The last couple of years has been a huge challenge for the retail industry. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic lockdowns, a record 12,200 brick-and-mortar stores closed down in the US alone. Similarly, 8,700 chain stores have closed from British high streets. The companies that survived this carnage were the ones who were in the process or immediately embraced online technologies such as the cloud.

But just moving to the cloud does not solve your problems. You will still face challenges such as high customer expectations, rapid advancements in technology, and omnichannel commerce. These changes can create cost pressures and uncertainty for you. Traditional approaches might not work in the face of change, which means now is the time to clearly define new targets, make changes to operating models, and rethink retail. Those of you who make the right moves now may enjoy a sustained advantage for decades to come.

In this blog we are going to see how retailers can leverage the cloud to stay competitive.

Areas where cloud can impact retail

1. Pricing and Margin Management

Pricing is a critical consideration for consumers and merchants alike. For the customer it has an impact on their decision on whether to buy now, go to another retailer or postpone purchase. For the merchant it has an impact on gross margin and sell-through rate and transaction time.

Before setting prices for your products, as a merchant you will consider competitors’ prices, sales history, repricing opportunities, margin and sales implications. All this data is analyzed and translated into pricing in stores and on the website. Unfortunately, most merchants do this process manually. Data is frequently distributed across multiple channels, making insight generation extremely difficult and time consuming. Some merchants have begun to work with their analytics teams for insights, but are hindered by the lack of real-time analytics solutions and data gaps.

How cloud can help

Cloud data platforms can ingest data from multiple sources and prepare it for analysis, saving an enormous amount of the data specialists’ time, and freeing them up to focus on modeling. The cloud also unlocks opportunities to easily integrate data from external sources. With the data made available, analysis with advanced machine learning can help determine the optimal product prices quickly and in accordance with the retailer’s business goals.

Thus it is critical for you to evaluate potential cloud providers carefully by determining which one can create a data platform quickly and provide best-in-class machine-learning capabilities.

Pricing and Margin Management

2. Website recommendations

Personalization allows you to ensure that the right products are shown to the right customers. Personalization is a way to increase revenue and conversion rate. However, many retailers are not able to get a 360-degree view of the customer, as this requires data reconciliation across multiple channels, including partner data sources. Moreover, as the customer buys or browses more products, showing the right set of products becomes more difficult. This increases the risk of customer attrition due to incorrect personalization.

How cloud can help

IT leaders in retail organizations understand the value of cloud-based data aggregation, cleaning and manipulation tools that can combine multiple data sources. The scalability of the cloud and the platforms it offers enables retailers to take action quickly. Retailers can set up A/B testing scenarios, performance validation, and iterations on personalization algorithms.

Website recommendations

3. Loyalty-program management

Customer acquisition costs are high, so when you win a new customer, you will want to ensure they’re not one-and-done. Loyalty and repeat purchases are top goals for all brands. Loyalty programs provide incentives for shoppers to stay with a brand and make frequent purchases. But sometimes it’s difficult to identify customers across channels, especially when data is maintained at store level and isn’t processed in real time.

How cloud can help

With the cloud, you can integrate multiple data sources to get a unified view of customers. This includes data from in-store, mobile, web, and social media. You can take advantage of cloud capabilities to engage with customers with personalized loyalty promotions. For example, designing promotions by geofencing and provide information in the local language and sentiment analysis.

4. Real-time inventory view

Real-time inventory management is a critical aspect for successful omnichannel retail. Retailers are struggling to achieve a successful implementation of real-time inventory data. For example errors can happen when customers buy online but opt for in-store pickup and the item is actually not there. This could happen due to 2 reasons:

  • POS and inventory management systems have not been updated
  • Product misplaced by employees

How cloud can help

A cloud service will take sales data from all channels and update your inventory management system in real time, so that your website always displays accurate and up-to-date inventory availability. This eliminates the frustration of a consumer completing a purchase, only to receive an email later on that the product is out of stock. You can achieve low latency and high transaction outputs by unifying all the data sources.

Real-time inventory view

5. Omnichannel order fulfillment

One important advantage that traditional retailers enjoy over online retailers is their large store network. These can help eCommerce companies with traditional stores to fulfill orders faster and reduce delivery costs. But a downside is that using a store item to fulfill an online order could damage the store’s sales numbers and profits. Also the profit margin of the item can reduce if the margin is better at the store.

The online channels can’t give accurate pickup times to customers for in-store pick ups as they lack visibility or store operations.

How cloud can help

By using ML based cloud analytics platforms, retailers can identify stores closest to the customer, real-time margin calculation and accurate order pick up times.

6. Inventory optimization

Merchants face tremendous challenges when it comes to inventory management. Product seasonality, lack of accurate forecasts, lack of automated solutions, unexpected consumer or product trends are some of the points that make inventory management difficult.

How cloud can help

A company’s sales, procurement, analysts and technology teams must work hand-in-hand to build a cloud infrastructure and analytics platform that can predict and optimize inventory management. A sophisticated inventory solution can factor in seasonality, promotions, trends and product substitutes into their forecasts. These solutions can provide accurate forecasts and increase predictability of inventory.

Inventory optimization

Final Words

Cloud adoption is a transformative journey, which for a retailer can accelerate their ability to offer both their customers and employees capabilities that are nimble, scalable, and cost-effective. For the customers, cloud helps to provide a personalized experience that they can enjoy. For the employees, they get a powerful tool to improve sales and manage inventory more efficiently.

To reap the benefits of cloud you will need an experienced hand to help you. That’s where we come in. Ziffity’s team of AWS experts can provide you with tailor-made Cloud solutions for all your business requirements.