Why Cloud-native Is Your Stairway To IT Heaven
Make no mistake, the retail industry is now in the full grip of the fourth industrial revolution. That entails billions more people being linked to the internet and the internet being embedded into communities and organisations like never before.
The scale, scope and complexity of the resulting digital retail transformation now underway will be unlike anything humankind has ever experienced.
There will be retail winners, but there will also continue to be high-profile casualties, unwilling or unable to keep up, left by the wayside.
The choice is stark. Retailers are facing the increasing management costs and burdens of static, non-web powered legacy point of sale and retail management systems, which are a barrier to innovation.
These systems are unable to operate in real-time and take advantage of modernised functionality and emerging features like automation offered by cloud-based retail systems.
In practical terms this means they cannot update inventory in real-time, or change prices across the board in a quick and easy fashion.
Flash sales, for instance, have proven benefits to retailers with the right approach and systems in place. However, they can also backfire on retailers with outdated management platforms that can’t handle the overload on their servers or on their shipping and customer service staff.
Frustrated customers can then take to Twitter or Facebook to air their grievances, and we’ve all seen how that can go for brands.
Leading retail sector firms, however, are already realising the benefits of the cloud, switching from these traditional legacy systems shackled to a forecast model of retail to cloudbased systems that enable a real-time, predictive, demand-driven model, specifically designed to keep pace with the constant torrent of new products, individual customer requirements and multiple ways these requirements can be satisfied in an omnichannel world.
Winning this omnichannel challenge is about exceeding customer expectations, so the only thought on a shopper’s mind is how much they love the new spring line from their favourite store. Not whether that store has their size in the colour they want, be it online, in-store, or on mobile.
Omnichannel retailing has also opened up operational efficiencies, particularly for FMCG and fast fashion businesses.
Organisations are able to leverage cloud and e-commerce technology to improve their back-end systems and refine design, manufacturing, inventory management and delivery processes.
This means omnichannel retailers can implement an agile approach to business, updating their product catalogue more frequently, encouraging regular, repeat visits from customers and encouraging them to purchase more often.
It also means omnichannel retailers can achieve cost savings that can be passed on to customers and amplify their competitive advantage.
Only one software solution can maximise and unify the full potential of ominchannel retail - and that solution is cloud computing with its exponential scalability, always current and microservices functionality.
This is a bold statement, but when you consider the following capabilities, it is difficult to overstate the impact cloud computing will have.
Run your systems anywhere – armed with an internet connection and an app, any member of your organization can gain real-time access to business-critical IT systems such as enterprise order management, point of sale, store inventory, store fulfilment and customer intelligence.
‘Run anywhere’ also means anywhere in your infrastructure: your cloud, our cloud or even on premise – cloud can be deployed anywhere.
This ‘run anywhere’ capability boosts productivity and collaboration exponentially, setting colleagues free to access and augment information wherever they are in the organisation or in the world.
Always current and always on – the modular components of cloud microservice architecture are easy to update and replace. This ensures the cloud is always versionless, up-to-date and never needs downtime
for maintenance, disruptive upgrades or test patches. Capacity is also automatically scalable up or down with no service interruption.
Drives innovation and directly generates profit – freed from regular maintenance regimes, your technology leaders will have more bandwidth to innovate and problem solve. Cloud also makes it cheaper, faster, easier and less risky to bring new products to market. For example, there’s no need to
freeze your systems for five months or spend hundreds of cycles testing and re-testing your systems to make them peak-trading ready.
Single view of the truth – Everyone can potentially have the same view of customers and their transactions with built-in case study management, social listening and communication capabilities. Store features such as point of sale and clienteling and fulfilment actions can also be available on a web browser or mobile app.
These benefits are triggering a massive shift towards cloud. In fact, a recent Gartner study discovered that by 2019, 90% of companies across the full economic spectrum plan to have cloud computing capabilities at some level.
Daryl Plummer, chief of cloud research at Gartner, goes one bold step further, stating ‘the future of IT is cloud only’.
Put simply, the future of retail is data – customer, transaction and supply chain data being among the most important. Companies that excel at data capture and analysis throughout their value chain will enjoy a significant commercial advantage over their competitors. Companies that don’t, will struggle and fall by the wayside very quickly.
Cloud computing is the only truly effective way of making the single, always current, run-anywhere version of data visible to all of your organisation and any authorised retail partners.
However, not all cloud products are created equal. Technology leaders should beware of the differences between cloud-native and cloud-enabled software and be careful of not falling into the expensive trap of buying a vastly inferior product.
While cloud-native systems are specifically built for, and enjoy the full functionality of the cloud infrastructure, cloud-enabled systems are often no more than unwieldy and inflexible legacy systems modified to deploy on cloud infrastructure to make them web accessible. Navigating the technological maze of the fourth industrial revolution will prove to be no mean feat.
Achieving a holistic system-wide transformation in which new technologies and processes compliment and amplify each other will be beyond many retail organisations. But those who choose partners with the right technical expertise and strategic vision will achieve a truly demand-driven retail model – and the spoils will be theirs.