Despite the increasing popularity and convenience of ecommerce, 92% of purchases continue to be made off-line, according to the U.S. Census. That’s putting enormous pressure on retailers to meet new consumer expectations around real-time access to merchandise and order information. In fact, 85.3% of shoppers expect retailers to provide associates with handheld or fixed devices to check inventory and price within a store, a nearly 51% increase over 2017, according to a survey from SOTI.
With an eye on transforming the customer experience of spending time in a store, retailers are investing aggressively in compute power located closer to the buyer, also known as edge computing.
So what new and innovative technologies are edge environments supporting? Here’s where retail is headed with customer service and how edge computing will help them get there.
Face forward: Facial recognition technology is on the rise in retail as brands search for new ways to engage customers. Take, CaliBurger, for example. The restaurant chain recently tested out self-ordering kiosks that use AI and facial-recognition technology to identify registered customers and pull up their loyalty accounts and order preferences. By automatically displaying a customer’s most popular purchases, the system aims to help patrons complete their orders in seconds flat for greater speed and convenience.
Customer experience on display: Forget about traditional counter displays. Savvy retailers are experimenting with high-tech, in-store digital signage solutions to attract consumers and gather valuable data. For instance, Glass Media’s projection-based, end-to-end digital retail signage combines display technology, a cloud-based IoT platform, and data analytic capabilities. Through projection, the solution can influence customers at the point-of-decision.
Backroom access: Tracking inventory manually requires substantial human resources. IoT-powered backroom technologies such as RFID, real-time point of sale (POS), and smart shelving systems promise to change that by improving the accuracy of inventory tracking throughout the supply chain. These automated solutions can track and reorder items automatically, eliminating the need for humans to take inventory and reducing the risk of product shortages.
Robots to the rescue: Hoping to transform the branch experience, HSBC recently unveiled Pepper, a concierge robot whose job is to help customers with simple tasks, from answering commonly asked questions to directing them to available tellers. Pepper also acts as an online banking station where customers can log into their mobile banking account or access information about products. By putting Pepper on the payroll, HSBC hopes to reduce customer wait times and free up its “human” bankers.
These innovative technologies provide retailers with unique opportunities to enhance customer experience, develop new revenue streams, and boost customer loyalty. But many of them require edge computing to work properly. Bandwidth-intensive content and vast volumes of data can lead to latency issues, outages, and other IT headaches. Fortunately, by placing computing power and storage capabilities directly on the edge of the network, edge computing can help retailers deliver the best customer experience possible.
To find out more about how edge computing is transforming the customer experience in retail, visit APC.com.
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