Driven by the rise in online sales and from seeing fewer customers on the high street, the UK retail sector is having to reinvent itself for the modern consumer. At the heart of the current renaissance, disruptors armed with the latest technologies are creating unique brand experiences, both in-store and online, to attract and retain customers. In many cases, these are previously online-only brands, TikTok, Amazon and Netflix amongst them, making their first forays on to the high street. Key to their success and to the success of others wanting to stay competitive and relevant is cloud technology. Here we explain why.
Integrating business operations
For retail businesses wanting to provide seamless omnichannel services to customers, the unification of business data is essential. With inventory, marketing, communications and customer data all held in separate departmental silos, the ability to have a complete customer view or end to end understanding of the company is highly challenging. Without this, there is little opportunity to integrate business systems and provide the seamlessness that consumers demand.
In the cloud, however, companies can store and manage all data centrally, so that all those who need access to it have the complete picture. At the same time, the cloud delivers a business-wide IT infrastructure that provides operational seamlessness. Together, these give retail brands the ability to cut operational costs while improving the collaboration needed to develop cohesive customer experience strategies that drive the business forward.
Inventory and supply chain visibility
By connecting all company functions to the cloud, retail brands gain a complete view of their inventory and supply chain. By utilising cloud-based technologies like blockchain, for instance, they can produce financial audit trails and track where goods originated and their movements. Inventory tracking, meanwhile, gives them access to real-time stock data, ensuring they have an up to the minute overview of which products are available and where they are located – essential for offering services like click and collect and ensuring that the delivery dates promised can be achieved. Additionally, the data produced here will also give retailers a better understanding of which products sell better than others.
Delivering seamless services to customers requires collaboration beyond the company itself. From the buying of stock to delivery and customer support, modern brands work in tandem with a range of different partners to put everything in place.
In the same way that internal departments benefit from integration, cloud technology also enables retailers and their suppliers to integrate systems. In this way, all parties can access real-time information. This includes, where relevant, giving real time access to customers as well. For example, suppliers will know when the retailer’s stock levels are running low, retailers will know where incoming consignments are and customers will be able to see where on the road their delivery is. The easier this information is shared, the better the team of companies can work to improve experiences for the customers.
Personalisation has become one of the most liked aspects of modern customer experience. Indeed, many customers are willing to provide additional personal information and pay more for personalised services if it means their shopping experience is customised around their needs and wants.
The cloud provides the ideal infrastructure for the collection, storage and analysis of the huge amount of data used by product recommendation engines and other personalisation tools. When these are deployed, they provide customers with the products and offers that are relevant to them, helping them save time and money – a convenience that increases loyalty and turns customers into brand advocates. That data is also vital for understanding changes in consumer behaviours, for making accurate predictions and providing meaningful insights for the development of new products and services.
The magic ingredient here is customer data, and to deliver end to end personalisation, brands need this to be joined up in order to have a single view of the customer across all touchpoints. The cloud helps achieve this by providing real-time purchasing and browsing data and linking this with the other key customer information that the company holds.
While organisations collect a lot of valuable data, around 25% of companies claim internal data is not unified and over half say they have customer data sitting idly on their CRMs. Making valuable use of this is impeded because of departmental silos and storage on individual systems or machines.
Cloud allows previously isolated datasets to be brought together for the first time to provide new intelligence. Using big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, the ability to discover new insights has never been greater. Retailers that have adopted cloud technology are finding new ways to make efficiencies, improve operations, automate services and deliver enhanced experiences for their customers. Equally importantly, this can be achieved far quicker, helping companies become more agile in today’s fast-changing market.
Cutting IT costs
With high streets hit by the pandemic, many retailers have found it financially challenging to embrace new technologies. However, one of the biggest benefits of the cloud is that it can actually help retailers significantly cut costs. As the cloud infrastructure is provided by the vendor, the need to purchase and operate costly in-house data centres can be removed. Capital expenditure is replaced by a more manageable monthly fee, which itself is charged for on a pay-as-you-go basis. What’s more, with the ability to scale up or down as demand requires, retailers can have all the IT resources they need but only need to pay for what they use.
Further savings can be made because there will be no maintenance, energy or housing costs and as the service is managed, IT staff will be freed up to work on business-oriented projects. Additionally, most cloud-based software is open-source and requires no licencing fee and where proprietary apps are deployed, the vendor is usually able to offer them at a lower cost.
For retailers wishing to attract new customers with better customer experiences, the cloud is the solution of choice. In particular, is its ability to help brands join up data and integrate their systems to provide new insights and seamless operations. At the same time, it brings technologies like data analytics, AI and machine learning into play, while enabling the deployment of CX enhancing solutions like chatbots, shopping apps, VR, EPOS systems and so forth.
For more information visit Hyperslice.com.