A paradigm shift is underway in retail, and cloud is at the forefront of it. Cloud has been acting as a catalyst in facilitating and accelerating the disruption in retail. How? It has become a proven business agility enabler and has shown that it can effectively transform a once archaic and longstanding retail business processes into a flexible, responsive, intelligent, and automated one.
The retailers who have adopted cloud are now succeeding in this digital era. They have transformed themselves to behave like tech companies. Cloud helps them respond to market shifts and emerging consumer trends. These retailers also see cloud as an enabler to innovation and new product development. They have incorporated agile methodologies and make full use of DevOps and advanced cloud technologies such as AI, machine learning, and big data.
There are six key characteristics of a frictionless retail enterprise that allow you to take advantage of those lower transaction costs by eliminating previous barriers to engagement:
- Everywhere: The connected global cloud infrastructure has collapsed distance, making it possible to reach a global market for virtually no cost and collaborate and interact with others irrespective of geography or time zones. Smart mobile devices allow consumers to access and collect rich information and participate fully in business activities – anyplace, anytime.
- On demand: Retailers do not have to put plans on hold while they wait to build infrastructure or build their own data science teams. Self-serve resources are available instantly from the cloud — from computing infrastructure to applications. Cloud-based infrastructure lowers the transaction costs of making these services available in a highly configurable, responsive, pay-as-you-go manner.
- Real time: Retailers no longer have to wait for paperwork to arrive or for the data to be updated. Cloud makes it possible for them to access the latest information and take immediate action in response. Retail customers, employees, and partners increasingly expect real-time information and instant reaction as a routine standard of behavior.
- Change ready: Since we no longer have to wait days or weeks for the latest status, it is no longer sufficient to rigidly plan months in advance. The cloud-enabled retail business environment is always changing and therefore the business processes of the retail enterprise must be able to adapt rapidly to that continuous change. Machine learning — through developments in data analytics and artificial intelligence — will play an increasingly important role in augmenting retail enterprise adaptability.
- Collaborative: Removing all those barriers to interaction at the same time as automating many formerly time-consuming processes of information discovery and sharing provide the means to supercharge teamwork within the retail enterprise. Even more significant is frictionless collaboration at a macro level via cloud, making it possible to pool resources, aggregate data, share context, and innovate communally across networked platforms.
- Innovation enabler: Cloud helps retailers compete at the innovation level. It offers advanced cloud services such as AI, ML, and big data to blend offline and online experiences through leveraging data-driven insights to improve the shopping experience. Cloud also enables Conversational Commerce by providing AI chatbot tools and machine learning platforms to better understand consumer behavior and preferences. Leading cloud providers now offer tools to retailers to easily build machine learning models.
Adopting a cloud platform can help any retailer remain agile and adaptable to changing consumer and business demands. Subscription pricing models for many cloud services allow retailers to pay for what they need, when they need it. As such, new products can be launched quickly and at a lower cost than if they were reliant on physical infrastructure for set-up and support. Cloud providers are investing in the innovation space and its vital retailers have the ability to leverage that innovation to win over consumers and market share.