How Cisco Meraki is keeping retailers competitive in a post-pandemic world
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and played havoc with the smooth running of the retail sector, a shift in consumer shopping habits towards online experiences and away from physical stores was evident.
Needless to say, the global pandemic has exacerbated the situation, with numerous retailers struggling to pivot towards online shopping or retain customers in these uncertain times. Both big name stores and small, independent retailers have been forced to shutter, with the USA alone losing 6,000 stores up to August 2020.
Going forward into a post-COVID world, it is going to be vital for retailers to structure their IT for both long-term and short-term agility in order give themselves the best chance of survival and future success. That’s why they need a networking tool such as Cisco Meraki.
Meraki allows users to take control of their networks and the devices attached to them from a single dashboard. No matter how many sites are in operation (such as warehouses, logistics centres, offices or stores), Meraki uses simple tools to give a comprehensive-level of control that makes a huge difference in keeping a competitive edge in this changing landscape.
Optimising the online shopping experience
Online shopping, or ecommerce, has been developing at pace for several years before the pandemic arrived. In order for an online shopping experience to be user-friendly enough to encourage repeat visits, it is important that shoppers can browse all products easily, see stock availability, and buy with one click from almost any location. With those capabilities in place, basket size and purchase frequency have been shown to increase significantly, as customers shop at their own convenience.
US retailers operating online have seen year on year spending increase by a staggering $54billion thanks to the pandemic. While this good news for businesses, it has meant that online platforms have felt the strain in the supply chain and logistics department, with network capabilities being pushed to their limits.
By implementing Meraki, retailers can get a detailed overview of every step of their fulfilment process. From the centralised dashboard, it is possible view stock levels, control dispatch procedures, and streamline the process for maximum efficiency.
How Meraki can help keep physical retailers open during COVID
It’s not just the online side of retail that benefits from the use of Cisco Meraki.
Here’s how implementing Meraki can allow physical retailers to grow both during and after COVID:
- Improving customer safety with devices
As people start to venture back to retail venues, their safety and security will remain a top priority. Smart cameras are a perfect example of how the use of certain technologies has evolved.
Smart cameras not only provide surveillance for protection against theft and other criminal behaviours, but they also provide further intelligence and analytics that aid in implementing social distancing, keeping an eye on venue capacity limits, and identifying individuals who are not wearing PPE (such as face coverings).
By using cameras connected to WiFi and Meraki, retailers can monitor multiple sites from the one location, making it easier to keep all staff and customers safe.
- Creating new customer experiences
Customer experience is going to be vital when it comes to tempting shoppers to choose your stores.
With AR and VR technology, it is possible to marry the traditional offline, in-person shopping experience with the options made available by online shopping by highlighting curated collections and allowing customers to ‘browse’ in the virtual space.
- Improving network safety
It’s not just physical security and safety that Meraki will help stores with, there’s also customer data, employee connectivity, and the privacy of corporate networks to consider.
Organisations beginning to use SASE (secure access service edge) are helping to deliver a homogenous security experience to users, keeping them safe wherever they are, and whatever device they’re using.
- Enhancing IoT connectivity
We are seeing more and more connected IoT devices in retail buildings, including stores and warehouses etc. As well as stock monitoring and smart shelf systems, 90% of customers now use their 5G mobile devices while they shop, all of which puts a strain on the network and damages customer experience.
Leveraging WiFi 6 for IoT devices instead is giving retailers the benefits of faster speeds across diverse devices, a more consistent level of performance, and better high-density performance. Each of these devices can be easily controlled and monitored from the Meraki dashboard.
The road to recovery and total confidence in retail is likely to be a long one. By using Cisco Meraki though, retailers can ensure two things – that customers feel comfortable in and excited by the shopping experience, and that they, the retailer, have the best technology in place to adapt and survive.