Understanding the Challenges
There are 46 Sony Centres operating in Great Britain specialising in making Sony technology simple, friendly and fun for the 3 million people who visit the stores every year. Key to this is being able to fully demonstrate all the many features and benefits of Sony’s products, particularly how they can connect together, making content available wherever the customer wants it.
As Sony’s products have evolved and developed more powerful features and applications, and facing increased demand from consumers to provide realistic and immersive in-store experiences, Sony recognised the need for greater bandwidth and improved reliability of the Internet connectivity provided to its Sony Centres.
Many of Sony’s products support Internet connectivity, along with a broad range of ‘on-demand’ services, and so there was an urgent need for robust high-speed broadband across the entire Sony Centre estate. Once in place, this would mean store staff could offer more compelling and effective demonstrations.
Previously, all Sony Centres obtained broadband connectivity via individual relationships with separate service providers. Whilst some experienced reasonable connectivity, many didn’t and so the challenge was to find a solution that would create consistency across the estate so that the experience would be of a constant high quality, regardless of location.
Stuart Young, Sony EPOS Manager said: “Many of our Sony Centres were trying to demonstrate our products over publicly contended Internet connections which meant, at peak times, and depending on the area, quality could be compromised. We’re developing – and demonstrating – more and more connected devices all the time and so we needed find a solution that would give us the necessary bandwidth and low contention rates needed to offer the same great experience everywhere. Consistency is required to ensure that the demonstration potential is equal, no matter which store our customers may find themselves in.”
After a rigorous tender process, FluidOne was selected against a number of key criteria in a three-way bidding process.
Stuart Young said: “Our business changes all the time, along with our requirements, and so we needed a provider that would offer the flexibility we need to change things quickly along with the reassurance that the network can handle periods of heavy usage. FluidOne were able to offer these assurances alongside a formal Service Level Agreement (SLA) that means our investment is protected should something go wrong.”
The first challenge was to design a network solution that could provide the bandwidth and coverage needed to provide the entire Sony Centres estate with resilient, high-speed Internet to support multiple retail requirements. FluidOne provided Sony with a up to 20 Mb/s broadband private connection into 46 Sony Centres across Great Britain to support a wide range of services, including:
Sony Entertainment Network
One of the first things that FluidOne sought to fix was contention rates around peak times, not only from public Internet traffic but also as a result of heavy usage within demonstrations on the shop floor. As FluidOne’s network is not contended, Sony Centres no longer experienced variations in service quality; no matter what the utilisation, or location.
“At any one time, multiple connected demonstrations can, and will, be taking place on the shop floor and so it’s critical that network contention doesn’t interfere with Sony’s ability to give the best retail experience possible.” Said, Piers Daniell, Managing Director, FluidOne. “We provide a Private WAN to each Sony Centre which means it’s not competing for public bandwidth – a nightmare at peak times in the afternoon or the weekend, which are also prime selling times for Sony.”
In just nine weeks, all Sony Centres were up and running successful connections which now enable Sony Centre store staff to carry out multiple data-heavy demonstrations at any one time; increasing and enriching the sales environment for customers.
Mark Whiteman, Sony Retail Category Marketing Manager, commented: “We offer an innovative range of connected devices and so to be able to get customers excited and engaged, our Sony Centres have to be able to demonstrate our products to their full potential. Immersive connected gaming experiences along with new Video on Demand services require an ‘as-live’ demonstration environment and so being able to rely on connectivity is key. FluidOne had all of our Sony Centres up and running within nine weeks which meant we have been able to see improvements almost immediately.”
FluidOne reports that the core network has experienced 100 per cent up-time since launch. FluidOne’s flexible agreement has also meant that Sony can scale up, or back, as often as they need to, quickly and economically. For a rapidly expanding company, working in a difficult economic environment, being able to change strategy at a moment’s notice is invaluable.
Sony is also able to rely on rapid responses to any software or hardware issues that may occur; FluidOne provides 24/7 on-call support and a dedicated client manager, responsible for making sure any concerns are dealt with in a timely manner.