For retailers, delivering seamless digital experiences both on the sales floor and online has become more important than ever – the need for which has only been accelerated by the pandemic. Edge computing has emerged as an integral element in propelling new digital applications in both brick-and-mortar and online commerce, as well as driving other critical business outcomes. According to survey data from IDC Research, sponsored by Lumen Technologies, 73% of retail business leaders view Edge computing as a strategic investment, with 47% planning to invest in Edge solutions in less than one year.
“Key retail operations rely on real-time or frequent access to data, and edge computing can improve data access speed and performance, as well as maintain data security which is imperative in retail,” says Leslie Hand, vice president, IDC Retail Insights. “Edge computing solutions can drive improvements in areas including personalized customer engagement, order management, customer self-service and omnichannel process automation.”
Creating differentiated digital experiences
83% of retailers surveyed expect to have access to data in real-time or frequently, with two-thirds noting that data access is imperative for driving rich customer experiences. Customers expect faster and customized digital interactions whether they are engaging with an ecommerce site, mobile app or self-checkout kiosk. Edge computing allows data to reside closer to where digital interactions occur, greatly improving the speed at which it can be acquired, analyzed and acted upon. Having near real-time access to data can allow for experiences like cashier-less stores where a mobile app connects to sensors and tracks items added to a shopper’s cart or personalized advertising strategies that recognize customers and send them predictive promotional offers based on their preferences or shopping history.
Improving operational efficiency
Customer facing innovations aren’t the only way that retail companies can use Edge computing solutions. Supply chain applications that are dedicated to tasks like delivery, inventory management, pricing, and scanning can be boosted with Edge and IoT technology to adapt to constantly changing consumer patterns more quickly. For example, sensors placed in stores can track the flow of foot traffic to help with inventory placement.
Securing data at the edge
With the amount of private financial and personal identification information collected by retailers during customer transactions, security was noted as the top consideration when deploying Edge computing solutions. By moving data processing closer to where data is generated, data transmission is minimized, and the potential attack surface is reduced. Additionally, threats can be met head-on at the source with a variety of web application security solutions.
U.S. consumer confidence rose in April to its highest levels since the start of the pandemic1, signaling opportunity for retailers. However even before the pandemic, retail customers were demanding digital-first and personalized shopping experiences. With market pressures compounded by the effects of the pandemic, retailers are seeking out innovative technologies to find new ways to thrive. Edge computing has emerged as a key technology in powering retail business models of the future.