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Retailers who seek more agility in their operations can leverage the cloud for more than data storage and reduced cost of computing. Once they prioritise their workflows and identify the highest-impact business activities, the cloud helps them to offer new capabilities to their employees and customers in more agile, scalable and efficient ways.
As retailers’ demands for technology-enabled capabilities grow, an increasing number of businesses are acknowledging the significant role of cloud in enabling their innovative transformation.
Deriving value from the cloud
A workflow approach wherein domain knowledge is applied around the execution of tasks helps enterprises to make the most of cloud solutions. Instead of migrating a variety of applications randomly or en masse to the cloud, they should identify the processes that will bring the highest impact on the business when managed in the (cloud) platform. It will help them to avoid duplication and redundancy while also accentuating the positive outcomes.
Such workflows, and the applications associated with them, generally leverage advanced cloud capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, machine learning and application-programming-interface (API) platforms. They also bring in maximum value for customers and some cost advantages for the business.
Retail workflow analysis suggests that cloud computing can help retailers to improve their performance and the customer experience in at least three ways:
1.Provides updated information on stock and inventory
Although a real-time view of the inventory is critical for success in the omni-channel retail business, many retailers fail to reach this level of information. If the on-premise POS and inventory software systems are not updated with most recent details, a customer may find a product on a retailer’s website, but the item may not actually be in the store.
With cloud data systems, retailers can build an integrated real-time source containing all information on their inventory across all channels. Cloud systems are designed to connect all data pipelines with high transaction throughput and low latency. Thus, employees and the customers visiting the store’s website have factual data on the availability of the products they seek. Some cloud service providers also offer platforms that publish updated store inventory details to online marketplaces, which helps bring more revenue.
Hallmark Cards, which has almost 40,000 stores worldwide, uses Retail-as-a-Service solution in the cloud¹. It enables Hallmark and its retail partners to track the inventory in real time, including stock levels, store orders and shipping information.
2.Enables personalisation with website and recommendation engine
By showing the right products to the right buyers, businesses can improve their conversion rate and incremental revenue. However, they struggle to get a comprehensive view of their customers’ preferences as it calls for data reconciliation and attribution on various channels. They may also need to integrate the information with partner data sources.
The potential of cloud technology-based data cleanup and strategy tools that unify multivariate data sources together helps here. With the cloud’s scale and the recommendation options it provides, retailers can create quick A/B test scenarios, validate performance and experiment with personalisation algorithm iterations. It helps them to display the best options as per the search queries of the buyers.
Flipkart has partnered with Microsoft² to leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics in offering personalised experiences to customers.
3.Helps in loyalty programme management
In deploying loyalty programs, business owners deal with two key challenges: the data is siloed at the store level, and it is generally not processed in real time. While mobile-app-based loyalty schemes help in engaging customers during their purchase process, the marketing teams aim to engage a customer before, during and also after the purchase.
The cloud helps to integrate different data sources, creating a unified view of customers across channels and transaction stages. It allows retailers to overcome their usual tech constraints by using both batched and real-time data processing. They can leverage cloud capabilities for customer engagements through customised digital promotions that are designed based on real-time data analytics. For instance, the integration of mobile and online analytics tools with loyalty programmes helps to create suitable promotional offers.