Consumers are more demanding, more connected and more informed than ever. They’re researching and completing transactions across multiple channels, starting their journey with one device and finishing it on another. And they expect the experience to be seamless, letting them conveniently weave between physical and virtual shopping interactions.
These expectations further illustrate that the omnichannel experience has become the norm. However, many retailers still struggle to deliver this new retail reality.
One of the leading reasons is their use of legacy on-premise technologies. Not only do these solutions inhibit an agile approach to add new functionalities, but they have also generated siloed systems that stifle operations, present redundant data that increase costs and require complex integrations that ultimately slow innovation.
A cloud platform, on the other hand, presents retailers with flexibility and openness to connect enterprise technology with a myriad of data types (e.g. customer information, product details, inventory). This connectivity enables retailers to reduce complexity and deliver a more personalized and holistic customer experience.
With these capabilities, retailers can more effectively keep pace with consumer demands, such as delivering relevant brand information across channels, offering a persistent profile and enabling a frictionless transaction wherever or however a consumer may choose to shop.
Store associates can even leverage this connectivity to view inventory, redeem promotions and conduct transactions via mobile devices. They enhance service through endless aisle capabilities to sell inventory not physically in the store, and access a customer’s buying history on the sales floor.
SOLSTICE Sunglasses, for example, is leveraging an in-store digital solution that enables it to equip store associates with mobile devices for greater customer engagement. This capability also lets the retailer sell web inventory, ensuring they never lose a sale due to out-of-stocks.
The cloud, and its open architecture, presents retailers with a number of opportunities to succeed in today’s retail reality. Let’s take a deeper look at some of these capabilities and how they enable an omnichannel experience.
Technology leaders must establish an infrastructure that can scale on demand to meet the variety of performance requirements. Unlike legacy on-premise solutions, the cloud is built to accommodate peaks and valleys in traffic so retailers don’t need to over-buy capacity. This allows retailers to grow across geographies, markets and channels without the traditional cost, complexity and risk.
An international move often calls for multiple technical requirements, including new database structures and search engine compatibility, to name a few. But with a robust cloud backbone, the burden of all of these activities is passed on to the solution provider, allowing retailers to recognize global scalability and faster time to market.
Speed to market
We’re in the era of digital disruption, where new technologies and functionalities are frequently being rolled out. It should be easy to add new functionality to a commerce platform, but doing so with on-premise software puts a significant burden on the retailer and requires additional costs and upgrades to the hardware. These retailers are also tasked with determining version compatibility and capacity requirements and testing the upgrades directly. But a cloud solution lets retailers take advantage of new features and functionalities on a regular basis, and gain access to innovative updates and capabilities with a simplified implementation process.
The retail reality today requires everyone to adjust, create and innovate while simultaneously redefining how retail evolves, how brands are built, how customer loyalty is won and how experiences are designed, refined and delivered. Because of this, every retailer shares the need to address the omnichannel challenge presented by customers without adding complexity.
With a commerce platform in the cloud, retailers can take advantage of a steady drumbeat of innovation, continually introducing new functionalities without the additional cost and disruption associated with licensed upgrades. Whether it’s enabling external web applications and enterprise software to interface with all shopping functionalities, or it’s an initiative to digitize the store, retailers can deliver a consistent brand experience across every customer interaction, every time.
A steady cadence of innovation ensures retailers can stay competitive in their respective markets by easily introducing new functionalities and customer-facing engagement opportunities to build loyal customers. Marks & Spencer, for example, embedded an “E-Boutique” into their food store on the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam to encourage their customers to “shop to order.” Leveraging what it billed as the world’s first Virtual Rail, the retailer seamlessly integrated digital into the physical racks of clothing samples.
The combination of a scalable solution, speed to market and a steady drumbeat of innovation illustrates why the cloud is a critical factor for retailers to effectively execute on their digital commerce strategy and deliver a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.
Rob Garf is Vice President of Industry Strategy and Insights at Demandware.