Four ways to build a “Cloud Bridge” to the retail store of the future

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What does the future of retail look like in this age of digital disruption? As online sales soar at a double-digit pace at the expense of traditional stores, how can retailers compete?

Where should they start, with so many technologies promising to finally deliver omni-channel integration and a more personalized customer experience?

The answer lies in the cloud. Capgemini recently polled 6,000 consumers and found that 40 percent feel that in-store shopping is a chore. This doesn’t bode well for cloud laggards busy closing and consolidating stores.

To avoid shutting doors, open the window – and bring in the cloud. Here are four strategies retailers can apply to use the cloud to build a bridge to a brighter future.

·         Modernize your data center. To grow in the cloud, start with what’s on the ground.  Efficiently running a data center requires a scale of operations that far exceeds most retailer’s needs, so leave it to the pros where you can. Assess your environment and select applications matching cloud providers’ performance, size and platform options to lift and shift for immediate benefit.  For applications with specialized compliance, regulatory and privacy requirements, determine what must be retained and what can evolve into a cloud app.  Overall, diversify your risk with a hybrid strategy that maximizes data center investments while taking advantage of the scalability and cost efficiencies of cloud.

·         Learn to dance (a.k.a. become a nimble enterprise). With a solid infrastructure foundation in place, build agility and flexibility in your application portfolio.  Use APIs as more than connectors between applications and data sets – build an API economy to create a platform for growth and future business models you may not even envision today.  For optimal speed, adopt a bi-modal approach to transformation, creating an express lane for new development while driving traditional and legacy to keep pace.

·         Double down on the customer experience. Modernize applications with a broad view of your customers and how they engage with your brand.  Use SaaS and packaged applications to streamline back office functions, so order fulfillment, inventory, and returns feel effortless and contribute to an excellent experience with your store. Empower associates with applications, devices and data to engage shoppers in their buying journey.  Enhance the tactile, which is so difficult to copy online, with connected, cloud-based applications that create a more social and engaging experience.

·         Build a goldmine of data. With the cloud comes infinite data, easily accessible for predictive analytics and better, faster decision making. Retailers who mine data for actionable insights will be the next disrupters. Iterate as if you are a cloud native company. Move. Test. Fail. Learn. Innovate.

The cloud-enabled retailer will unleash virtually unlimited new ways to innovate and disrupt. As you chart your own path to the cloud, move swiftly. The future is now.