The shift to online shopping over the last decade has introduced massive change to the retail industry. Up to 67% of millennials and 56% of gen-Xers now conduct most of their shopping online. Despite the uptake of online shopping, edge computing for retail can ensure that bricks and mortar stores remain business-viable.

However, retailers need to adapt to the constant evolution of the digital market to remain competitive. They must embrace the real-time data analytics that the edge computing model offers. In-store sales, marketing, inventory, and overall customer experience can all benefit immensely.

The revolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) has provided connectivity that enables retail businesses to increase their customer service in ways never before imagined. Securus Retail Edge could be the perfect fit for your business.

What Is Edge Computing?

Edge computing is a distributed computing model where most data processing occurs as close as possible to the data source and the consumers of that data, known as the ‘edge’.

Essentially, edge computing brings data storage closer to the devices gathering it rather than centralising it in a remote, central location that is often a different country. As a result, real-time data is delivered in real-time, meaning with little to no latency.

This model has transformed the way real-time data is processed and delivered. Devices and applications requiring real-time computing can now break free of the latency constraints imposed by cloud computing.

Localised compute power combined with high-speed broadband and fast wireless technologies like 5G can make the impossible possible. Edge computing systems can now accelerate retail applications such as point-of-sale (PoS), customer analytics, inventory, and buying trends to become genuinely real-time.

5 Reasons Retail Needs Edge Computing

With Securus Retail Edge, retailers can leverage the real-time data processing capabilities of IoT devices. They can also harness the power of AI and machine learning technologies to streamline retail operational processes, increase sales, and improve overall customer experience. 

1. Increased Store Efficiency

Edge computing increases store efficiency in several key areas, especially by boosting the performance of IoT devices that thrive on real-time data.

Retailers can use edge computing services to communicate with customers’ handheld IoT devices; Allowing customers to create their own personal shopping list from home, the local coffee shop, or even in-store.

When customers arrive at the store, their devices can efficiently aid them in locating and purchasing their selected items. As edge computing advances reduce latency, customers have a smooth, efficient, and satisfying shopping experience.

The retailer can also use edge technology to track and maximise its retail space by installing sensors around the store, thus further increasing store efficiency. These sensors detect and report foot traffic in real-time, analysing how customers are currently moving around the store and reorganise product displays or update special offers accordingly.

The same conveniences apply to the Point of Sale (PoS) experience, as real-time data speeds up PoS transactions. By reducing the length of the customer checkout line, retailers increase sales. Studies have revealed that decreasing queue lengths at checkout boosts sales by eliminating in-store abandoned purchases.

Such efficiency can reduce the need for cashiers and assign their personnel to other customer-focused duties like restocking, merchandise display, and customer service. With more products and assistance available to shoppers, the retailer will see an increase in revenue.

Finally, with edge computing applications, a check-out-less store is possible. Customers download the app, use the app when they enter the store, take the items they need, pay through the app, and walk out—no waiting in line and no cashier. Amazon Go has already successfully implemented this modern retail model. 

2. Enhanced Customer Experience

In addition to shorter queues and faster checkout, retailers can enhance the customer experience in new and exciting ways. For example, edge computers can communicate with a shopper’s mobile phone to determine what the buyer is looking for, make recommendations, and provide tailored offers.

A retail store app can let customers check the availability of a product and reveal its location in-store. From there, the retail store can automatically offer a promotional price for the item (or items) in question and suggest ‘also bought together’ and ‘currently trending’. 

Flash promotional offers are also available through the app as the customer moves through the store. Any of these features interactive, real-time processes made possible by edge computing technology.

Augmented reality is another tool aided by edge computing that helps retailers reduce the number of returns. This “try-before-you-buy” concept works in the brick and mortar setting just as well as online. 

Customers can use augmented reality from home to see how an article of clothing or piece of furniture will look before heading to the store to purchase it. With much of the guesswork out of the way, customers have more time to browse further in-store.

From a customer service perspective, harnessing real-time data allows staff to assist customers from anywhere in the store. Using handheld devices, staff can help buyers locate items or even check out on the spot rather than heading to a checkout counter.

3. More Detailed Consumer Trend Analytics

Edge computing plays a critical role in retail analytics and determining customer trends. Detailed consumer data from IoT devices and edge computing makes it possible to assess trends before the customer has even decided to leave the store.

It is also faster and more precise at identifying purchasing patterns, influencing internal processes such as warehouse management and marketing campaigns. Retailers can use these real-time analytics to identify and predict in-store buying trends as they happen. 

This data can be later sent back to the cloud for additional processing. Retail businesses can plan for purchasing trends, better target their marketing and procurement strategies for in-store and online sales. They can use the data to craft targeted, personalised email campaigns. 

AI and machine learning come into play here in that they reduce some of the more time-consuming tasks that keep sales staff away from customers. By automating account-based marketing functions in real-time, retailers can capture predictive analytics for forecasting, reporting, highlighting customer needs, preferences, and purchasing habits. With this information, they will know which customers to upsell first and which products to cross-sell.

4. Real-time Inventory Management

Real-time solutions, including IoT devices, improve other retail processes such as inventory management, pricing, and loss prevention. Edge computing allows the retailer to maintain accurate inventory in real-time, which means both staff and customers using their apps know where any given item is on the floor or storeroom. As customers make purchases, the inventory is updated instantly in-store and centrally.

Customers will know where in-store to find the item or when to ask staff to retrieve an item from the storeroom. Likewise, staff are alerted when an item is low or out of stock right away. What’s more, some applications will automatically reorder items before they go out of stock entirely so that no sales opportunity is lost.

Collecting device data can aid in loss prevention and reducing accidental and fraudulent behaviour at self-checkout. Real-time data collected from scanners and weighing equipment are combined with video footage of the checkout area by AI for assessment. 

All this results in staff receiving automatic, real-time notifications of any suspicious events or customer behaviour. Employees can take the necessary action without any interruption in customer checkout.

5. Security, Data Privacy & Compliance

Thus far, we have talked about how real-time reporting can boost sales, enhance customer experience, manage inventory, and aid in loss prevention. This final area deals with the more considerable challenge of in-store security, data privacy & compliance. 

Certainly, edge computing is a formidable tool as it allows for real-time security monitoring of every area of the store from the front door to the back warehouse. 

Cameras and devices can monitor checkout lines and delivery areas, providing constant reporting for continual monitoring and analytics reporting over time. Together, this data enables retailers to respond to in-store security threats quickly, thus decreasing theft and improving safety for all. 

Customer data falls under security compliance laws such as GDPR, and that data must be protected by law. The physical devices that make up the edge computing model that store this sensitive data have several security layers. 

Each device is capable of running its own local next-generation firewall process and alert to a central monitoring system. Also, the real-time data stored on these devices can be fully encrypted at wire speed. Should the physical device be compromised or stolen, the data is entirely useless.

SD-WAN For Retail

SD-WAN is a complimenting technology that can boost WAN performance by using the most efficient, low latency path available for data transfer. This service allows retailers to move some edge devices out of store, and locate them at the nearest WAN PoP. Multiple local stores can utilise the same edge computing nodes to reduce cost. Below is an article on the subject that you may find useful.

Conclusion

Retailers now recognise the power of the ever-growing IoT. With Securus Retail Edge you can harness the real-time data derived from IoT devices and edge computing to increase sales and attract more customers to their physical stores.

The ease of online shopping can be brought to bricks and mortar stores. But there is so much more; customers can now interact in real-time with retail stores like never before. Technologies such as product location, flash offers, and augmented reality are just the tip of the iceberg, taking the in-store experience to another level.

In addition to streamlining the shopping experience for customers, the real-time data that edge computing offers can further boost efficiencies to other retail processes. Inventory management, customer analytics, loss prevention, and security can all be enhanced. Please get in touch to discuss your networking requirements in more detail. We offer a completely free consultation with one of our technology experts to fully go over your precise needs.

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