Tis the season to go shopping—at least if you are one of the millions of people buying gifts for the holidays. If so, perhaps you’ve noticed that your shopping strategies have changed in recent years. Fewer and fewer people go window shopping or wander the merchandise aisles, seeking inspiration. Instead, the retail experience for many begins by researching products with web and mobile tools before going to a bricks-and-mortar store to make further evaluations and a purchase decision: While more than 90 percent of retail transactions still occur in stores, over 60 percent of purchase research begins online. That means that consumers come to retail locations better informed than ever, often with their minds already made up about what they wish to purchase.
This can be a challenge for retailers who rely on traditional marketing strategies that focus on sales associates engaging with customers and helping make purchase decisions—with a consequent increase in the size of the sales basket.
How can a retailer compete? Well, it turns out that consumers aren’t the only ones with access to new sources of data. Innovative retailers can use new technologies—including a network of smart sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) gateways, and cloud-based data analytics—to know more about individual consumers and their preferences; personalize the customer’s shopping experience to increase engagement and sales; and to deliver a unified retail experience from online to in-store via smart signage, loyalty programs, targeted sales assistance, mobile POSs, and more.
To enable these kinds of data-driven experiences for retail requires a secure, end-to-end solution that can seamlessly extend from sensor-based data capture at the store level, to transaction data collected at retail locations, and all the way to analytics processing in the cloud—to help retailers improve engagement with their customers, better understand what’s happening in their stores, and improve the size of individual transactions. To help retailers gain these kinds of data-driven insights, Intel and SAP are working together to create an end-to-end IoT solution that can deliver actionable retail insights on a near real-time basis. This joint IoT solution, which includes Intel® IoT Gateways to capture and secure sensor data, SAP SQL Anywhere* database software to enable intelligence at the edge, and the SAP HANA* cloud, will allow retailers to take advantage of real-time analytics to act faster, make smarter decisions, and know more about customers than ever before. To learn more about the Intel and SAP IoT solution, watch this video:
When we talk about bringing improved analytics to the retail industry, I want to emphasize that this new solution enables two very different types of analytics. The first is conventional big data analytics, the kind of number crunching that typically takes place in corporate offices and allows high-level retail decision-makers to decide where to locate the next store and view sales patterns for the season’s hot products. This kind of analytics has traditionally been processed on its own siloed computing infrastructure, completely apart from the transactional infrastructure that runs the sales and transactional systems for daily retail operations, because you wouldn’t risk running a big analytics query on the same system that held your transactions log, for fear that it might crash the system. But SAP HANA, running on Intel® Xeon® processors, has the power to run both analytical and transactional workloads on the same infrastructure, and in memory. This not only offers the potential to lower infrastructure costs, it means that transactional information can be made available for analysis as soon as it is processed, enabling retailers to act on those insights in near real-time.
The Intel and SAP IoT solution doesn’t just enable analytics at the macro level, it also delivers immediate analytical insights at the store level. Using sensor-based tools such as smart-mirrors and –fixtures, traffic flow detectors, interactive visual aids, inventory tags, and personal tracking technologies, Intel IoT Gateways can give retailers instant access to new sources of data that can identify customers and their past purchases and preferences, and to offer personalized offerings and services to differentiate the shopping experience from competitors. These instantaneous analytics, drawn from the store itself, deliver insights not just about customers, but also about how to offer a more engaged customer experience in a store. This can include store layout and traffic flow information, suggestions for strategic pairings of products, identification of inventory not selling well, and alerts about up-to-the-second shopping trends. Collection and real-time analysis of data at the network edge gives a store manager the ability to immediately address dynamics in the store; the IoT gateway also routes the data to the cloud for traditional analytics.
Intel products and technologies translate IoT into business value and differentiation for the retail industry. Intel provides the critical, foundational building blocks for building secure IoT networks, with a proven portfolio of compute, storage, network and software components that span from the edge to the cloud. Because the Intel platform is modular, retailers can build their infrastructure as their needs evolve; they can also unlock value from the data and infrastructure they already have. Essential for retailers, Intel also offers a variety of security technologies built into its processors, including encryption and tokenization, to ensure protection of both customer and retail data. Intel is also at the center of a partner ecosystem that includes not only SAP but retail industry ISVs, and our technology is vendor neutral, standards based, and interoperable.
Intel may not be the first company that comes to mind when you think of retail, but if you peer behind the thin veneer that is the storefront, you’ll find that that the technology—and the innovation—that powers retail solutions are similar to the platforms in other industries where Intel is a proven leader.
Interested in learning more about Intel’s retail solutions? Visit our website and join us at the National Retail Federation (NRF) annual conference, to be held January 17-20. 2016 in New York City. Stop by the Intel booth #2543 to say hello and let us show you how Intel is revolutionizing retail.
Follow me at @TimIntel and #TechTim to keep up with the latest with Intel and SAP.