Four Steps to Omnichannel Retail with Edge and 5G

New retail use cases emerge to address shifting retail demands

Digital transformation is at the top of the agenda in many industries, but no sector faces more significant challenges or imminent change than retail. The retail industry has experienced steady disruption for more than a decade, as e-commerce and mobile shopping offered new alternatives and the economics of brick-and-mortar retail sometimes faltered. These changes have accelerated as both consumers and merchants have been compelled to interact in altogether new ways – in-store social distancing and mask-wearing, mobile order ahead and curbside pickup and the practically instant conveyance of local products directly from the merchant or via third-party delivery services.

The challenge retailers face can be made plain with a couple of data points from this 451 Research infographic, “Retail Is Being Transformed. Is YOUR Business Ready?”:

    • The expectations of today’s digitally-savvy consumers are sky-high: 80% of consumers say they will stop doing business with a merchant due to a poor customer experience.¹
    • Most of today’s retailers know that the key to improving those experiences is to better understand their customers. This understanding is made possible by capturing and analyzing data about their needs, desires and activities – both online and in-store. Yet just 12% of retailers say their customer experience decisions are primarily data-driven today.²

The rise of the intelligent, data-driven edge

To address that disconnect, retailers must modernize their IT systems and architectures to support an intelligent and data-driven edge – IT infrastructure deployed in or near store locations where data is generated and can be acted on to create immediate, essential value. It is a requirement borne out of experience that has revealed an important truth. Many of the most critical retail workloads simply won’t run optimally – and fail to deliver mission-critical business outcomes – when deployed exclusively to the cloud or other centralized venues. These workloads require a high-performance, low-latency connectivity and compute environment that can support real-time transactions, insights and actions that deliver a seamless, frictionless omnichannel experience for customers.

A more capable enterprise edge fulfills the always-on, data-driven needs of new and emerging retail use cases, such as demand-driven inventory management, location-based marketing and contactless payment. It also supports the compute-intensive requirements of new applications, such as artificial intelligence-driven customer behavioral analysis, more engaging artificial reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) shopping experiences and autonomous vehicle and drone-based deliveries.

Technologies catalyzing transformation at the edge

The primary catalyst of this transformation is the confluence of edge computing, 5G networks, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) enabled insights. Such connected retail technologies enable real-time management of outcomes and omnichannel operations. They are the key to future retail success, ushering in a new era that is customer-centric, data-driven, personalized  and dynamic, providing consumers with seamless physical and digital shopping experiences.

Retailers are busy deploying that intelligent edge today in the form of application management modernization, IoT sensors, edge compute and storage, 5G connectivity and AI/ML enabled analytics. Those efforts are nascent, but accelerating rapidly. According to 451 Research, 37% of retail IT infrastructure is deployed at the edge today and 77% of retailers expect to increase edge deployments significantly in the next two years.³

Four steps to delivering an intelligent edge for omnichannel retail

To successfully deliver that intelligent edge, retail line of business (LoB), operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) executives and teams should take these steps:

    • Work closely to align business needs, digital processes and technology requirements.
    • Be responsive to retail changes and evolving customer requirements.
    • Understand how technologies like edge compute, 5G and AI can enable digitally-capable, omnichannel operations.
    • Deploy the right technologies and enterprise architectures to differentiate their retail operations from less tech-savvy and single-channel rivals and turn yesterday’s shortfalls and challenges into tomorrow’s business gains and opportunities.

Explore how a more intelligent, capable enterprise edge is helping to reshape retail experiences and operations in this research advisory paper developed by 451 Research and sponsored by Dell Technologies and Intel:  Transforming Retail with Edge Compute, 5G, IoT and AI.

¹ 451 Research. Voice of the Connected User Landscape, Disruptive Technologies Survey 2021.

² 451 Research. Voice of the Enterprise: Customer Experience & Commerce, Digital Maturity Survey 2021.

³ 451 Research & Dell Technologies, Custom Edge Survey, 2021.

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