By Jeff Jennings and Marc Fowler
Consumer behaviors have shifted – from in-store to online shopping, from brand loyalty to relationships of convenience. In response, smart retailers are pivoting from peddling products to promoting experiences. In particular, they’re leveraging edge computing to move brand interactions closer to the consumer for better service, more lasting relationships, and new revenue streams.
Edge computing is a distributed paradigm that extends compute power, data collection, and application delivery close to where it’s needed by either employees or customers. Edge technologies include devices, sensors, networking, and remote applications. They work together to accelerate interactions, provide new services, and improve customer satisfaction.
Edging Ahead of the Competition
Retailers across segments are applying edge computing to transform various aspects of their operations. One example is a telecommunications giant that deployed edge technology in its retail stores.
The stores are set up without checkout stations or traditional cash registers. Instead, sales associates are equipped with tablets that act as POS devices. The approach allows sales associates to better serve customers, with personalized attention and opportunities for cross-sell and upsell. And it provides customers with a fast, hands-on, and friction-free sales experience.
Achieving those capabilities required a hybrid networking solution that combines WiFi and small-cell, private LTE networking. The company implemented Intel® SmartEdge, a multi-access edge computing (MEC) solution that enables a powerful cloud to be placed at the edge of the network, close to the user.
The WiFi network allows customers to easily try out product features. Because they can test drive devices, they’re more likely to be satisfied with their purchases.
The LTE network gives sales staff fast, secure access to customer profiles, credit scores, and targeted marketing such as eligibility for upgrades. It also enables fast, secure sales transactions.
Service With an Edge
In the automotive sector, a global brand is using edge technology at retail sales locations to improve service and repair processes and experiences.
Car dealerships realize greater profits from ongoing maintenance and repair services than they do from initial car sales. The faster they can turn over service bays, the higher their revenues. And the faster they can get customers in and out of the service center, the higher the customer satisfaction.
Cars and trucks are increasingly built around software. That in-vehicle technology needs to be updated regularly for proper operation and monitoring.
When customers bring their cars in for service, the technician must download the latest software onto the vehicle. But the way dealer networks have been configured, if the download is interrupted, it has to start over from the beginning. As a result, a 15-minute download can end up taking two hours.
The solution was innovative edge technology that optimizes downloads. Vehicle updates are now physically stored at the dealership, reducing download times by 70%.
To achieve similar results in your own operations, start with user needs. Look for customer points of friction where extending capabilities to the edge can result in better experiences. Then consider worker tasks where edge-enabled process improvement can either boost employee productivity or enable employees to better serve customers.
Next, identify the combination of mobile devices, IoT sensors, networking technology, and applications you need to address those needs. If you don’t have the knowledge or resources internally, consider working with an IT partner that has deep experience with edge implementations that have driven business results.
Jeff Jennings is director of Network Optimization and Marc Fowler is principal business consultant for Pivot.