Forecasting retail’s future in the cloud

Over the last 5 years, retailers have been challenged to adapt to major changes in where consumers buy, how they engage with brands and the speed at which they expect fulfillment. While simultaneously addressing the impact of mobile technology, social consumer behaviour and changes in global business models, retailers have had to make some tough decisions when prioritising investment in infrastructure and investing in direct to consumer experiences.

This tension has made for an environment where new competitors with more nimble and agile models have been able to make early investments and create a gap, disrupting the market even further.

Cloud infrastructure represents an opportunity for brands of all sizes to speed time to market and accelerate innovation, liberating IT teams to focus on developing competitive advantages without the burden of back-end integrations and infrastructure maintenance.

>See also: Striking retail gold this quarter with a cloud strategy

Cloud technologies provide a unique opportunity for retail brands to further personalise their engagement with consumers, prepare for scaled growth and re-orient IT teams to drive innovation.

Creating a single source of truth for hyper-personalisation

With fast fashion retailers disrupting the traditional retail planning and supply chain processes and delivering products to market faster than ever before, brands need to simultaneously focus on how they can inspire employees to engage and create a unique brand experience.

Tools and technology that facilitate a meaningful conversation between brands and consumers will provide the basis for future competitive differentiation. As illustrated in Oracle Retail’s Retail 2025 research, by building trust across your customer base, consumers will warm to the idea of data collection and provide associates at all levels with new opportunities to personalise brand experiences.

Silos in IT infrastructure and business functions have fundamentally prevented the seamless sharing of insights across the retail organisation. With cloud infrastructure, serving as a single source of the truth to executives, managers and associates can empower teams across the board to leverage data and hyper-personalise brand engagement to drive a unique consumer experience across channels.

>See also: Internet of Things: a retail perspective

Accelerating deployment of new technology

E-commerce and social commerce, accelerated by mobility, has had a dramatic impact on retail margins – especially for omnichannel brands. The rate of returns for omnichannel retailers is creeping into the 30-40% range whereas less than a decade ago the return rate for tradition retail was 8%.

Planning for that churn requires advanced retail science and AI across planning and supply chain. With margins tightening brands cannot afford to prioritise investment in maintaining legacy systems over profit-driving initiatives like reverse planning logistics and AI. Leadership must shift the burden of managing retail applications like merchandising, planning, supply chain, customer engagement and commerce to cloud providers.

While shifting business operations and sensitive data to a cloud environment can be met with trepidation – the competitive edge and ability to keep pace with the changing retail landscape greatly outweighs the perceived risk.

>See also: The golden quarter and the challenge for online retail

Selecting the right cloud partner is essential and we expect retailers to take a measured approach. Our Blueprint to Cloud helps retailers define a thoughtful migration plan that helps mitigates risk and opens them up to take new innovations allowing for quick wins.

Critical considerations

Cloud infrastructure is a critical resource necessary for brands to make the most of strained IT budgets with competitive and consumer changes driving increased pressure to innovate. As companies consider cloud adoption they should consider asking themselves the following questions to help guide their investment:

• Where will cloud have the largest impact in the shortest timeframe?
• Do I have a clear view of how consumers engage with my brand across channels and geographies?
 How quickly can I deploy new tools and technologies across my retail footprint, while minimising the impact on my business and users?
• How can I balance fulfillment channels and keep them customer centric?
• How can I meet consumer demand to shop online, in store, on mobile and social, seamlessly?


Sourced by Jeff Warren, VP product strategy at Oracle Retail


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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