Man working the cash register at a small local business

The State of the Cloud in Retail

18 Feb 2016 by Jessica Hall

Consumer adoption of technology presents an incredible opportunity for retailers to better engage and convert their shoppers, but Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) professionals will need to carefully plan for the execution of these new tactics and strategies. In moving to the cloud, CIOs in the retail sector can address potential deficiencies while still building capabilities tailored for the modern consumer. 

Whether it’s partial or total delivery via the cloud, consider the four reasons this solution could be a viable option for you.

Deliver retail on demand.

On-demand encounters are often facilitated by e-commerce experiences. To better support these critical touch points, many retailers are setting up shop in the cloud. 

The majority of online retailers surveyed in the eBay Enterprise-Commissioned 2015 Retail Growth Outlook report stated that they were preparing to move e-commerce hosting to the cloud in 2015. Roughly 40% said that they were also planning on moving other marketing technology solutions like inventory management systems and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications to the cloud.

The opinion that the cloud is the right environment for solutions and services is repeated among many IT professionals in a variety of industries. According to Forrester’s “The State Of The Cloud: Migration, Portability, And Interoperability, Q4 2015” report, published December 1, 2015, “building an app that spends its entire life in the same public cloud is the ideal cloud application model. Stepping outside of this model is more realistic, but it presents challenges for I&O professionals.”

Streamline sales and store layout.

Mobile point of sale (POS) systems introduce an incredible opportunity for retailers to provide a better customer experience and free up valuable real estate within their stores. By removing the physical barrier between the customer and the sales associate, you can expedite customer support and fluidly facilitate transactions. Additionally, there’s more room for product and displays when you eliminate or reduce the weighty presence of sales counters that typically store servers, computers, printers, cash drawers and cables.

Cloud-based POS systems are often more cost-effective, easier to maintain, and only require quick, pain-free training for small and mid-size retailers. Your company can significantly decrease the expenses of software customizations, software upgrades and supporting in-store servers.

The benefits of cloud solutions like mobile POS systems have gained the attention of many. A survey of more than 100 global retail executives found 75% of retail companies would consider a cloud-based or centralized POS solution. After all, nearly three-fourths of shoppers that their least favorite part of in-store shopping is waiting in line. Streamlining this process through the use of cloud systems can alleviate this pain point.

Create seamless buying experiences.

Blending the in-store and online experience can have a beneficial impact on the customer experience. While they’re in your brick-and-mortar location, more than half of smartphone owners will also visit the company’s site or app.

In-store navigation — a technology favored by retailers and shoppers alike — can streamline customer service and sales. Hosting this data and these applications in the cloud can help your company save money while providing solutions that have a direct impact on your organization’s bottom line.

Provide personalized, real-time offers.

The cloud can also be leveraged to gain a better understanding of shoppers, allowing your company to better serve them. From tracking a customer’s progress throughout the store to sending relevant promotions when the customer is near one of your retail locations, context-based services help retailers combine digital and physical data.

For years, customers have been blending their real-world retail experiences with digital content. While they’re in the store, four out of five smartphone users report that they want mobile-optimized product information. Cloud-based solutions can help enhance these experiences, offering useful communication such as online reviews of the product, friend’s opinions of a product via social media or an update on the user’s account balance.  

As Forrester’s “The State Of The Cloud: Migration, Portability, And Interoperability, Q4 2015” report points out: “The cloud conversation often centers on connectivity and movement of apps, increasing interest in open-source tooling to bypass aspects of vendor lock-in, excitement around containers or API management.” This useful document, “…scores the maturity of each interoperability and migration category so you can make the informed decision of whether to migrate apps to the cloud.”

With complex topics up for discussion, we were interviewed in the making of this report as one of more than 25 enterprise and vendor thought leaders. (Insight is listed as a resource on pages 2 and 12, and indirectly positioned as one of the thought leaders on page 3.)

Download the report to explore key considerations for planning a migration to the cloud, or making changes to your existing cloud environments and applications. As your retail business evaluates and plans for new IT services, consider the reasons our experts believe partial or total delivery via the cloud could be a viable option.