Black Friday on repeat and the technology that builds endurance

The run-up to Christmas is hallowed ground for retailers. But data infrastructure must hold year-round.

By Cindy Carlson and Nick Underwood, Global Industries (Retail), Dell Technologies

The holiday sales season is evolving.

Black Friday is no longer a rushed sprint but an ultra-marathon. For retailers, this means sales opportunities spread out over months and a need for elastic and responsive systems, no matter the time of year. It is not just that these data infrastructures need to be always on—they also need to lift heavier loads. For example, retailers need to harness data at scale to deliver the kind of seamless and personalized experiences customers have come to expect.

The intelligent edge can help them get there.

Today’s retail landscape

Many factors sculpt today’s retail landscape. Consumers expect a channel-agnostic experience. Omnichannel is no longer a buzzword; it’s table stakes for doing business. Whether online, through the store or a mix of both, consumers want a consistent and seamless experience. One misstep could lead to missed sales and unhappy customers. When the competition is only a click away, retailers need systems that can handle the load and deliver the same unparalleled experience through every channel–particularly when demand is relentless.

Looking to capture early dollars, no sooner is Halloween over than retailers are offering promotions to drive foot and click traffic into holiday sales. Systems need to be ready to delight customers during peak timeframes. And they need to be ready to do so across multiple channels given nearly three-quarters of all online transactions are now generated via mobile phone.

A confluence of hungry-to-shop customers and supply chain crunches mean this year, especially, retailers can’t afford any fragility in their infrastructure.

The retail data paradox

If retailers need to sell one more product and personalize the offer to delight customers, they need to understand what each and every customer wants. They need data and lots of it. Delivering personalized experiences and selling products that consumers want on a relentless basis requires the ability to use such data at scale.

Yet only 12% of enterprises—and just 5% of retailers—say their customer experience decisions are primarily data-driven today, according to 451’s Voice of the Enterprise: Customer Experience & Commerce, Digital Maturity Survey.1 For retailers, like all businesses, the data morass is a problem. According to the Dell Data Paradox study, 60% of firms are reportedly battling data silos. And while 67% say they need more data, 70% admit they are not making full use of the data they have.

Retailers could be faring worse, given high-performance, low-latency connectivity and compute environments are still not commonplace–despite their centrality to delivering real-time transactions, insights and actions. However, this also makes retail ripe for modernization. Indeed, 77% of retailers surveyed by 451 Research expect to increase edge deployments significantly in the next two years.

The intelligent edge

Making full use of data requires an understanding of where it is being created: the edge. At the heart of the intelligent edge are stable, resilient systems that retailers can count on and trust to deliver the sort of experiences that customers expect.

When a customer walks into a store or clicks into an online storefront, intelligent applications need to be able to process vast amounts of data in real-time and deliver either personalized offers through coupons or videos in split seconds. It’s why the edge is so important.

The intelligent edge in turn powers the intelligent store, which is all about granular personalization at scale. It is driven by a high volume of data and data accuracy at the edge: How do you present the best offers to the customer based on their preferences, so they buy not only what they need, but also what they want? The intelligent edge propels a similar seamless and consistent experience online.

As for the intelligent brick-and-mortar store, it is not just about offering more to the customer. It is also about making the buying experience more seamless. Customers who subscribe to the store app, for example, can use way-finding tools that will show where they can pick up popular products.

How to work with the intelligent edge

Progressive retailers are working with telemetry data that can use historical volumes and other consumer patterns to predict traffic. Although prediction of exact numbers for the purpose of inventory planning and marketing strategies is still part art and part science, telemetry patterns can help define better contours. However, efficacy is dependent on preparing the IT infrastructure first.

First, retailers should start consolidating and simplifying operations so they can be certain their applications can be deployed and perform as needed. They also need to invest in an agile infrastructure that crunches data at high volumes and delivers actionable insights instantly at the edge. The infrastructure should be able to continuously reallocate and optimize the use of resource and data center capacity depending on customer traffic. And this infrastructure must enable intrinsic security to protect data and applications from cyber breaches that can jeopardize operations, customer trust and loyalty.

Leveraging the intelligent edge is not the sole purview of large retailers. After all, consumers expect the same level of service no matter where they bring their business. Retailers who need support with their data infrastructure can partner with the right “sherpa” to help them navigate the mountain of data complexities.

Proactivity is necessary because, in the future, every day will be an adrenaline-pumping event for retailers. They can’t afford to miss opportunities.

To this end, retailers need certainty—that their systems are available to perform, and data centers can handle exponential workloads. The intelligent edge provides the telemetry and the insights to turn data into actionable information that retailers can drive to make sure they delight customers and give them what they need, and what they want.

Interested in learning more? Nick Underwood joined a 451 Research podcast to discuss what it takes to deliver omnichannel experiences. You can listen on-demand here.

1Voice of the Enterprise: Customer Experience and Commerce, Digital Maturity Survey, October 2021, 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Lead photo by Markus Spiske/Unsplash