With the customer at the heart of its business, Halfords has invested heavily to accelerate its Digital Transformation to create better commercial services and a unified, omnichannel retail experience for its customers. Neil Holden, Chief Information Officer, Halfords, discusses how it achieved this by leveraging the benefits of Juniper Networks’ Mist AI solution.
Juniper Networks, a leader in secure, AI-driven networks, has announced that Halfords, the UK’s leading provider of motoring and cycling products and services, selected Juniper’s AI-driven wired and wireless access solutions in its stores, garages and offices to serve as a flexible foundation for its business growth and operational efficiency. The 125-year-old company has invested heavily to accelerate its Digital Transformation, leveraging the benefits of Mist AI and the cloud to create better commercial services and a unified, omnichannel retail experience for its customers. Halfords has 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 Juniper AI-driven network provides an agile digital foundation for Halfords’ continued success and drives a more consistent and convenient customer experience across locations and channels. It can tailor communications to Halfords Motoring Club members when they come to the store. The new network provides employees 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.
Halfords pivoted during the pandemic, with strong growth in online sales and the addition of contactless tactics such as click-and-collect in its parking lots. Its innovative mobile field service software was key to delivering 70,000 services safely and efficiently per week for more than four years at its auto centres and customers’ homes. Many pandemic-motivated shopping behaviours are now permanent, requiring an IT infrastructure that is flexible and scalable enough to support changing customer demands.
As shoppers return to stores to test-drive an electric bike, get an oil change or replace worn tires, for example, reliable wired and wireless connectivity is essential for both workers and shoppers alike. Halfords had an aging in-store network that was increasingly 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. Mist AI works in conjunction with Juniper Access Points to deliver scalable and reliable Wi-Fi 6 and virtual Bluetooth LE services to Halfords’ staff and customer smartphones, point-of-sale devices, in-store video displays and other connected devices. Juniper EX Series switches provide high-performance, secure access to wired devices with AI-driven automation and insights for easy provisioning, troubleshooting and operations. Marvis, the industry’s only virtual network assistant driven by Mist AI, provides proactive actions for easy fault identification and self-driving network operations for fast and proactive correction.
Halfords plans to transform its network further with the modernisation of its WAN, which connects its 1400+ stores, auto centres and mobile service vans. To achieve this, the retailer is also planning to deploy Juniper’s AI-driven SD-WAN solution, which leverages the same cloud and Mist AI engine as its new wired and wireless network. By deploying a full-stack Juniper solution, Halfords can achieve superlative insight into end-to-end user experiences and the superior automation from client-to-cloud.
Halfords worked with ConnectedID, a Juniper partner, to create the optimal network architecture, working on the design, validation and testing to ensure that the Juniper solutions met Halfords’ strategic goals.
“The network is a utility,” said Neil Holden, Chief Information Officer, Halfords. “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. The network user experience that 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.”
“Smart retailers like Halfords are leveraging AI technologies to ensure customers’ shopping experiences are positive at every touchpoint,” commented Gos Hein van de Wouw, Vice President, Enterprise, EMEA, Juniper Networks. “Halfords has invested in Juniper’s AI solutions to build a more detailed picture of its customers to keep up with changing consumer behaviour.”
Neil Holden, Chief Information Officer at Halfords, offers an in-depth view of how the project evolved and the business benefits received.
How has the deployment of Juniper’s AI-driven wired and wireless access solutions benefitted Halfords in terms of business growth and operational efficiency?
Juniper’s AI-driven solutions have greatly benefitted Halfords’ operational efficiencies in the deployment so far. As a business, we began our Digital Transformation with a large investment in our networks, which is something we hadn’t done before. Our digitalisation efforts are set to improve both online and physical experiences for our customers.
In my opinion, a network is the same as a utility; it needs to work. It’s the same as your water or electricity, you only realise the extent of the disruption it causes when they’re not working. With Juniper’s AI-driven networking solutions, we know we have reliable connectivity. The network delivers technology right into the hands of our employees, helping them to perform their daily operational tasks without any interference. Since we implemented our new network, we have seen a 100% reduction in network-related trouble tickets. Of course, this has saved on IT costs as Juniper’s secure and intelligent network uses next-generation capabilities to address any potential issues and remedy them on the go.
Can you provide specific examples of how Mist AI and the cloud have contributed to creating a unified, omnichannel retail experience for Halfords’ customers?
With our new network, Halfords can go a step further, by monitoring customer behaviours to tailor their shopping experience as much as possible.
For instance, if a customer were to spend time in the cycling section, we can send targeted offers and discounts to them around those cycling products. By leveraging the cloud, Halfords has integrated our in-store and online channels, allowing customers to shop seamlessly across both platforms. They can check whether the product is available online, collect their purchases at one of our stores or use home delivery which leads to very slick, tailored and personalised shopping experiences. Over the pandemic period, we shifted investments into driving digital experience and quickly saw that customers are open to digital technology if it addresses their specific needs.
Halfords has 1,400+ bricks-and-mortar stores, autocentres, offices and mobile service vans. We are aiming to bring those entities together and curate them to help make our customers’ experience even more convenient.
How has the reduction in network-related trouble tickets and an improvement in uptime impacted the overall performance and customer satisfaction at Halfords?
Building trust with customers is crucial within the retail sector and especially within the motoring services industry where there’s a lot of knowledge gaps around products and services needed to maintain their vehicles. By utilising devices and applications on our network, we can provide customers with the information they need around products for repair and effective maintenance, which is a significant game-changer. At Halfords, enhancing the digital customer experience is a fundamental aspect of our strategy. Our customer satisfaction rates have improved dramatically since we addressed the roadblock of ageing in-store networks with our new AI-driven network and achieved 100% reduction in network-related trouble tickets and the 35% increase in uptime across our stores, garages and mobile vans.
In what ways has the Juniper AI-driven network improved communication and tailored experiences for Halfords Motoring Club members when they visit the store?
This was a key element when we designed our omnichannel approach, which has improved the satisfaction of our technicians, in-store colleagues and customers by delivering effective personalisation.
Customers can now access their entire digital history with Halfords, including past car maintenance records. This valuable information allows us to provide more personalised effective recommendations. For example, if a customer last serviced their car 5,000 miles ago, Halfords can provide them with tailored recommendations digitally. It’s about providing excellent customer service and pre-empting customer needs.
We have also implemented digital customer identification at our garages. This allows us to personalise our interactions with the customer to ensure consistent service from our technicians. By integrating online and physical experiences, Halfords has created a seamless customer journey that caters for the unique needs of each customer as an individual. It’s worth noting that we handle an impressive 9 million motoring service jobs per year. Using Juniper’s connected network, we can keep on delivering these exceptional experiences that result in increased satisfaction and customer loyalty, at scale.
How has the new network equipped Halfords’ employees with product information and improved their ability to engage with customers?
The new network at Halfords has enabled us to equip our employees with Halfords’ product information and significantly enhanced their confidence and ability to engage with customers. Through device connectivity, our in-store colleagues now have access to crucial product details, enabling them to have more informed conversations about the range of products we offer and increase their confidence during sales interactions.
We’re aiming to overcome the perception that customers sometimes have of us as being just a bike shop. We want to show the market the full range of services we have to offer by being a digital-first, customer-centric and services-led company.Click below to share this article