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Time to take your business to the cloud? – How cloud computing is changing your industry for the better (Part 3)

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Advances in cloud computing has lead to some pretty revolutionary benefits in enterprise, many of which we’ve already talked about in this multi-part feature. And whilst the number of businesses embracing cloud technology is consistently growing, the real success is the significant impact had on entire industries, changing the way industry-specific tasks and best practices are implemented for the better.

Read about the benefits that cloud computing has to offer the manufacturing industry in the first part of our feature here.

Read about the benefits that cloud computing has to offer the professional services industry in the second part of our feature here.

Perhaps no other industry in recent times has benefited more from the cloud than the retail industry. The need to provide customers with pleasurable, convenient and entirely personalised shopping experiences – consistently across multiple channels – has forced retailers to up their game in order to stay relevant and competitive.

Gone are the days of opening up a store and relying solely on passing trade on the high street. Shoppers now expect round-the-clock access to products, whether they’re browsing or buying, ordering for delivery or for collection at their most convenient location.

Rather than simply facilitate change within industry, cloud technology is helping retailers adapt to changes that are fast-paced and constant.

Bringing retailers up to date – How the cloud is helping with changes in the retail industry

The consumer embrace of digital technology has put retailers in a position where they can no longer “shut up shop for the day”. You just have to a look at how much money was being spent on Christmas Day to see that.

There are plenty of examples of high-street retailers having to adopt online strategies in order to compete with purely an internet-based competitor, that’s nothing new anymore. But when it comes to implementing multichannel marketing – across multiple customer touch points including in-store, the retailer’s website, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, etc. – cloud computing has played an integral role in helping to deliver customer service that’s more inline with today’s always-connected, omnichannel, customer-empowered world.

Tighter supply chain management

Retailers in today’s quick-paced market face the problem of stock-outs, expedited deliveries, and managing high inventories. However, many retailers are turning to cloud-based business systems solutions (eCommerce, ERP, CRM, PSA) to provide total visibility into all aspects of their supply chain. This means retailers can prevent key products from running out of stock when demand is high, whilst real-time information allows retailers to readjust stock levels on certain types of products based upon all related data, such as customer order history, marketing feedback, and finances.

Management of the supply chain isn’t just limited to a single marketing channel either. Retailers can delve into all the supply chain across all channels – whether that’s in-store, the retailer’s proprietary website, or Amazon and eBay – and use the information to make reactive business decisions.

This is what’s otherwise known as having an ominichannel solution to multi-channel marketing, and is crucial for retailers who want to maximise their outreach without jeopardising customer service across all available channel offerings.

Flexible operational processes

 On-premise legacy systems used to run store operations are typically built to specification, or at least have some limitations when it comes to performance, and therefore often unable to accommodate processing changes at times of peak activity.

With cloud computing, operational processes are stored on a cloud platform and can be amended as and when is needed. In other words, cloud technology is completely scaleable, which means retailers won’t have to front the cost for hardware/software upgrades when the volume of sales increases. Neither will they have to maintain excess servers during quieter, less busy shopping periods.

The same thing goes for rolling out new products and service offerings, such as Next Day Delivery and Customer Loyalty Points. Every change and new addition needs to be accounted for from an operational standpoint, as it’s likely that all key areas will be majorly affected by a single implementation.

You can read more about the limitations of on-premise IT systems and why the cloud is the ideal solution when it comes to change and growth here.

Sales, service and support

If there’s one area where retailers strive to do better than anybody else, it’s the quality of the overall shopping experience; from the initial sale to the after-sales support and the entire service throughout, especially when customer loyalty in the modern marketplace is either enhanced or eroded with every interaction.

In the same way retailers can use a cloud-based business systems solution to tighten management of the supply chain across all marketing channels, retailers can access cross-channel data – pertaining to customer order history, customer behavior, inventory, etc. – to deliver a shopping experience that is entirely personalised.

Common scenarios include syncing inventory with the CRM system to notify a customer when a product of interest arrives in stock and then contacting that customer via their preferred platform of communication (email, text, phone call). But this is just one example. Retailers can use real-time information across all marketing channels to issue notifications, answer customer queries quicker, and generally stay in contact with consumers on a higher level of responsiveness.

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