Retailers Can Transform Their Store-Level Operations Using the Cloud

By Paul Wolf, Director, Retail Services, Xerox

Struggling retailers and those who aren’t going to remain in business have, perhaps, missed the memo on the cloud.

The market for cloud services continues to grow as retail businesses embrace the flexibility that the cloud offers. But what about using the cloud at the store-level? What is going on behind the scenes to create an optimal experience for customers?

Innovation has always separated companies from their competition. But never before have retailers been able to transform their business with such efficiency. This is primarily due to “the cloud” allowing retailers to adopt new technologies without requiring large upfront costs.  Additionally, IT departments can provide entire application environments on their own schedule without the need to develop and acquire the talent to run it. The cloud provides an approach to not only overcome this hurdle but also demonstrate an investment on cloud services.

As a result, this creates more money to invest in the core business that enables retailers to create differentiation. Differentiation is the result of continuous innovation, which leads to better value for the customer.

Many smaller cloud services can be combined with more common cloud services to drive innovation all the way down to the retail floor. For example, some retailers are taking advantage of “pay for use” models, so the optimal price is based upon the capacity used. Fluctuation capacity happens throughout the year – just think about how holiday sales are much higher in comparison to the rest of the year. More transactions take place from Black Friday through Christmas, so retailers need more computing power to support the increase in volume. A cloud-based approach will centralize the application management and release deployment for the retailer. Because the application is deployed as a service in the cloud, retailers gain the advantage to scale up or down as needed and pay only for what they need and use.

The cloud also allows retailers to become more flexible. Almost every function on the retail floor has some impact or dependency on technology. Consider development and upgrades to point-of-sale (POS) applications or shifting to a new merchandising application. Both of these scenarios are much easier to implement with a cloud strategy.

For example, before store deployment every new POS release, application or location-specific configuration has to be tested and quality verified. Different geographies, languages, products, peripherals, and store setups add layers of complexity to this process. Traditionally, application developers tested these applications in physical labs, but bottlenecks could result in products getting to market more slowly. A cloud-based approach to solving this dilemma is to provide a highly secure, cloud-based testing environment that enables test labs to increase or decrease capacity as needed, with an agile, on-demand model where retailers “pay for use.”

The cloud has already brought many benefits to retailers as illustrated above. However, technology is rapidly changing and retailers need to stay innovative to increase their competitiveness. It is imperative that the new technology is implemented into a retailer’s business efficiently and cost effectively without impacting the customer.

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