Can Cloud be the Answer to Retail woes!

By Ushasri Tirumala, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Manhattan Associates

Technology’s role in delivering the right shopping experience is becoming extremely significant and an imperative for retailers. Digital-savvy customers expect retailers to deliver an engaging customer experience both in-store and online. Retailers that cre­ate strong digital experiences will attract new customers and gain their loyalty. Hence, solutions that enable the omni-channel experience while optimizing current busi­ness operations and providing a single view of global inventory are a necessity.

"Solutions deployed on the cloud will help deliver the right tools that will make supply chain visibility a reality in a scalable, flexible way"

This entails having tools that leverage the power of enterprise wide network inventory and the ability to lo­cate specific inventory, whether it resides in a store, a DC, or in the extended supply chain. Finding what the customer wants from an all available inventory - and ful­filling in the way the customer wants to receive it - helps close the experience gap between online and in-store.

Delivering on omni channel expectations is having a profound impact on the role of the store associates. The store associate becomes the most important entity at the heart of a unique shopping experience. The role expands from pure merchandise transactions toward a focus on customer engagement and micro marketing. Retailers need to support their associates with the right tools to facilitate these personalized, best-in-class services, while simultaneously enabling high-velocity fulfillment re­quirements.

The demand for Omni-channel will also see an im­pact on retailer’s operations and business models. The highest impact can be seen on the need for supply chain visibility. Achieving supply chain visibility is a journey and should not be viewed as a single overarching project but as a series of well-defined initiatives with greater vis­ibility as the final goal. Hence, scalability and flexibility are essential characteristics of any technology solution put into practice.

To operate effectively, it’s critical that organizations have a nimble solution that is designed to enable a seam­less flow of activity, helping to manage the entire ‘sell anywhere, fulfill anywhere’ value chain. In such a sce­nario, faster implementations and accelerated access to technology innovations becomes critical.

Solutions deployed on the cloud offer the flexibility, scalability and a lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) option that retailers need. Given that retailers are already burdened with stringent IT budgets, cloud solutions en­able retailers to focus more on customer experience rath­er than on CAPEX investments of on premise solutions. From a financial point of view, solutions deployed on the cloud are economically better as they help in moving CapEx (Capital expenses) investments into OpEx (Oper­ating expenses).

With the ever-changing retail landscape and cus­tomer demands, retailers need to constantly update their strategy. Solutions deployed on the cloud enable faster delivery of innovation to the market. With access to the latest technology versions, upgrades are virtually a non-event in solutions deployed on the cloud. Retailers can focus on the right strategy in the field rather than wor­rying about technology upgrades and changes. Solutions deployed on the cloud can not only drive optimization in a low margin environment but also help sustain com­petitive advantage in an ever-changing environment.

Retailers need solutions that provide scalability to cater to specific events such as cyber sales or discount sales and peak season. Cloud native solutions based on Microservices based architecture help in dynamically scaling solutions during such events. In addition, solu­tions on the cloud also lend the right support and agility in retail footprint expansion or setting up new stores.

The Indian retail industry is at cusp of this global transformation. Growing at a CAGR of 9 percent (2000-2020E), the retail market in India is set to touch USD 1.1 trillion by 2020. The share of organized retail is expected to reach 24 per cent by then (source – IBEF). With more FDI inflow in retail, new formats of sale and purchase will continue to expand in the country. Also, considering that only 7 per cent of India’s retail sector is organized, it has to be technology that will enable most brands to create customized shopping experiences.

Most retail players in India are steadily adopting cloud as a part of their retail strategy. Solutions deployed on the cloud will help deliver the right tools that will make supply chain visibility a reality in a scalable, flex­ible way. Agile delivery that keeps the brand promise would be top on the wish list of retailers.

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