The retail landscape has changed. Where once we were limited by physical accessibility, we now carry an entire world of commerce right in our pockets. The drawback, of course, is fleeting customer loyalty, intensified competition, and rising expectations for instant gratification. Today, 86% of Gen Xers and 85% of Baby Boomers won’t think twice about switching retailers if customer service falls short of their expectations. It’s tough out there.

In response, the retail industry has become heavily customer experience-driven, with brands scrambling to deliver unique, omnichannel experiences—often blurring the line between physical and digital in the process. To enable such experiences, companies are opting for a cloud-native approach to application development and deployment in order to sustain competitive advantage through rapid innovation and flexibility.

But what does it take to be a “cloud-native retailer”?

Driving cloud-native adoption

In Capgemini’s research report Cloud Native Comes of Age, 27% of executives from consumer-focused companies say that cloud native is already a core part of their overall cloud strategy. But not all retailers have the same motivation to drive cloud-native adoption. The three most common use cases for cloud-native adoption in retail stem from a need to:

  • Transform for greater agility and flexibility
  • Optimize operational efficiency
  • Adopt an API ecosystem.

While driving connected customer experiences is a shared priority (27% of business respondents rank improving the customer experience as their number one priority for the next 1–2 years), different businesses will need to address different bottlenecks.

Let’s break down how cloud-native retailers are making it happen.

Rapid flexibility

Those developing apps in a traditional, monolithic environment are severely limited by slow update and deployment times. Where the pace of deployment may take up to 14 days in a legacy environment, a cloud-native application developed in a microservices architecture is updated and improved continuously, with no downtime for the end user.

“73% of cloud-native leaders say it takes them less than 14 days to develop and deploy a new web app”—Cloud Native Comes of Age in Consumer-driven Industries

This continuous delivery gives retailers the security and freedom to rapidly adapt, innovate, and respond in the most efficient way possible. And as Franck Greverie, Cloud & Cybersecurity leader at Capgemini, says: “It’s not about whether you currently need to deploy new code several times a day, like Netflix. The question is: What if you had to?”

Operational efficiency

The siloed approach to development and operations doesn’t help anyone. It slows down deployment, leads to inconsistency, and creates a needless rift that negatively impacts quality.

Adopting a cloud-native development model resolves this, enforcing DevOps as a necessary and natural process. DevOps is quintessential for continuous delivery and that means breaking down the barriers between teams for a new era of efficient collaboration.

Matt Stine, principle architect at Pivotal, says: “You have to be doing DevOps and continuous delivery in order to be able to do microservices. But that shouldn’t be the goal; the goal should be delivering business agility and enabling resiliency.”

API ecosystems

The need to achieve greater business velocity has led to a rise in retailers adopting APIs. Combining a cloud-native development and microservices architecture within an API ecosystem not only eases collaboration with external channel partners and customers, but also unlocks valuable data hidden across the organization.

Starting your cloud-native journey

The writing is on the wall—customer behaviors have changed, mobile and digital use is ubiquitous, and customers expect retailers to be digitally adept. It’s no longer a case of “Can we do this?” but “Why aren’t we doing this?” Without agility, flexibility, and rapid innovation, those unwilling to adapt will not survive.

For many of your competitors, the shift to cloud native is well under way. Surveyed executives say that 41% of total cloud spend will be on Platform-as-a-Service for cloud-native development by 2020, while 32% of all retail apps will be cloud native by the same year.

Kickstart your cloud-native journey with confidence—read the full Cloud Native Comes of Age in Consumer-driven Industries perspective paper today.

Get our perspective paper for deep analysis, pragmatic advice, and best practice examples from cloud-native leaders in the retail and consumer products industry.