It’s no secret that cloud computing is playing a major role in the transformation of several industries, and retail is among the fields capitalizing most on its benefits. From breaking down silos between legacy systems to revolutionizing the Point of Sale (POS) model, cloud computing has helped both e-commerce and storefront retailers alike streamline operations and improve business outcomes.
According to a recent report from Accenture, cloud computing has spawned "A new era for retail," making capabilities previously only available to large retailers affordable and intuitive for small and medium-sized businesses. All that’s required is Internet access and a web-enabled device.
In addition, many cloud-based offerings boast transparent pricing models and scaling based on tiers, so businesses are not stuck with long contracts, legacy equipment, or upgrade and customization requirements. Cloud-based solutions offer retailers unprecedented flexibility by providing access to data and analytics in real time across business lines.
Let’s take a look at three ways retailers are benefitting from cloud-based services:
- The Rise of Mobile POS: Retailers like Apple and Home Depot recognized years ago the need to provide an option for customers to check out with the sales associate that helped them make a purchase instead of waiting in a general line. Since then, mobile POS systems have been popping up in restaurants and bars, clothing boutiques, mall kiosks and other businesses as retailers streamline the shopping experience and improve the intimacy of the customer interaction. Mobile POS systems also help stores recapture valuable floor space because they no longer need to worry about housing servers, computers and cables under a sales counter. While large retailers scramble for ways to make their legacy POS systems PCI-compliant in the post-Windows XP era, retailers that embraced cloud-based mobile POS solutions early on – or made the migration from legacy solutions already – are now sitting pretty.
- Real-time data from the sales floor: Real-time data is valuable across the board – from C-level management to department managers to buyers to sales associates. For example, management can see if their investment in a new designer’s line is paying off based on marketing campaigns they conducted vs. the number of people who take that designer’s outfits into the dressing room during the first few hours the store is open. Then they can see how well those dressing room numbers convert to sales.
- Real-time access to inventory across stores: Perhaps the most powerful impact of cloud-based services will be on the sales floor. For example, Nordstrom has armed its sales associates with mobile devices that allow them to not only check customers out using a mobile POS, but also gives them access to the company’s entire inventory, which is useful when helping customers check if an alternative size or color is available at another location or online. It also keeps sales associates engaged with customers rather than hiding behind sales counters.
The scope of change that cloud computing is bringing to the retail industry is stunning. Web-based SaaS solutions hosted in the cloud are making their mark on every part of the business, from retail tools to human resources and ERP applications. How has your retail operation become more successful since adopting cloud-based solutions?