The velocity with which changes occur in the retail industry, if we consider merely the last decade, is impressive. Opportunities that seemed impossible just a few years ago are today’s reality and the immediate future holds even more surprises for retail businesses, as the market trends and the digital capabilities are skyrocketing. 

Subsequently, if companies still resume their strategies to minor adjustments or adapting-on-the-go, the chances of thriving will be slim. Rising customer expectations and the need to offer new shopping experience as the lifestyle itself is going through major changes are the main drivers for innovation.   

What needs to happen today in Retail, as is applicable to all industries, is embracing a new approach to business modelling, one that combines skill and creativity, but also one that nurtures a trustful relationship with digital modernization.  

So, what are the two main areas where Retailers should modernize to thrive in the fast-paced digital world?

1. The new supply chain 

Even though the market is facing a digital age characterized by innovative processes, most supply chains still follow old rules and processes. Many retailers need to modernize their supply chains, given the increasing influence of digital channels and shifts in consumer preferences and behaviour. 

The new supply chain needs faster-integrated scenario planning and operational management. New technologies like advanced analytics enable operational efficiency and effectiveness and indicate what tasks to automate to shift focus from repetitive tasks. The individual contribution of every process should be challenged, removing any steps that do not add value. 

Also, increased use of cloud-based tools for peripheral applications, such as transportation management will decrease cost and improve efficiency. Artificial intelligence (AI) is another technology that plays an important role in the optimization of the modern supply chain. In the area of merchandise warehousing, AI can help retailers maintain a competitive advantage in product delivery and supply chain operations. 

2. E-tail is the new focus 

Ecommerce expenditures increased significantly in the last years. Especially given the fact that mortar-and-brick stores were closed during the first two quarters of 2020, the need for an online shop with a friendly interface, clear product descriptions and images of products at a time when consumers can’t see, touch and try is paramount.  

Improved customer experience is a must to thrive in the digital era, as millions of consumers spend more time online. Brands work to attract consumer attention in an increasingly competitive digital environment so that they need to utilize innovative technologies that give customers a personalized experience, convenience, and greater integration in online environments. 

Such integrations include technologies like augmented reality (AR) systems for trying on clothing or testing products and mobile preorders.  

Personalized customer service can extend from offers based on buying patterns to customer success management. Big data can provide real customer insights and hence helps retailers to offer more personalized offerings and customer service. Cloud services can merge the in-store data with the digital data to offer the best solutions to their customers. 

How? Cloud Computing unlocks business acceleration 

Cloud computing can help meet and accelerate all business and operational areas of competitive companies. In today’s changing business environment, agility is becoming increasingly valuable. Cloud computing is, therefore, a necessity to keep up with new trends. 

Retailers use cloud computing to optimize the business and operational processes such as channel operations, merchandising and marketing, sales and even the supply chain. Many retailers today have fragmented systems that need to be modernized. Cloud computing helps streamline and standardize systems. 

With cloud computing, retailers can gain visibility into the supply chain. With cloud computing, retailers can have supply chain systems that can properly manage their business without bottlenecks, accelerated delivery or high inventory levels. The cloud also enables real-time tracking of shipment status, digitalized documents from suppliers, carriers, logistics providers, brokers and more. 

Cloud computing and Big Data can provide valuable information about customer preferences that can help in merchandising decisions. Retailers can analyze customer buying trends and decide on stocking and advertising planning. This also helps to reduce the time to market for retail products.  

We have covered more about Cloud 2.0 and the impact it has on all businesses in another article.  

Final thought 

Retailers today are challenged by outdated systems and processes that fail to keep pace with current market trends and are not designed for seamless customer experience. To thrive in the new digital era, they must modernize the core aspects of their business such as the supply chain and migrate towards an online presence with e-tail as go-to-strategy. 

Cloud Computing is the model that will help retail businesses navigate the market changes thrive even in today’s competitive environment.  The cloud enables a scalable, robust infrastructure system that can support business growth. It allows businesses to achieve maximum efficiency and increases general end-customers’ satisfaction.  

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