The highlights:

The way that people shop has changed greatly in recent years so the challenge facing retailers is to keep up with their customers’ changing expectations.

That means adapting their offering to the needs of modern customers and embracing technology to provide a better customer experience. The Anthony Nicholas Group (ANG) is a major jewellery retail chain that did just that by entering into an innovative partnership with Magnet Networks.

The 83-year-old business encompasses 54 jewellery retailers in Ireland and the UK, including Fields the Jewellers, Fraser Hart, Crouch, Bernstones and Lyons. Working closely with Magnet Networks, the group revolutionised its foundation network with a system that enhanced its store interactions, customer service, online sales and back-end operations.

Using technology to connect with customers

When it comes to making high-value investments like an engagement ring, customers still want to come in-store and enjoy the tactile experience of trying it on and seeing if it feels right. Buying jewellery is an emotive and personal experience so it’s all about developing a relationship with a customer.

ANG has worked closely with Magnet Networks to develop a streamlined service that offers the best possible customer experience.

“The biggest thing is how it has facilitated our customers,” says Keith Baxter, the group’s Chief Information Officer.

“Our customers have changed, which is no different to any other business. Customers are young, they’re more tech-savvy and that obviously has moved into how they shop and how they purchase. We have to keep up with that.

“A lot of customers now have a look online before they go into the store so there’s a continuity of information across our online platform into our in-store tablets. We would have tablets in-store that double up as a web platform right the way through to a product catalogue. They also act as a point of sale system or an e-pos system. So we would have continuity of product right across that.”

The use of multipurpose tablets allows the stores’ qualified advisors to meet and greet customers, inverting the old-fashioned dynamic where a customer had to approach a till for service. ANG offers free wi-fi in all stores, making it easier for customers to translate an online browse into an in-store shopping experience. Shoppers still enjoy the personal touch of dealing with an assistant but the customer journey often begins online.

As part of the new system, customers can also avail of a manned web chat service with experienced staff available to answer all their queries.

Magnet Networks worked closely with ANG to design a bespoke system that satisfied all their requirements.

“We had very specific needs because our systems have to interact in a certain way,” explains Keith.

“We needed to keep that structure while increasing our system’s ability to support our stores, increase interaction, manage how we support our store staff and how they support our customers.”

Providing a connected foundation across the group

Magnet Networks helped to set them up with an integrated communications solution that was backed up with its secure, high-speed broadband offering.

“Magnet Networks worked very closely with us in designing a bespoke foundation for our network infrastructure, including perimeter security and our MPLS network – a high-speed interconnection that allows us to communicate effectively between all of our branches.

“Magnet Networks’ MPLS is a ring-fenced network for our whole organisation – a cloud-based VOIP solution, next generation firewalling, network monitoring, back-up solutions and radio back-ups for our data centres.”

Having reliable, high speed connectivity that meets the strictest compliance standards is vital in an industry with so many high-value card transactions. Any systems failure could lead to lost sales.

They also introduced an integrated communications network, giving each store an extension rather than a separate phone line to make it easier to contact different stores or connect with customer support teams.

Magnet’s Broadband Anywhere offering even allows the group to take its integrated network on the road and guarantees connectivity in almost any location.

“The system doesn’t just live in our stores. Magnet Networks enable us to operate pop-up stores at events and shows via a fixed-wire radio or a wi-fi solution, depending on the location.

“This is vital to us as we can be confident that we can maintain the same level of service and usability that we have in one of our fixed stores.

“In other words, we can just arrive and set up a shop. We don’t need to ring anybody or wait 12 weeks to get broadband with a full firewall and full security that meets all our compliance standards.”

Achieving a seamless continuity throughout the company wasn’t easy but Keith says that he was able to work closely and communicate with the team at Magnet throughout the process. One of the things that impressed him most was Magnet Networks’ collaborative approach to resolving issues.

“As CIO of the company, the biggest advantage is having what I call a partnership with Magnet Networks. The fact is that they’re not a service provider to us and they’re not a supplier. They’re a partner and I think that’s a key distinction.”

About Magnet Business

Awarded ICT Telecommunications Company of the Year in 2008, Magnet Business offers a range of broadband and phone solutions along with other services such as managed VPNs, IP transit solutions and national and international extensions over fibre. For information on Magnet’s services please visit www.magnet.ie or call 1800 789 789