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Retailers: It’s time to adopt edge computing

As retailers continue to expand in-store operations as vaccination levels increase, there is mounting pressure to not only remain COVID-19-compliant, but also maintain a high level of customer service that will lure customers back to physical storefronts.

Consumer trends are always changing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced retailers to holistically reevaluate what’s powering their store operations and determine if their current systems are providing the level of service needed to not only survive, but thrive.

Retailers know the power of data and how it affects every aspect of the business, but many are not using the insights they collect to their full potential. The cloud has traditionally been offered as a solution for retail’s data management problems. However, it is limiting, especially for stores with hundreds or thousands of locations that need access to data on-location in order to make quick, data-driven decisions. To succeed in 2021, retailers need to process data on-premise at the edge. 

What is edge computing?
Edge computing is a new type of compute power that exists between smart technologies (think Internet-connected appliances, cameras, sensors, etc.) and the cloud. Unlike cloud solutions, the edge saves time and money by processing the data on-site and only egressing the data needed for quick-decision making to the cloud.

Collected data that sits unanalyzed is a waste of time, resources and money for retailers. By adopting a solution like edge computing, retailers can analyze business relevant data and make quick and thoughtful decisions across thousands of locations. 

How does edge computing benefit retailers?

Management of smart devices

Every second, 127 new IoT devices are connected to the Web, from handheld devices to sensors and beyond. In the age of IoT, AI and 5G retailers’ options are unlimited. The industry relies on these devices to continue to innovate and meet customer needs.

However, having expensive data collection systems in place is of no use to retailers if the data being collected is not being analyzed and used to inform real-time, day-to-day actions across the store. 

COVID-19 compliance 
As retailers look to maintain COVID-19 compliance, real-time insights will be critical for addressing concerns. For example with an edge system in place, a retailer could instantly analyze data from their video cameras to ensure employees and customers are maintaining social distancing. The edge allows employees to see disruptions in real-time and act quickly to address them. The ability to be reactive will be key to responding to events and maintaining COVID-19 compliance. 

The edge can also save retailers a significant amount of money. Filtering business-relevant data out from a massive pool of raw data is not a simple task and requires significant processing power and bandwidth, which is often a hidden cost for store owners.

Sending all the raw camera footage to the cloud may be inconsequential with one location, but when it becomes 100 cameras at 1,000 stores, retailers are wasting money and time, which can have major impacts on the bottom line. 

Providing a stellar customer experience 

As more and more consumers receive the COVID-19 vaccine, retailers are pulling out all the stops to bring people back to brick-and-mortar locations. Many are relying on competitive pricing and promotions to excite customers. From targeted marketing emails, to sizable markdowns, to utilizing technology such as beacons to alert a user’s mobile phone when they are near a product that’s on sale - retailers are relying on reliable consumer data. 

But what happens once those customers set foot in the store? How can retailers ensure items are consistently stocked and organized to keep customers coming back, rather than solely relying on e-commerce. Advanced data analytics, powered by an edge solution, can ensure a smooth customer experience and help retailers stay ahead of the competition. 

Retailers can also use their collected and analyzed data to predict consumer trends and ensure their inventory and marketing plans are on track season to season. Edge computing helps retailers address these issues on a day-to-day basis, but also provides a toolkit for long-term planning. 

In conclusion, retailers not processing data on location using the edge will be left behind. Retailers who adopt an edge solution will help ensure customers who are in-store are satisfied, which can help contribute to a healthy bottom line. The benefits of adopting an edge solution cover all areas of business, and finding a trusted technology partner can minimize risk and take a lot of headaches out of the application and installation process.

Jeffrey Ricker is CEO of Hivecell.

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