During the time I lived in Dallas, a hilarious couple lived next door. The husband, a former airline executive who was already a knobby-kneed octogenarian by the time I met him, was full of corny sayings guaranteed to make me laugh. “Life by the inch is a cinch,” he’d say with a sly grin, as he pulled stray weeds from his otherwise immaculate lawn. “Life by the yard is hard,” he’d summarize, looking serious as a heart attack. He’d always remind me that “You don’t ask people in Texas where they’re from, because if they’re native Texans, they’ll proudly tell you. And if they’re not, they’ll just be embarrassed.” And nearly every day, he’d look skyward and chuckle, “If you don’t like the weather right now, wait ten minutes and it will certainly change.”

I’ll hijack that last thought now and apply it to, of all things, shopping. It appeared to me that the sun was shining brightly on retail in the US during Thanksgiving weekend, but not all share that view.

Cyber Monday 2017 was the largest online shopping day in US history. The numbers for mobile shopping transactions were huge! A record number of consumers shopped during Thanksgiving Weekend; the National Retail Federation reported that figure at more than 174 million. This was even rosier than the group’s pre-holiday prediction that 164 million shoppers would open their wallets over the holiday weekend. Year over year, spending has risen 16%.

That said, other analysts and pundits saw stormy weather, pointing out that the reason for the rise in numbers was rooted in deeply discounted merchandise, with markdowns occurring earlier in 2017 than in years past. Forbes characterized fickle US shoppers this way: “It’s more than just a shift toward spending on experiences. The culture is reassessing consumerism and the false promise of materialism as the key to happiness and fulfillment, which it surely is not.”

The dichotomy revealed, retailers still are scrambling to remain competitive — or in the case of some — struggling to survive. A RetailDIVE article notes three areas in which brick-and-mortar retailers can positively impact their staying power by impacting change: 1) reinvent; 2) drive up value, convenience, discovery, and experience; and 3) implement omnichannel retailing. The underlying thread in these strategies is that implementing or beefing-up enabling technology is crucial.

Reinventing, driving up value, and convenience all are tied to customer service. Analysts note that shoppers demand great service regardless of the sales channel with which they engage. In order to deliver on that promise — to really create a relationship with customers — retailers must enable a variety of types of associates and team members to help directly from the many different environments in which they work. Customers can be nurtured from the physical store, from the warehouse, from the commute home or from headquarters. Watch this video to see how Secure Digital Workspaces from Citrix facilitates just this kind of interaction.

Click here to learn more.

Next, let’s talk about omnichannel retail (otherwise known as unified commerce).

In an on-demand webinar from Citrix and retail-centric analyst firm IHL Group, results of a survey of retailers were discussed. Of those surveyed, when asked to rate their companies in terms of providing a unified commerce experience, 78% said either that there was “room to improve” or that the experience that they were providing was “poor.”  When asked if they had concerns about their network’s reliability with regard to moving apps to the cloud, 55% responded with “Yes.” When asked whether current average WAN bandwidth in stores would address needs for the next two years, 34% of those surveyed admitted that it would not. Clearly, unified commerce and having the bandwidth to support it is crucial to retail longevity. This is another area in which Citrix can help.

Citrix has the enabling technology to help retailers with unified commerce.

In-depth technical information about NetScaler SD-WAN is available here.

Finally, the journey to cloud is top-of-mind for retailers that are working to stay ahead of shoppers’ demands. Cloud services also are top-of-mind at Citrix. A new video provides high-level information:

Another consideration that is top-of-mind for retailers is security. Nearly all respondents (96%) stated that to their WAN strategy, security was either “critical” or “important.” The video below touches briefly on this topic:

More information about security in retail and how Citrix can help also is available here. Deeper dive general security information is available here. To delve into more detail, click here.

Now let’s get back to the forecast for retail for 2018. It might be cloudy. The wind might be blowing in one direction or it might quickly change to another. The industry is changing at breakneck speed. That climate of change makes implementing the right enabling technology all the more important. At Citrix, we understand and we’re here to help.

Learn more about Citrix technology solutions for Retail.

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