Halfords tools up for consistent experiences with AI-driven wired and wireless access

Motoring and cycling retailer reduces network-related trouble tickets and improves uptime in garages and stores after deploying artificial intelligence-driven network access

As shoppers return to Halfords stores in the post-Covid world to test drive an electric bike, get an oil change or replace worn tyres, reliable wired and wireless connectivity has become essential for workers and shoppers alike.

To address its needs in these crucial areas, the UK’s leading provider of motoring and cycling products and services has elected Juniper’s artificial intelligence (AI)-driven wired and wireless access solutions in its stores, garages and offices.

During the pandemic, the 125-year-old company pivoted to online sales, with the addition of contactless tactics such as click and collect in its car parks. Its mobile field service software was key to safely and efficiently delivering 70,000 services per week for more than four years at its auto centres and customers’ homes.

Yet at the same time, Halfords had an ageing in-store network that was increasingly seen as a roadblock to sales and service due to inconsistent performance and difficult troubleshooting, which resulted in poor user and operator experiences. To address this, the retailer is now deploying a Juniper wired and wireless network across its retail stores, auto centres and offices.

Indeed it has invested heavily to accelerate its digital transformation, using Mist AI and the cloud to serve as a flexible foundation for its business growth and operational efficiency, and subsequently create better commercial services and a unified, omnichannel retail experience for its customers.

As a result, Halfords is said to have reduced network-related trouble tickets by 100% and has seen a 35% improvement in uptime in the garages and stores where the deployment has been completed.

The AI-driven network is designed to provide an agile digital foundation for the company’s continued success and drive a more consistent and convenient customer experience across locations and channels. For instance, it can tailor communications to Halfords Motoring Club members when they come to the store. The new network also provides employees with details about products such as child seats, cycle racks and roof racks, so they can have informed conversations with customers and sell with greater confidence.

“The network is a utility. It is a big part of our digital transformation journey, and we needed a very intelligent, secure network with next-generation capabilities. Juniper is a disruptor in the industry,” said Halfords CIO Neil Holden. “The network user experience it offers far exceeds anything else in the market. The ease of operations and self-healing capabilities of Juniper’s technology, along with the user experience metrics it delivers for Halfords, are outstanding.”

For the deployment, Halfords worked with ConnectedID, a Juniper partner, to create the optimal network architecture, working on the design, validation and testing to ensure the Juniper solutions met its strategic goals.

Going forward, Halfords plans to transform its network further with the modernisation of its wide-area network (WAN), which connects its over 1,400 stores, auto centres and mobile service vans. To achieve this, it is also planning to deploy Juniper’s AI-driven software-defined WAN solution, which uses the same cloud and Mist AI engine as the new wired and wireless network.

By deploying a full-stack solution, Juniper said Halfords could achieve superlative insight into end-to-end user experiences and superior automation from client to cloud.

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