Facing disruptive industry trends and larger competitors can be a challenge for smaller retailers. But by implementing the right digital strategy — and especially by leveraging the many advantages of SD-WAN technologies to quickly roll-out innovative shopping and payment apps and other services — the playing field can become more level, enabling smaller retailers to compete effectively against their larger counterparts. The result of this approach is to enable smaller players in the e-commerce marketplace to grow by attracting new customers both online and offline — all while watching their revenues grow. And achieving this kind of growth is critical for smaller businesses these days as large players like Amazon and others grab a larger and larger share of the e-commerce market, particularly during the year’s biggest shopping times such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day. The bottom line is that it’s all about survival of the fittest in the new world of online sales.
To understand the key role that SD-WAN technologies play in such a dramatic and transforming evolution of the e-commerce marketplace, I recently approached Cliff Duffey, president and founder of Cybera, for his thoughts on this subject. Cliff has served as Cybera’s president since founding the company in February 2001. As president, he has been the architect of Cybera’s growth and emergence as a leading security technology company. Before Cybera, Duffey served as senior vice president of corporate development at Covad, managing the acquisition and integration of BlueStar Communications. Duffey was senior vice president and chief technology officer at BlueStar Communications, where he managed technology strategy, business development, product marketing, and the rollout of BlueStar’s network of 450 U.S. datacenters. He also held management positions with Ascend Communications up until its acquisition by Lucent, and Intermedia Communications. Duffey holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Clemson University. Let’s listen now as Cliff weighs in on what small retailers need to do to stand up against the tide of big players like Amazon.
How small retailers can compete against larger retailers
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now behind us. That makes this a perfect time for smaller retailers to think about whether they did as well as they could have during this critical pair of shopping days. Due to smaller budgets and limited IT resources, many smaller retailers may have experienced feeling at a clear disadvantage to larger retailers and e-tailers during these consumer holidays. If you’re among those retailers that feel like your company didn’t fully maximize these opportunities, then carve out some time this month to reconsider your strategy for winning new business with the following recommendations in mind.
Focusing on what matters: CX
Smaller retailers, including franchise operations and remote sites, can at times stick to the old-school approach of using only discount strategies to lure customers in the increasingly cutthroat retail landscape. But if you’re out there on the front lines, then I don’t have to tell you that the retail environment has been turned on its head by the entrance of e-tailers and to stay in the game, you have to up the ante.
Today, what counts in the war for customers is ensuring that the whole customer experience (CX) is improved from soup to nuts. And as is the case in many industries, technology is key to ensuring optimum CX. But if you’re a smaller retailer, not just any technology will do. For one thing, some of the more advanced technologies may simply be too expensive and complex for a smaller shop’s needs. Technologies like VR/AR and IoT may hold great allure for bigger retail organizations for their ability to create personalized digital experiences for consumers — but they can feel out of reach for smaller retailers, and also if not deployed and managed well, might open the door to customer and business data security risk.
SD-WAN technology can help smaller retailers compete
Smaller retailers need the right type of technology platform to enable them to keep pace with their larger peers. Secure SD-WAN technology — which stands for “software-defined wide area network” — can be a game-changer in this regard, providing the network foundation to:
- Escalate business agility
- Improve flexibility
- Simplify IT management
- Boost data security
SD-WAN works well for small retailers in part because many businesses in this group operate mostly (or completely) at the network edge. With secure SD-WAN, smaller retail entities that lack massive budgets and are more limited in onsite IT management expertise can experience the benefits of faster deployment of technology that facilitates new business opportunities and even competitive advantage.
What does secure SD-WAN do, exactly, to offer a competitive advantage to retailers of any size? In a nutshell, it facilitates the faster rollout of not only apps and technologies, but also payment/shopping services for customers. SD-WAN also ramps up consumer engagement within a more encompassing strategy of digital transformation through:
- Greater personalization for customers, by helping smaller retailers integrate their online presence with their physical locations to offer personalized omnichannel shopping.
- Advanced data-protection strategies, for both consumer and business data, which reduce cybersecurity risks for retailers (advanced encryption technologies, next-gen firewalls, secure payment systems, and automated PCI compliance tools).
- Simplified agility, via enhanced IT agility and mobile tech to allow for operational automation and network simplification.
If you harness the power of secure SD-WAN, you can be much better prepared to maximize your potential as a smaller retailer every time a shopping opportunity like Black Friday or Cyber Monday roll around, as well as the upcoming Green Monday and Free Shipping Day. With this platform, there’s simply no reason for smaller retailers to fall behind the eight ball when it comes to growing a base of engaged, satisfied customers while continuing to attract new business.
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