The future of retail infrastructure – resilient network and edge data centre

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The events that transpired in year 2020 has changed the way the retail industry interacts with consumers. With restrictions continually changing and the uncertainty of future lock downs, it has become clear that retailers can’t just rely on selling in a physical store, to bring in their sales.

Particuarly in these times, Consumers are looking for shopping options, such as ordering online with delivery to their home, click and collect in store or browsing and shopping in a physical store. They want to find to option that delivers the best experience and greatest convenience for them.

To thrive, retailers need to take advantage of digital technology and online options associated with having a digital presence. Retailers can expand their reach beyond their typical customer base, use digital advertising to target specific consumers, access to abandon cart data and much more The possibilities are endless.

Offering more in-store

The comprehensive, unified offering across sectors is what customers are demanding, and to make it work properly, retail stores need to invest in technologies such as IoT, AR and AI.

As customers become smarter shoppers, retail spaces need to offer more than just a product showcase. They need to offer memorable and immersive brand experiences. These brand experiences can either be through human touch or technology, such as augmented reality and virtual reality. Imagine stores where you can play a game of basketball in your new shoes. Or augmented reality mirrors that let you virtually try on clothing without even having to get changed.

This re‑invented retail space will require more robust IT infrastructure, but it won’t all be in the cloud.

Advantages with edge

Why edge computing and not simply the cloud? Cloud computing has many benefits, including scalability and elasticity. However, it has limitations when it comes to network connectivity and latency.  Edge computing provides more reliable performance and connectivity to keep systems operational even if network fails.

For brick and mortar retailers, almost 90% of global retail sales still occur in physical stores. For this reason, most of them are investing in computing power located closer to the buyer. In the traditional physical retail storefront, the network is usually comprised of a small server room and cash registers with individual backup power UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). New in-store edge environments focus on the digital experience of the customer, and this requires new edge applications that offer meaningful data. To do this, retail IT must push more assets to the edge to ensure that the digital and physical components are seamlessly integrated. Also, hosting these applications at the edge can improve logistics, inventory and supply chain management to reduce costs.

As the edge becomes the critical connectivity point for local data gathering and analytics, micro data centres offer a plug and play preconfigured integrated infrastructure. These edge nodes are managed through remote software that allows IT staff to keep systems running even when they aren’t onsite.

Technology to keep it all going

There is nothing worse than losing a customer at the checkout. Whether it be online or in store, customers who give up because the software needed to process their sales isn’t working properly are unlikely to come back in a hurry. Don’t let this happen to you. Invest in the technology needed to keep everything up and running. Technology such as server racks, UPS, security, as well as cloud-based management tools are key elements to a robust edge architecture.

For more information on how Schneider Electric can help your retail IT infrastructure with these solutions, visit Schneider Electric Australia.

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