailers can meet consumer demands in more places, underpinned by the strength of a solid network – here’s what we found:

1. Retailers will bring immersive digital experiences to in-store shoppers

We’ve moved beyond the notion that brick-and-mortar spaces are only there so customers can physically interact with products. Shoppers expect far more creativity than that – we’ve seen it first-hand working with Chemist Warehouse – a leader in its own field. They want an experience, not just a transaction. In fact, according to the 2022 Digital Consumer Trends Index, there’s been nearly a 50 per cent increase in Australian consumers who feel frustrated with a brand whose personalisation initiatives don’t recognise their unique desires and needs.[2]

In line with this, we anticipate there will be greater investment in AR and VR technology that will allow brands to reveal new dimensions of their offering to anyone who walks through their door. According to a report by Snap and Ipsos, 60 per cent of Australian consumers reported that AR helps them shop in new and exciting ways.[3]

So, how will this impact your network? Immersive tech puts a huge strain on most networks, running the risk that slow applications will alienate rather than engage the user. With the support of an intelligent network that’s scalable, retail businesses can seamlessly and instantly allocate relevant computing resources to deliver the best user experience.

2. Delivery options will become more disparate and diversified

On-demand, time-shifted, location-flexible – the more options the shopper has, the happier they are that their personal needs are being met in more ways. New research from Gartner reveals that personalisation boosts engagement and increases revenue by up to 28 per cent, and sales conversion by up to 71 per cent.[4]

Alongside traditional delivery solutions, we’ll see a rise of dark stores for online-order fulfilment, micro-fulfilment centres, grab-and-go ‘pop-ups’ for in-store collection, on-demand couriers, and mobile stores. Enhanced geolocation services will also see more uptake.

The implication? Retailers will need to expand and secure their network infrastructure, right to the edge, where people, devices, and IoT connect to the network. This gives secure and near real-time access to data as opposed to traditional set-ups where all data is funnelled through a central data centre.

3. In-store locations will become smarter to drive delight and efficiency

With e-commerce offering ever more sophisticated competition, in-store spaces will be redefined to not only focus on enhanced customer satisfaction and personalisation, but also more efficient business operations. As such, we’ll see intelligent tech being leveraged for use in cashierless checkouts or smart changing rooms, for instance, and with new data from Capterra indicating that 72 per cent of Australian consumers are interested in cashierless checkouts, this demand is set to grow.[5]

But what does this mean for your IT department? When cumbersome networks require constant troubleshooting and updates, IT will be focused on this, rather than looking at how emerging tech can be innovatively applied to better the business. It will always be reactive instead of proactive. With the support of an intuitive network solution and outsourced network management and maintenance, IT staff could innovate endlessly.

4. Intelligent inventory insights will help secure customer loyalty

Predictive technologies will be high on the priority list as retailers look to better understand inventory needs to meet customer demand in real time. We can expect more intelligent operations in both warehouse and distribution centres, where retailers could deploy smart robots, for example, to keep on top of stock levels. As a result, we anticipate made-to-order retailing will shift into the mainstream, with waste and excess inventory reduced too.

But, for these technologies to be effective in delivering immediate data and trends predictions, reliable connectivity and access to real-time data insights are a must. Without this smarter networking structure, inventory insights could be vague and customer demands may go unanswered.

How to take action towards a flexible and adaptable network

While vital, modern technology can only deliver on its promised benefits if it is supported by the right infrastructure. The argument is compelling for a flexible network-consumption model like network as a service (NaaS) which provides greater scalability and helps deliver a more business-outcome-focused networking approach.

A consumption-based, cloud-like subscription model such as NaaS, gives retailers the ability to outsource several networking needs. From the costly provisioning of a network, to daily management and maintenance, NaaS can deliver greater financial predictability to an industry that’s constantly evolving, while freeing up budgets to focus on digital innovation.

Businesses can benefit from NaaS with all software upgrades, monitoring and troubleshooting handled by external experts, freeing up IT professionals’ time to focus on reaching new buyers and deepening relationships with existing ones through new initiatives.

Mark Verbloot is senior director for product, solutions and systems engineering, APJ at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.