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In today’s retail world, technology like IoT devices, POS stations, and security cameras has transformed the shopping experience. But these innovations, while convenient, rely heavily on stable networks. When connections to network infrastructure and edge apps fail, retailers face transaction issues, security risks, and logistical nightmares. It’s crucial for retailers to understand downtime’s impact, pinpoint its causes, and invest in resilient solutions. They must also address the “last mile” problem in their network plans.

The High Cost of Network Downtime in Retail

Network downtime in the retail industry carries significant consequences, with perhaps the most immediate impact being lost sales; after all, downtime directly affects the bottom line. An ITIC survey revealed that just one hour of downtime can cost large retailers upwards of $5 million. Network outages not only disrupt physical devices but can also render online stores and customer relationship management systems inaccessible.

Beyond the financial toll, there are non-monetary consequences that are equally detrimental. Downtime can strain customer relationships, leading to negative reviews and heightened customer turnover. A PwC survey found that one in three consumers will walk away from a brand after just one bad experience; after several negative interactions, 60% vow to never to return. In an age of brand loyalty, no retailer can afford a disruption affecting their customers’ experiences within their store.

Network downtime can also place additional stress on employees who must handle frustrated shoppers, ultimately increasing employee turnover. Another concerning outcome is a retailer’s inability to collect data. In today’s retail landscape, data is invaluable, enabling retailers to track trends, boost revenue, and anticipate inventory needs. When retailers’ data analysts work with interrupted data streams, they must contend with gaps that diminish data accuracy.

Complexity at the Edge: Risks and Solutions

As shopping habits change, businesses leverage technology to enhance the customer journey with new touch points. From Point of Sale (POS) systems to in-store analytics tools, retail applications at the edge are on the rise, offering benefits but also introducing points of failure. Managing this complexity increases the risk of downtime, something retailers want to avoid.

Retail infrastructure now extends beyond physical stores, requiring IT teams to seamlessly manage networks from anywhere. Network disruptions in retail can come from various sources, including ISP carrier issues, fiber cuts, human errors, and cable problems. The growing intricacy of retail technology, with frequent software updates, inadvertently exposes systems to more bugs, vulnerabilities, and cyber threats, leading to an uptick in outages. Another threat to consider is that retailers are lucrative targets for cybercriminals.

Dealing with all these complex challenges, network administrators in the retail industry need a fast way to remotely diagnose issues. However, pinpointing the root causes of outages can be a formidable task without comprehensive network visibility.

Here, Out of Band management emerges as a valuable solution, empowering secure monitoring of network devices. This approach establishes an alternative path to reach devices in remote stores when the primary network faces disruptions, enabling administrators to access and manage these devices without disrupting normal operations.

Remarkably, top-tier Out of Band solutions seamlessly integrate with existing IT networks and management systems, eliminating deployment complexities and streamlining operations. In an environment where the retail sector’s reliance on technology continues to grow, such solutions become indispensable for maintaining network resilience and business continuity.

Building Retail Network Resilience: The Four Pillars

Creating a resilient retail network relies on four key pillars:

  • Monitoring and managing infrastructure without disrupting operations is vital; this is where Out of Band management, including Failover to Cellular, plays a crucial role.
  • Robust security is also of paramount importance, and leading Out of Band solutions meet stringent security and encryption standards.
  • Secure provisioning allows retailers to automate configuration and setup from a central location as they expand.
  • Maintaining network visibility during outages is possible with solutions like Failover to Cellular, which automatically restores WAN connectivity while the IT team resolves issues.

Retailers also face the “last mile problem” as they rely on cloud services and SD-WAN. This last segment of the network is a weak link, limiting data transmission to ISPs. To address this challenge, retailers need additional bandwidth and a separate link for uninterrupted Internet connectivity. Out of Band and Failover to Cellular technology offer an alternate network path, ensuring smooth network operation and enabling remote issue resolution. These solutions prepare retailers for network challenges, from worst-case scenarios to daily operations.

Ready to fortify your retail network against downtime and disruptions? Discover how Opengear’s Network Resilience Platform, featuring Smart Out of Band, Failover to Cellular, and automation capabilities, can provide the critical support you need on the first day, worst day, and every day. Explore our solutions now and ensure business continuity for your retail operations.