The Store of the Future Depends upon a Modern Infrastructure
Retailers that are successful in digitally transforming will be those that leverage technology to innovate around an immersive and disruptive customer experience. These “lighthouse” retailers are the ones driving innovation, adopting emerging technologies early, and showing the industry what works and is possible. They are the ones experimenting with new models and store formats, playing with re-combinations/reconfigurations of scale, assets, product, place, and people. And the “store of the future” is the keystone of this effort.
The store of the future will combine multiple formats to deliver an immersive and unique experience across all customer touchpoints online and in the store. It will be heavily instrumented for operational efficiency and digitally connected end-to-end to leverage a single view of customer, product, and order. The store of the future – despite its reliance on sophisticated technology and infrastructure — will be trying to look smaller and less intimidating, more personalized, and frictionless
Leading retailers are embracing this vision and demonstrating that reimagining the customer experience requires a commitment to investment, the adoption and deployment of advanced technologies, and a modern infrastructure to leverage the full capabilities of the in-store technologies. These companies are pursuing disruption of the customer experience by redefining the store, leading in omnichannel fulfillment, creating industry-leading marketplaces, deploying transformative store automation, and leveraging customer engagement driven by artificial intelligence (AI).
Retailers realize that deployment of these and other digital technologies in disruptive ways can turn visitors into shoppers and shoppers into brand-loyal customers. However, understanding which consumers want personalization and which want contextualized and relevant experiences, while protecting everyone’s privacy, has grown more difficult. Retailers are challenged to support their efforts with modern technologies that can deliver the required amount of personalization while protecting customer data. With so much at stake, retailers cannot afford to compromise on security.
Despite concerns around privacy and data protection, retailers are successfully deploying a variety of technologies to provide a more engaging, personalized experience to lure shoppers into stores. These technologies include AI, cloud, robots, drones, computer vision, facial recognition, AR/VR, IoT, and edge computing.
Workloads from these technologies will increase the demand on networks for faster, more reliable performance. As a result, retail environments are becoming more complex to manage. However, retailers that deploy modern retail infrastructure will be able to set up and reconfigure new retail locations more quickly and efficiently. Such an infrastructure can also support the more complex networks and hybrid environments that are the reality today. And with modern infrastructure comes more and better consumption-based pricing from cloud technologies and serverless computing, which IDC has identified as important retail infrastructure components.
A modern retail infrastructure will leverage networks that will be more predictive of issues and possible outages and able to remediate issues before they cause lasting performance degradation. It also enables a retailer to innovate much more quickly around customer touchpoints and deliver a much more robust and immersive customer experience in ways that legacy networks were not designed to do.