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Starting life in the year 2000, Citrus is at the top of its game and one of the most popular gadget retailers in Ukraine. Selling a range of gadgets and accessories, best known for its electronics and sporting goods range, this retail giant operates more than 75 physical stores in 16 cities nationwide, as well as embracing ecommerce at citrus.ua. Every single one of those physical stores is an innovative space, where consumers can not only try out products for themselves — from personal electric vehicles to a full range of smart home devices — but also immerse themselves in interactive virtual reality zones.

The Critical Role of Wireless in Modern Retail Spaces

We may live in a hyper-connected, online world, but many consumers still want to touch, feel, and tryout devices before they decide to buy: old habits, it seems, die hard. As such, Citrus stores are doing a great job of creating a try-before-you-buy experience for anyone who walks through their doors. And it works, with the stores acting as magnets for customers who can't get enough of the latest product innovations.

So how do retailers like Citrus successfully create such rich, experiential spaces? Certainly, a fast and secure Wi-Fi network is essential if shoppers are to be able to test out electronic devices and accessories for themselves.

In 2017, Citrus was enjoying rapid growth. With the business expanding and the company moving into more and more new locations, Citrus still had yet to consolidate operations and implement remote and centralized Wi-Fi management. The main Information Technology (IT) department, located in Ukraine's third biggest city, Odesa, on the shores of the Black Sea, not only wanted to modernize its own operational Wi-Fi infrastructure, but also rollout updated Wi-Fi networks in all Citrus stores. Going further, the team wanted to standardize configurations and technology across stores, to ensure that a consistent and uninterrupted network connection experience could be delivered regardless of location, with the central office providing remote unified management and support.

Yet, it was abundantly clear to the team that the legacy Wi-Fi infrastructure, sourced from different vendors, couldn't fulfill these requirements nor come anywhere close. And with the business serving more and more customers each and every week, this question of an effective instore wireless network turned critical. Citrus, then, quickly decided to upgrade wireless coverage in all of its stores, but it wanted to do so without disrupting the customer experience at all. Looking for an easy-to-use, scalable solution, the IT team began searching for a vendor who could provide the very best network, one that was simplified, future-proofed — and fast.

Providing Connectivity Exactly Where It’s Needed

"We have a long-standing partnership with Huawei and have sold some of their products for a long time. In 2017, we decided to find a Wi-Fi network best suited to our strategy. After performing network tests with Huawei we decided to replace all existing Wi-Fi equipment and chose Huawei's Wi-Fi solution for its unmatched performance," explained Roman Romanov, Director of the IT Department at Citrus.

At the core of the Huawei solution, AR Series Access Routers (ARs) and four next generation Access Points (APs) have been deployed in every Citrus store as well as at the central office. Four to six wireless access licenses are integrated into a single router to create independent wireless networks, reducing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Meanwhile, AC6000 Series Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) Access Controllers (ACs) are responsible for the centralized monitoring and management of the entire network infrastructure, allowing the IT team at head office to closely monitor performance. In addition, AC6000 features large capacity and high reliability, and together with Huawei APs, delivers large-scale and high-density access services.

With Wi-Fi 6 — 802.11ax — moving mainstream, Citrus was quick to adopt this next generation technology, purchasing Huawei's new, high-performance indoor Wi-Fi 6 AirEngine 5700 Series APs. With Software-Defined Radio (SDR) and flexible switching between dual- and triple-radio modes, they excel at handling high performance and high-density scenarios. AirEngine 5700 also performs very well in high-interference environments — such as offices and retail stores — with interference scanning capabilities provided by an independent radio. And alongside these new APs, Citrus further enhanced its network capabilities in 2020 by purchasing additional licenses and an extra wireless controller.

Seamless Wireless Coverage in Every Citrus Store

Huawei's CloudCampus solution — powered by the latest AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 technology — has already delivered tangible results to the company, also bringing added convenience to end-customers. Citrus is now able to deploy network configurations in all of its retail stores at the same time, and its new solution has made a real difference to the company's operations, both in terms of network efficiency and centralized management.

Indeed, Citrus has already realized a sizable return on its investment: The new network solution delivers higher cost effectiveness, cutting TCO by 20%. In addition, the infrastructure is effectively future-proofed, supporting further innovations while keeping investment costs low.

With Huawei, Citrus has seen marked improvements in both network performance and reliability. AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 algorithm technologies are powering the company forward by dramatically boosting capacity while slashing delay. Latency is down 50% and Wi-Fi coverage is far more stable and secure, creating a smooth experience for all applications and supporting the customer instore experience.

"We now have more than 300 pieces of Huawei equipment and we haven't had a single complaint," Mr. Romanov explained. "The support from Huawei and its partner SI BIS are tremendous initiatives that immediately solved software compatibility and update issues. We are pleased to say that the Huawei solution has helped us meet our business objectives with ease."

Huawei also provided a comprehensive training and certification program for Citrus, to help the company effectively build up its in-house IT expertise: The IT team now has Huawei Certified ICT Associate (HCIA) WLAN certification, with full access to Huawei's wide array of online training materials.

The latest wireless technology is delivering an exceptional experience to instore visitors, who can test-drive products in every single Citrus store: a major point of differentiation for the company and a significant competitive edge. In this regard, Citrus is fully equipped to keep delivering the experiences its customers want, now and in the future.

Click here to explore more industrial digital transformation stories from the Intelligent IP Pioneers webpage.

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