Creating an Omnichannel Retail Experience Through Edge Computing
Retailers have been at the forefront of digital transformation strategies since before the term ‘digital transformation’ had really entered the lexicon. For over two decades, ecommerce providers have been seeking ways to create new customer-centric shopping experiences through the use of websites and mobile apps, cloud migration endeavors, and most recently, edge technology solutions.
Standing out in a crowded market
The hard truth is that retail is one of – if not the most – competitive industries in the world, with a seemingly unlimited number of buying options for consumers to turn to if they can’t get it right away at the first store they visit. This has only been exacerbated by the rise of ecommerce solutions in which a two-second delay in response times can lead to dramatic losses in revenue as users flock to a competitor’s site to make their purchases. In fact, research has shown that a mere 0.1 second improvement in ecommerce site speed can lead to:
- Nearly 10% increase in revenue
- 4% increase in conversions
- 2% increase in average order value
- 2% improvement in customer engagement metrics
This data could lead one to conclude that the future of retail lies in creating faster and faster digital interactions. However, after decades of expanding and optimizing their digital storefronts, retailers can now start using edge computing solutions for a variety of their online, offline and back-office environments, with the end goal of creating a truly immersive and personalized omnichannel experience that bridges the gap between digital and in-person sales.
Creating a differentiated shopping experience
While online shopping continues to grow in volume, in-store shopping is actually becoming more popular with the younger generations who seek a more personal touch. Among consumers aged 16-22 in the US and UK, 71% cite in-store shopping as one of their preferred methods, compared to 52% for online shopping.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a return to the heyday of brick-and-mortar stores. To create the kind of in-store experience that can provide a leg up on the competition, retailers should consider adopting new and innovative approaches that maximize the efficiency of both the buying and selling process.
One example, which is already growing in popularity, is checkout-less stores, in which shoppers open an app on their phones, which connects to sensors that track the items as they’re removed from the shelves and placed in the shopping cart, thus eliminating the need for long checkout lines that require each item to be scanned and paid for.
Another use of edge computing, that we’ve seen take hold, is the installation of self-serve kiosks in place of larger brick-and-mortar locations. This not only allows retailers to cut back on overhead expenditures, but also provides them with an opportunity to bring their products closer to where their customers might need them, such as a sunglass retailer placing a kiosk near the beach, or a sports apparel company having one right outside a stadium.
Retailers can also use edge computing to personalize the in-store experience in similar ways that they do the digital experience. While ecommerce shoppers get targeted ads based on their browsing history, a retailer can use similar contextual advertising strategies by recognizing a shopper when they enter the store and sending them predictive promotional offers based on their preferences or shopping history. Looking ahead, retailers could explore truly innovative experiences through the adoption of augmented reality (AR) mirrors that allow users to “try on” clothes or apparel without actually having to put them on.
Improving operational efficiency
Customer-facing innovations aren’t the only way that retail companies can use edge computing solutions to improve their bottom lines. Applications that are dedicated to tasks like inventory management, pricing, and scanning can be boosted with edge and IoT technology to adapt to constantly changing consumer patterns more quickly.
One example (beyond the checkout-less stores covered above) is using sensors placed in the store to track the flow of foot traffic and other customer trends to make proactive decisions regarding the placement of inventory. A network of cameras and sensors like this can generate huge amounts of data, which can then be analyzed on-premise on the edge servers rather than getting sent back to the core datacenter, thus saving time and costly transit charges.
Additionally, edge solutions can help ensure content freshness through dynamic content caching and image optimization, thus helping retailers ensure that their messaging is always up to date. Using the edge to deliver promotional offers can help localize content to specific audiences, such as running a promotion in a specific location.
Securing data at the edge
With the amount of private financial information as well as personal identification data collected by retailers during their consumer transactions, the risk of data breaches is ever-present and must be mitigated by a comprehensive security strategy that doesn’t detract from the customer experience.
These threats can be met head-on at the source with edge computing solutions like web application firewalls, bot managers, API protection, SSL certificate managers, geo-fencing solutions and Layer 7 DDoS mitigation that can be deployed directly on top of the underlying infrastructure.
Why Lumen for edge delivery
Lumen Application Delivery Solutions combine one of the largest and best-connected content delivery networks in the world with powerful edge compute solutions that give retailers’ DevSecOps and SRE teams direct control over their applications. Points of presence strategically placed in over 90 major metropolitan areas in 40+ countries around the globe, interconnected with Lumen’s IP backbone, offer scalable, secure and flexible application delivery capabilities.
Lumen Application Delivery Solutions also offer a modular approach to edge services with an application ecosystem that enables companies to choose from several best-of-breed providers for security, content acceleration, API caching, and more. We also offer development teams the opportunity to build directly onto the Lumen network infrastructure with open-source modules, proprietary software and custom code.
This modular approach, combined with a managed service offering that matches an organization’s digital operational capability with the appropriate level of support, ensures that our customers can have as much control over their edge application delivery strategy as needed, thereby enabling continuous improvements to the customer experience.
To learn more about how Lumen edge application delivery can help your business, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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