After some initial resistance, retailers are now recognising the many advantages of moving their business into the cloud. Within the next two years, spending on public cloud services is expected to reach $195 billion and retail is one of three industries that will see the fastest growth.
Cloud for retailers
The cloud is especially attractive to retailers because it is dynamic and flexible enough to boost business agility in a highly competitive market. Software will help manage seasonal demand surges and can scale with your business, adapting as the business grows.
By moving business functions to the cloud, retailers can improve IT efficiency without the need to invest scarce capital into IT infrastructure. Instead, the fees for cloud-based solutions and online inventory management become part of the retailers’ operational budget.
Cloud technology enables exciting new opportunities to deliver a consistent, superior customer experience across multichannel. Cloud for retailers can capture greater customer information, track and follow customers’ shopping habits across platforms and channels, creating an opportunity to provide real-time offers based on buyer preferences and behaviours.
Many businesses have already discovered these benefits of cloud-based technology, so what is the future for cloud and what should retailers be keeping an eye on?
Personalisation will be an ongoing trend as retailers enable shoppers to build and customise products. Consumers are now placing greater value on experiences over simply purchasing goods. When purchasing products, they want the ability to customise it to the very last detail because it offers them a completely unique product that fits their lifestyle and tells a story.
Private cloud and software-as-a-service solutions provide businesses with the flexibility to customised integrations as they grow. Cloud platforms can deliver customised content and product recommendations based on a customer’s personal preferences and behaviour.
Robots will continue to play a significant role in supporting retail operations, particularly in the area of order fulfilment. Robotics will increase warehouse efficiency, operating alongside employees to pick, pack and ship inventory stock items. Technology can predict consumer preferences and behaviour, while online inventory management and automation can deliver those preferences.
There will also be a greater presence of robots online in the form of ‘chatbots’ to answer customers questions or even to showcase a business’ product lines. Chatbots offering alternative ways of buying through social media platforms have an advantage over image-based social media shopping because they don’t take the customer out of the messenger platform to complete the purchase.
Winning social media strategies
There’s no secret that mobile commerce is on the rise and it is anticipated that social media will play a big role in business opportunities via mobile apps. Stories, live-streams and instant messaging will fundamentally change how retailers interact with shoppers online to better connect and create direct relationships with their customers.
Technology allows businesses to better understand who their consumers are and by utilising cloud data, retailers can streamline communications to engage with customers in real time.
QR codes have gone in and out of vogue but with QR code scanning now integrated into iOS smartphones it is exceptionally easy for users to access QR codes. This should encourage retailers to leverage QR codes much more within their sales and marketing activities.
Codes can be incorporated into packaging, advertising and marketing materials to make it easy for shoppers to quickly visit their website on their mobile device. Likewise, QR codes can be utilised to drive content marketing and social media initiatives.
Choosing the cloud that’s right for you
The important thing for retailers is to understand which functional areas are right for different cloud options, and how to leverage the cloud for optimal competitive advantage.
Whether you pick a public, a private, a hosted private cloud or even a hybrid approach to cloud services will depend on individual business needs. Online inventory management is certainly one area where retailers should be shifting to cloud solutions and managed service providers can help you traverse the various cloud options, assisting with assessing your needs to determine the most appropriate applications and cloud environment.
Retail is diversifying, becoming increasingly dynamic and exciting. Cloud for retailers is playing a significant role in this evolving retail environment.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.