Retailers are under pressure from many fronts: online competitors are undercutting them; consumer expectations are skyrocketing; and innovation can be expensive. The cloud provides a clear solution to these challenges.
Cloud-based platforms can help retailers be more innovative, and satisfy the growing customer demand for real-time information and individually-personalised shopping experiences.
They can reduce IT expenses and system complexities. A cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) system is likely to be far more cost-effective to implement and maintain than traditional on-premise solutions. Cloud solutions can deliver timely inventory reports and margin information, all of which are vital for success.
For example, retailers can track the best-selling, highest margin-producing items within their stores, and then give staff real-time snapshots of stock levels, sales support, and customer information. Staff can use that information to provide a more personalised service, tailored to each customer.
By using cloud-based services like Google for Work and Amazon Web Services (AWS), retailers can increase collaboration, improve innovation and, most importantly, improve the customer and employee experience.
There are five key reasons retailers should implement cloud solutions to meet evolving customer demands and enhance their brand reputation:
1. Get new products to market faster
Cloud solutions support agile collaboration. For example, retailers can use them to crowdsource product design ideas in real-time and facilitate task management. Shared cloud-based storage and collaboration facilities can also be used to share product designs, mock-ups, and stock inventory with product suppliers.
2. Gather feedback easily for a better customer experience
Customer feedback is invaluable, and cloud-based business services provide a forum for instant feedback from both customers and employees. For example, store layout ideas that work for one shop can be shared on cloud-based storage drives by employees and adopted in other locations. Immediate feedback processes mean changes can be implemented faster to improve the overall customer experience.
3. Use familiar tools for operational efficiency
Managing schedules and tasks across multiple stores and staff can be challenging. Cloud-based platforms make this easier, letting users organise and track tasks online from anywhere, and at any time. Being browser- and mobile-delivered, cloud platforms offer ease of use for employers and employees in all stores.
4. Empower staff with better tools
With the right tools and systems in place, staff members will be empowered to serve customers better. For example, staff members can answer difficult customer questions or instantly access stock information using a mobile device. Cloud services can also centralise CRM databases and Point of Sale (POS) systems, letting staff deliver highly-personalised shopping experiences for customers across multiple stores, based on their purchase history and collected data.
5. Deliver greater digital store conversion
Although many digital shoppers use their personal devices to prepare for in-store shopping, they often make the actual purchasing decision in-store. Digital store technology like digital signage solutions can be updated instantly with information, allowing retailers to maximise engagement opportunities while the customer is in the store, and increase sales as a result.
Retailers need to reinvigorate their IT infrastructure to combat the ongoing disruption of traditional retail models. This is being driven by the growth of online retail and an increasingly connected and transparent supply chain, which empowers the consumer.
Cloud services equip retailers with the tools to challenge these disruptive models and remain agile in the changing competitive landscape. Store retailers can use a suite of cloud services to promote operational excellence, collect and address employee and customer feedback in real time, enhance the customer experience, and improve customer retention.
James Valentine is Chief Technology Officer, Fronde