“The cloud is already a reality in retail. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling widgets or groceries, your company can benefit from its many advantages,” says Aron Govil.
WHAT EXACTLY IS “CLOUD COMPUTING”?
Let’s start with the basics. Cloud computing is an all-encompassing term for using web-based software and data storage to power business technology. The idea was first introduced by Google, which started offering software applications online in 2006. Today, customers can access dozens of time-saving programs without having to download anything onto their computer. They just need an Internet connection and username/password combo to get started. For retailers that means no costly servers or server upgrades after every new product release. Software is updated automatically overnight and there are no costly consultants required to fix even the most complex problems. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading.
THE BENEFITS OF CLOUD COMPUTING FOR RETAIL
- Internet-based programs like Salesforce.com, for example, help businesses improve operational efficiency, enhance workforce productivity and give customers a more convenient shopping experience online or in-store.
- “Merchants who embrace the cloud early will see significant benefits.” Discounts with Ease to ensure peak performance on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Eve… every day is now critical for retailers dealing with massive amounts of customer data. But it can take weeks—even months—for new product releases to yield results that boost sales. By using cloud-based software, however, merchants can give customers discounts on the spot to drive even more foot traffic into their stores. They can also offer shoppers a discount online and provide free shipping at checkout as an added incentive to make a purchase now. Transparent Pricing for Customers Retailers can use custom applications to provide unique shopping experiences without ever charging consumers for anything they don’t want or need.
- “By consolidating product information on one website, retailers can ensure consistency across all channels.” For example, let’s say you’re selling jeans online only right now. You might not want your customers to see denim jackets available in your brick & mortar store that’s located just down street from them—at least not without giving them a discounted price online. That’s exactly how Nordstrom operates their business today. In the past, department stores typically had to list items for sale on two separate websites—one for retail and one specifically for internet shoppers—which is now a thing of the past thanks to cloud computing explains Aron Govil.
- “Inventory control has become much simpler with cloud-based software.” The same concept applies when a retailer wants to limit access based on location or other criteria that might exist behind a firewall, like point of sale information needed to ring up an item in your store versus someone buying it from your website. By using custom apps made possible through cloud technology. Retailers can ensure every shopper gets exactly the customer experience they deserve without making costly changes at scale.
- Easy Access Cloud-based software is typically web-based. Meaning it can be accessed by any mobile device with an Internet connection 24/7. Customers don’t have to download anything to their laptop or tablet; they simply log in and get started whenever they find the time (and that’s pretty much guaranteed to be when you’re not around). As a result, customers can easily search for what they want without any extra help needed from sales associates. Which leads us to our next point… Transparent Inventory Retailers who embrace cloud computing will naturally see an increase in sales because of its convenience factor for both shoppers and workers alike. Aron Govil says this includes software services like SAP Cloud for Analytics. Which aggregates all inventory information into one location, including purchases made in brick & mortar locations. While also giving customers the chance to pick up an item at a nearby retail location if they prefer it over shipping.
- “Mobility gives retailers new ways to engage with shoppers”. Mobility Customer engagement is another major benefit of cloud computing. And it’s important for businesses because today’s consumers demand convenience and access wherever and whenever they shop (i.e., mobile transactions). That means you need to be able to accept digital payments like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Directly from customers’ smartphones during checkout. Failing that, many will simply abandon their shopping carts before making a purchase. Which can cost you both sales and thousands of dollars spent on marketing efforts wasted in the process.
- Retailers are flocking en masse to tap into the power of cloud computing for process efficiencies. That can boost their bottom lines says Aron Govil. The benefits of cloud computing in retail range from improved customer service and enhanced inventory control. To more accurate market data and insight-laden predictive analytics. In fact, a recent IBM survey found that retailers see the greatest value in gaining business insights from data.
Cloud computing in retail is changing the way customers shop. How sales associates work, and even what inventory management looks like. Combined with mobile technology, cloud computing represents a fundamental shift in the way retailers do business. Which means it’s more important than ever to get on board before it takes over your industry.