Best UCaaS Solutions For Retail

Posted by Chris Poupart on Jan 8, 2019
Chris Poupart
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How do UCaaS Providers RingCentral, 8x8, and Jive stack up for retail customers?

RingCentral and 8X8 are both designated as ‘Leaders’ in the Gartner Group’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), and both offer cost-effective voice solutions and proven collaboration solutions. Their competitor Jive is getting a lot of attention since its acquisition by LogMeIn in 2018. So how to retail organizations juggling cost-containment, building omnichannel capabilities, and transforming the customer experience choose a UCaaS solution?

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Radical Shifts in the Retail Landscape

Traditional brick and mortar retailers are under siege. As more shoppers embrace e-commerce over the in-store experience, retailers are faced with ever higher customer expectations (free same-day shipping, anyone?) and a host of dominant and disruptive competitors.
While most experts agree that there’s plenty of life left in more conventional retail (Forbes — ‘Physical Retail Isn't Dead. Boring Retail Is’), retailers are looking to new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and the internet of things (IoT) to transform both the in-store and the overall customer experience.

This creates unique challenges for retail technology providers, as they must deliver traditional benefits like cost-savings and rollout simplicity while also addressing these emerging technology requirements.
And, as it turns out, our three providers, RingCentral, 8X8, and Jive, take similar approaches in addressing these challenges.

Cost-Containment

Most retail environments consist of dozens (or hundreds) of remote stores, all with similar technology configurations. With so many similar deployments, retailers prioritize economies of scale and cost savings when evaluating store solutions.

RingCentral, 8x8, and Jive all deliver on the two key financial benefits of cloud-based telephony and contact center solutions — lower capital outlay, and transparent, predictable operations costs — and are well-suited for smaller or remote retail branches.

As well, all three providers’ VoIP solutions offer standard voice features such as multiple lines, automated attendants, unlimited calling, and more. Each also provides solutions tailored for retail environments, such as central store-level IVR and mobile applications for floor staff.

Starting at under $30 per month per user, RingCentral provides four plan options, while 8x8’s three options start at $25 per month. Jive boasts ‘all-in pricing,’ including all features, for only $19.95 per month once user-counts exceed 50. By contrast, RingCentral limits certain features to its higher plan levels. If you want RingCentral options like call recording, multi-level attendant and high definition voice, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium or enterprise plan.

Also, while RingCentral does provide volume discounts that may lower monthly user costs, those volume discounts requires a large number of users and an annual commitment. 

Ease of Implementation

A key challenge for retailers is rolling out new technology to large numbers of remote locations, all with limited or no in-store technical support. Store solutions must be easy to set up and configure remotely.

While there’s truth in the ‘ease of implementation’ claims of all three providers, those claims come with an important caveat. None of these solutions are ‘plug and play.’ All require careful upfront planning and configuration at the headquarters level prior to rollout. Once initial setup is complete, however, each of these providers takes steps to ensure simplified, streamlined rollouts.

PC Magazine rates 8x8’s Virtual Office Pro as ‘Excellent’ and praises its ‘solid mobile and desktop capability with easy setup.’ Once the provided and preconfigured handsets are installed, new users simply log into the 8x8 Account Manager Portal to configure the system and activate the required features.

Setting up 8x8 isn’t always painless, however. Firewall configuration issues sometimes occur, and network bandwidth problems can cause dropped calls or create other connectivity challenges. The fix for the latter requires network monitoring and troubleshooting — not always easy to undertake remotely for retailers managing multiple sites.

PC Magazine named RingCentral as its Editor’s Choice, citing the VoIP Provider’s ‘customized features, integration capabilities, and reasonable price tag.’

PC Mag also lauds RingCentral’s simple installation process, pointing to the provider’s Quick Start guide, which breaks down configuration and calling into seven simple steps and even provides clear instructional videos for each.

As with 8x8, however, it’s important to test RingCentral under load, as network issues may cause dropped calls or video issues. Remote users can also sometimes experience problems if connecting via VPN. In these cases, as with 8x8, network monitoring and troubleshooting may be required.

Jive offers a compelling alternative. PC Mag calls Jive Hosted VoIP “a mature offering that's releasing new features and capabilities at a healthy clip.” Once initial configuration is complete, rolling out Jive is also easy, although the platform can encounter performance issues similar to those experienced by RingCentral and 8x8.

Security

Retailers now collect vast amounts of data, both online and in-store. And that has cyber criminals working overtime. According to cybersecurity firm Shape Security, 80% to 90% of the people that log in to retailer e-commerce site are hackers using stolen data — the highest percentage of any sector.

8x8 has made significant investments to ensure the security of their platform and their customers’ confidential data. 8x8 boasts multiple security certifications, including HIPAA (healthcare), FISMA (federal government), PCI-DSS (e-commerce) and Privacy Shield Framework (US/EU privacy standard). While not retail-specific, these certifications require stringent security measures that help protect data theft across all industry segments.

8x8 is also recognized as ‘Enterprise-ready’ by the Skyhigh Networks CloudTrust™ program, which holds strict requirements for data and identity protection. Finally, 8x8 utilizes fully redundant and geographically dispersed SSAE 16-certified data centers.

RingCentral also employs redundant SSAE 16 and ISO 27001-audited data centers, all protected by multiple layers of electronic and physical security. They are also rated as ‘Enterprise-ready’ by CloudTrust, and security-certified by numerous organizations including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Jive also provides a secure cloud environment, and includes additional features such as Jive Secure, which protects voice calls using audio encryption to ensure voice calls can’t be hacked.

Third-Party Application Integration

Aside from core applications like voice, SMS and team messaging, retailers need their VOIP platforms to seamlessly integrate with a wide range of third-party apps — for productivity, CRM, analytics and customer support.

RingCentral provides an open platform and a range of developer tools to support the integration of third-party apps. RingCentral supports hundreds of popular business applications — and many, like Salesforce, Oracle Cloud, Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics, that are often found in retail environments.

8x8 offers support for a wide range of applications such as NetSuite, HubSpot, SAP, and SalesforceIQ. Of note is 8x8’s collaboration integration, as you can easily consolidate your Gmail, Lync, Outlook, Office 365, Exchange and 8x8 phone system contacts into the 8x8 Virtual Desktop.

Not to be the odd man out, Jive also supports leading applications such as Google, Redtail, and Zoho, with Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics coming onboard soon.

A unique niche that Jive supports is the automotive dealership market. By pulling together telephony, texting, Facebook chat and other dealership applications into its ‘Purple Cloud,’ Jive promises lower costs, greater efficiencies and a better user experience for automotive dealers.

Support For Future Technologies

The ability to collect data and perform analytics has given retailers an unprecedented view into customer needs and preferences. Retailers can now predict customer behavior and leverage AI tools like virtual assistants to enhance the shopping experience — all while automating back-end processes to cut costs.

Faced with the challenge of integrating these emerging solutions into current store technologies, RingCentral appears to be heading in the right direction. In July, they announced plans to integrate with Google Cloud’s new Contact Center AI, which combines multiple AI products to improve the customer service experience and contact center productivity.

And just last month, RingCentral also announced partnerships with Gong.io, ThetaLake and Velvetech to deliver real-time and post-call voice analytics services to its customers.

Last year Jive’s parent company, LogMeIn, purchased Israeli startup Nanorep, a maker of chatbots and other AI-based tools. LogMeIn has begun integrating these capabilities into Jive, as well as its other collaboration platforms like GoToMeeting and Join.Me.

8x8 has also made significant investments in AI and analytics, acquiring startup MarianaIQ earlier this year for its AI and Machine Learning technologies. MarianaIQ will add machine-led marketing and customer targeting capabilities to the 8x8 platform.

Earlier in 2018, 8x8 also hired AI expert Dr. Ali Arsanjani, Ph.D., as Vice President of AI and Machine Learning. Dr. Arsanjani is leading 8x8’s initiatives to leverage analytics and AI to help companies develop actionable insights and improve the customer experience.

Three Excellent VOIP Choices for Retailers

RingCentral, Jive, and 8x8 all present attractive options for retailers looking to deploy a cloud-based UCaaS platform.

Two factors may determine the final choice for retailers in the market. The first may be application integration. Which provider does a better job of supporting the specific applications the retailer needs to drive its business?

The second consideration focuses on the ability of the integrator or MSP the retailer chooses to implement their solution. If the integrator supports more than one solution, which does the integrator have more experience with? How many certifications does the integrator hold for each, and what level of partnership do they maintain with the providers?

Ultimately, retailers choosing the best UCaaS choice for their business may base their final decision not on the relative merits of 8x8 versus RingCentral or Jive, but the strengths of their integrator or managed services provider.

Download the UCaaS solutions comparison summary for retail

To learn more about 8x8, RingCentral and Jive's solutions for retail, request a demo with a Technical Solutions Engineer

Tags: UCaaS, verticals