Since its introduction 22 years ago, broadband has become fundamental to our daily lives. The emergence of COVID-19 at the start of 2020 only served to reinforce this further, as the unparalleled switch to remote working and online shopping put an even greater premium on fast, reliable internet access.
For retailers everywhere, broadband has also served as the foundational bedrock of rapid digitisation during the last two years. Many have branched into ecommerce for the very first time (whether by choice or necessity), whilst others had to accelerate their pre-existing digital transformation plans to keep pace with changing buyer behaviour.
Of course, this new and unprecedented reliance on broadband has left many providers wanting more. So much so that our recent study of UK SMEs found that more than half (51%) of UK small businesses are looking to leave their current provider. This is despite nearly three quarters (71%) having invested in business broadband or adapted their business to deliver services that can be experienced both online and instore over the past 12 months.
Unsurprisingly, the same study also found more than three quarters (77%) of respondents have been impacted by slow broadband over the past year, the knock-on effects of which can be devastating for a multitude of reasons. Amongst those cited, ‘inability to communicate with customers and suppliers’, ‘hampered productivity’ and ‘losing customers’ were the most detrimental to future success.
Meeting the demands of online consumers
Ultimately, effective digitalisation can help retailers reach a much larger pool of potential customers and broadband sits at the heart of this. As the world increasingly shifted online during the pandemic, many customers who had never used online services or sites before were suddenly becoming digital first champions, joining the growing number of shoppers who now use the internet as their primary research and purchasing channel.
Excellent broadband enables retailers to centre their business online and successfully deliver seamless purchasing experiences every time. For smaller retailers who need to increase revenues, or larger retailers recovering post pandemic, factors like this can make the difference between securing a sale (and a loyal customer) or losing out to a rival.
The right instore technology is also critical
Of course, many shoppers still prefer to shop instore where, on a basic level, slow broadband and outdated technology can cause frustration by making it harder to deliver consistent customer experiences. At its worst, it can completely disrupt operations, resulting in lost sales and brand reputation. In short, getting it right is critical.
With the post-Christmas sales season in full swing, many retailers are employing additional staff, which means their instore broadband will have to cope with extra devices and traffic. If corresponding investments aren’t made to maintain the right level of bandwidth, bottlenecks can quickly start to form, significantly impacting their ability to do their jobs.
Customers also increasingly expect access to a fast and reliable internet connection when they visit stores, allowing them to compare prices online, share products with their friends, and post to social networks.
For these reasons, areas to invest in alongside reliable broadband include business-grade 4G backup to ensure services seamlessly stay up and running under any unforeseen broadband disruption. In addition, digital phone lines allow store owners and managers to control calls without being tethered to their bricks-and-mortar location.
Technology investments should match retailers’ ambitions
While it’s easy to put off investments in digital infrastructure, for every moment that unreliable technology or poor broadband connection delays an essential task or puts off a customer, retailers will lose revenue. As a result, it should be a business priority to assign enough budget to invest in upgraded technology and have access to truly reliable broadband that can support digital changes.
As we enter the new year, we must acknowledge that shifting consumer behaviour has likely changed the retail sector forever. As such, it’s never been more important to stand out against competitors. Delivering powerful, consistent omnichannel experiences is a great way to do this, which means having the right technology in place to achieve it. And there’s no better place to start than with fast, reliable business broadband.
Credit: By Kevin O’Toole, Managing Director at Sky Connect