River Island’s ability to process and deliver orders quickly has been key to its success in retail, but with the sector’s increased focus on digital technologies and the omni-channel customer experience, its IT infrastructure was no longer able to support the retailer’s changing strategy. With overloaded and overworked networks, River Island declined the opportunity to renew its contract with its incumbent supplier who could not offer the retailer the long term flexibility and reliability it needed.
Doug Gardner, River Island’s CIO, explained:
“Like most other retailers, we are increasingly dependent on web services to our stores – lots of the capabilities for generating revenue depend on having access to the web. A couple of years ago, connectivity issues were problematic, but now downtime is just impossible to deal with.
“An omni-channel approach, for which you need real-time access to data, and our initiatives like Click-and-Collect and next day delivery need increased connectivity to function properly,” Doug continued. “When the successful delivery of orders hinge on very short time windows across the supply chain, a small network problem at any stage can create significant delays, and could have harmful consequences for our reputation and revenue-generating capabilities.
“Moreover, we were acutely aware that our network wouldn’t be able to cope with the plans we had to drive engagement within our stores. We are moving towards a more social and faster way of communicating with our staff and interactive ways to speak to our customers, which will see our networks taking on a considerable amount of traffic. In short, we needed a network that was future-proof.”
To connect all of River Island’s stores, offices and delivery centres seamlessly and securely, the company turned to Claranet, who introduced a modular, enterprise-grade MPLS-based solution. All areas of the network are proactively managed and monitored around the clock, and in the case of an outage, a 3G router provides a backup connection.
Commenting on their reasons for choosing Claranet, Doug said: “When working with a large supplier, you become part of a big machine and part of a fixed environment in which it is difficult to make rapid changes. Working with someone like Claranet, who are smaller but still enterprise-grade, you can get more flexibility. They clearly understood the space in which we operate and what we were trying to achieve, so they were an obvious partner for us.”
With greater bandwidth, improved reliability, and more flexibility, the company has been able to quickly implement and support a wide range of new technologies across its estate, such as mobile devices for staff and the delivery of its increasingly-cloud-based applications.
Doug added: “Connectivity is a crucial strategic enabler for the business and not the commodity asset it once was. With our new store network, we are able to use VoIP-type communications within the stores through Wi-Fi badges and radios, and we want to extend that to all of our communications. Being able to give staff smaller, mobile, multi-functional devices brings with it significant benefits and allows us to change the way that we engage with our customers.”
By offering the flexibility and freedom to explore new technologies the retailer needs to stay ahead of the competition, the services provided by Claranet have played an important role in River Island’s route to a seamless customer experience across all of its platforms.
“Technology is changing in a very rapid way, customers’ expectations are changing fast and their patience is wearing thinner and thinner. Moreover, when new technology hits, customers expect it to be available to them rapidly,” Doug continued. “By overhauling our network with Claranet and using small, dynamic cloud-based applications, we have the flexibility we need to react to changing trends and technology quickly and to keep ahead of the competition.
“What Claranet provides is incredible flexibility – rightsizing capacity as our business evolves – and incredible resilience from the fibre links at our biggest stores to 3G back-up solutions, should the line ever go down. They offer the personal approach of a boutique provider with enterprise-grade solutions that can be adapted to our particular needs. Their world-class technology and service delivery allows River Island to create a truly amazing retail experience.”