Retail therapy – why the High Street must look to a technology-driven future

By Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO, Scale Computing

Digital transformation is impacting almost every industry, and retail is no exception. Traditional retailers are facing an existential threat from the plethora of online shopping brands that have transformed the consumer landscape. Those consumers expect a quick, easy and convenient way of shopping, and online retailers have delivered.

Aside from the inherent advantages of online versus traditional stores, internet retailers are – effectively – two steps ahead because the very nature of their digital operations drives continual IT transformation. Not only are they able to cater to our busy lifestyles, but they are well-placed to utilise technology to help drive engagement. By default, these retailers have greater insight into who their consumers are, when they are likely to shop and what they need/want. So, what can high street retailers do to compete?

Combining physical presence with edge technology

High Street retailers need to have reliable, robust and scalable IT systems in place to make sure the retail experience runs smoothly. For instance, in peak sales the last thing that retailers or their customers want is a disrupted service, so it’s important to have a modern and simplified platform that can reliably meet demand. In addition, most retail outlets have limited on-site staff, so it is crucial that any underpinning technology is simple, easy to use and can be deployed remotely.

This is where edge technology can play a vital role for retailers. Not only can it solve many of their IT challenges, it can also enable retailers to evolve by utilising data for business intelligence. While online retailers naturally gain data insights, they don’t have as much opportunity to interact with customers as traditional shops. With edge computing, traditional retailers can close the gap on their online rivals and turn their personal customer contact into a data-driven advantage.

For example, in High Street retail, connected edge devices can report how many times customers enter a building, as well as what they looked at and for how long, helping boost sales. It also becomes possible to track a customer’s journey through the store, to see the path they are most likely to take and what caught their attention. With this technology in place, businesses have the opportunity to substantially increase the efficiency of the shop floor layout.

Enhancing the customer experience

Connected edge devices can also enhance the direct customer experience with the ability to confirm the availability of specific items in-store. Edge technology allows for personalised adverts and intelligent shelf labels, and can also be used to remove some of the more mundane daily tasks while improving accuracy, such as monitoring fridge and freezer temperatures to automatically adjust and preserve food.

But all of this needs to be cost-effective and simple to manage and implement, otherwise the costs can outweigh the benefits. This is a game-changing technology, and if edge computing is implemented through an on-site, scalable, cost-effective and easy-to-manage appliance, retailers can take full advantage of the benefits.

If High Street retailers can implement edge technology and utilise the same level of data insights that online retailers naturally do, we will start to see a market shift, enabling them to compete more effectively with their all-digital online rivals.

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