How customers and retailers benefit from the “Sales-Navi”

Not only online but also offline shopping experiences can be greatly improved thanks to better networks.

Compared to the online store, the high street is falling behind here: online, customers can quickly see when the product is sold out. In brick-and-mortar retail, this is far less clear: many retailers operate more than one store per city, and if the product is sold out in one store, another may still have it in stock. This article shows how retailers can circumvent these bottlenecks.

Every shopper likes to make bargains – finding the perfect winter outfit is even more fun when there’s a hefty discount. So it’s no wonder that seasonal sales enjoy consistent popularity. One consequence, however, is that retailers’ inventories often shrink quickly. The disappointment when the garment of your dreams is no longer in stock in the right size is at least as intense as the elation of having found a good bargain.

Compared to the online store, the high street falls slightly behind here: online, customers can quickly see when the product is sold out. In brick-and-mortar retail, this is far less clear: many retailers operate more than one store per city, and if a product is sold out in one store, another may still have it in stock. Often, during such sales events, customers waste their precious time in crowded stores with small inventories and the staff tries to find out if the item is even available elsewhere.

Frustration among all parties

Naturally, this causes frustration – both from a business and end-customer perspective. The best evidence of the emotions boiling over at sales events are the annual images of Black Friday. They show how much excitement, expectations and crowds such sales can trigger. The hype of some sales events usually triggers ambivalent feelings in customers. How they rate the event ultimately depends on whether they make a bargain or not.

At the same time, employees who make phone calls on behalf of customers cannot attend to the concerns of other shoppers. As a result, customers are less well looked after and, at the same time, processes are delayed in the store. If companies don’t relieve this pressure, it creates a cycle of frustration for employees and shoppers – the busier they are, the worse the shopping experience for everyone. The good news is that digital technologies can ensure smooth sales events and provide the best possible customer experience.

How the “Sales-Navi” remedies the situation

The idea of digitizing sales events can be compared to the function of navigation devices. These are popular for two reasons: they show the driver the way and at the same time indicate potential problems so that users can change their plans and take the easiest, fastest route. The Navi offers these advantages because it disseminates information through its network.

What does the Navi have to do with sales events and retail? It could be the key to a more enjoyable shopping experience for everyone. Currently, the experience that customers and retail employees have during sales events depends on a number of applications. These include transaction speed at the point-of-sale during peak hours and the ability to check inventory in response to customer requests. But if there are delays in an application or there is an error in the system, it directly affects the customer experience. It can also take a while to identify the problem. This frustrates employees and leads to longer wait times for customers who have questions. Weak system performance, like lack of inventory, can therefore lead to declining sales.

Retailers need to make the best use of their networks. The key is network visibility: if the network is monitored, retailers can quickly identify faulty applications and address the issues more quickly and efficiently. Just as a navigation device guides drivers around traffic jams, retailers can use their network information to notify customers about crowded stores, for example. Instead of frustrating their customers in crowded stores with long waits, retailers can direct them to other stores: If stocks in a store have dwindled, customers can be informed via push message and WLAN localization where the desired goods are still available. Retailers thus benefit twice over: on the one hand, the customer experience is improved, and on the other, the administrative burden on staff is reduced.

In addition, retailers’ WLAN networks can improve the online shopping experience and link online stores with real stores. If, for example, a particular product is no longer in stock in a warehouse and is therefore no longer available online, customers could be informed about which stores currently have the product in their inventory.

But what do retailers do in the opposite case? When the last stocks have to be sold before new products are delivered? One of the biggest challenges for retailers in this case is having the right IT infrastructure in place to scale at short notice and for a short period of time. Effective, cloud-managed WLAN and SD-WAN solutions provide the flexibility needed for this because they enable pop-up online stores to be set up quickly and simply. Customers with matching purchase history or intentions can then be directed directly to the right landing pages with a push message. Retailers can use this to help empty their inventory in a pop-up “flash sale,” for example.


The best possible network transparency has the potential to significantly improve the customer experience in the retail sector, especially during sales events. However, it is also important to keep data protection in mind. Many customers have concerns about such marketing efforts and especially in times of the new European Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR), such customer-focused measures need to be carefully designed.

For this reason, it is important to build any customer-focused “retail navi” on a pure opt-in basis. However, if set up effectively, it can increase sales and improve customer experience – so that both sides get a good deal and satisfaction is increased.

Klaus-Peter Kaul ist Regional Sales Director für Alpine (Schweiz und Österreich) bei Riverbed Technology. Der in den Bereichen Server, Storage, Security und Netzwerke versierte Manager schaut auf eine bereits über 22 Jahre dauernde Karriere bei führenden Unternehmen zurück, darunter McAfee, Secure Computing, Veritas Software und SGI Silicon Graphics.

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