Edge Computing in Retail

For brick and mortar retailers, almost 90% of global retail sales occur in physical stores and because of this most of them are investing in computing power located closer to the buyer1. This is known as edge computing. Computing closer to the edge ensures that information processing, content collection, and delivery are placed near customers and store operations.

In a physical retail storefront, the network is usually comprised of a small server room and cash registers with individual backup power systems attached. New in-store edge environments focus on the digital experience of the customer – this requires new edge applications that support local devices such as digital mirrors, smart dressing rooms and more. To do this, retail IT must push more assets to the edge to ensure that the digital and physical components are seamlessly integrated. Hosting these applications can improve logistics, inventory and supply chain management to reduce costs, but this approach requires automation.

Most legacy platforms were put into place without any forethought into centralized management, automation, and control. Edge technology provides exactly what this previous infrastructure didn’t, the ability to utilize all three. It also allows for a leaner and more reliable IT infrastructure that can run multiple applications. Retailers with distributed networks need edge technology to ensure that stores are able to use the control and flexibility of cloud-based services. In order to support these new applications, high resiliency micro data centers have become the solution of choice.

As the edge becomes the critical connectivity point for local data gathering and analytics, micro data centers offer a plug and play preconfigured integrated infrastructure. These edge nodes are managed through remote software so IT staff aren’t needed onsite to keep systems running.

Some of the main ways edge computing can be used in retail is to improve:

Customer Experiences

Retailers are able to improve customer experiences using edge computing where they are able to access information such as purchase histories. This allows marketers to recommend new products or offers based on purchasing decisions and connect them with current and potential customers. Information gathered through edge computing enables retailers to understand how customers behave online and in store, this can be used to help in learning more about the decision-making process and ensure stock is kept at the right levels to reduce overstocking.

Interoperability between Devices

Edge computing converts communication protocols used by legacy devices into a language that smart devices and the cloud can understand, which makes it easier to connect legacy equipment with modern IoT platforms. This allows organizations to immediately capture analytics without having to invest in new and expensive equipment.

Security and Compliance

Edge computing ensures that retailers are able to provide improved security for sensitive customer information. When data is transferred from the cloud to devices, security and compliance risks increase. Edge computing is able to filter information locally and only transfer data that is required for model-building in the cloud.

Retail stores can now be treated as an entire ecosystem rather than just a collection of individual stores. The detailed analytics on customer and operational data from edge computing helps retail stores improve the customer experience, and increase sales.

To learn more about the benefits of edge computing in retail environments, download our white paper today, “Building a Resilient Retail Network“.

1 https://www.retailtechnologyreview.com/articles/2017/10/17/why-90-percent-of-sales-still-happen-in-brick-and-mortar-stores/