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Build the store of the future: Retail and the cloud

It’s not a secret that many brick-and-mortar retail stores, especially chains, are struggling. Nieman Marcus, JC Penney, and Sears are all in various states of bankruptcy and have closed stores, while other chains have closed their doors completely. Established, once-beloved stores face irrelevance or even extinction as more people turn to online shopping. However, by transitioning to cloud applications for retail, businesses can reduce costs, improve relevance, and keep customers coming back.  

The Extinction of Newspapers 

Just like brick-and-mortar retail stores, newspapers were an essential part of daily life for hundreds of years, and owning or operating one was a stable, reliable method of building wealth and influence. However, the past few decades have seen thousands of once profitable newspapers shut their doors.  

This path to extinction started with the invention of the first web browser in 1993, and in only 15 years, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, and online national services pulled people away from their local newspapers. When customers started canceling subscriptions, advertisers moved their money to online platforms, too.  

But it wasn’t just the arrival of the internet that caused newspapers to fail. The problem was that newspapers either underutilized or completely ignored it until it was too late to change the tide against them. Now, brick and mortar stores face the same challenge, but adopting cloud applications for retail may be key to preventing another mass extinction event.  

Reacting and Leveraging Technology Changes 

To stay relevant and keep their doors open, traditional retailers, both small businesses and enterprise-level companies alike, must react to economic and societal trends while leveraging their strengths over online shopping.  

First, let’s consider the challenges and factors that retail stores need to consider: 

  • Affordability and accessibility of mobile devices makes online shopping more convenient 
  • Increased reliance on technology 
  • Demographic changes 
  • Consumer behaviors related to price sensitivity and changing buying preferences 
  • Consumer need for seamless, holistic experience 
  • Shift toward cashless society 

While a retail store may find it difficult to adapt to these factors, they aren’t insurmountable. They can leverage several key strengths that will keep customers walking through the doors: 

  • Local physical presence serves immediate need 
  • Friendly customer service  
  • Opportunity for customers to physically interact, experience, and see products 


Using Cloud Native Applications for a Retail Store of the Future  

While ecommerce can be a supplemental opportunity to drive more revenue into the company, having a subsidiary, inferior online presence won’t be enough to keep a company successful. Instead, by transitioning to cloud native applications, retail stores can improve customer experiences, streamline operations, and reduce costs to ensure the company can survive and thrive.  

Let’s consider what a store of the future, like the one illustrated above, could be like. As a potential customer gets within a certain proximity of the store, they receive a notification on their phone of a flash sale. The customer stops by the store, sees what they want, then using the store’s mobile app, they can scan the product, pay, and leave with it. The whole experience is fast, simple, and seamless.  

For this scenario to occur, retailers need several components:

1. A Mobile Application  

First, a robust mobile application can automate the notification through geofencing, a location-based service that triggers a response when the device enters a virtual perimeter. Using real-time inventory for all stores, the application can create flash sales on overstocked products or dynamically increase the price of in-demand items.  

For this to work, a mobile application, cloud applications, and APIs will work together to support the purchasing, inventory reconciliation, and automated marketing efforts. At the same time cloud services will collect IoT data from mobile devices and in-store sensors to improve retailer strategies and influence customers to make purchases. 

2. Robust Data Strategy 

To ingest and process high-velocity data and build or adjust strategies in real time, retailers need a solid data strategy in place. Typically, retailers do not know what happens within a particular store until the next business day after point of sale systems have uploaded data and overnight batch processes have loaded the data into data warehouses for reporting purposes. This delay can lead to missed opportunities and missed sales.  

3. Mobile Point of Sale 

Having an intuitive, immersive mobile application that customers can use to purchase products is not just convenient. It offers the retailer the opportunity to retire traditional point of sale systems which offers several benefits:  

  • Increased velocity of sales and inventory data 
  • Single sales engine for both online and store sales 
  • Elimination of complex and expensive point-of-sale systems 
  • Reduction in headcount or repurposing of headcount to improve customer service 
  • Decreased dependency on staff and a corresponding reduction in scheduling complexities 
  • Ability to target customers with personalized offers and incentives 

Cloud Solutions for Retail Stores can Protect Your Business 

While future-proofing a retail store requires a different data and technology strategy than what has been used in the past, these changes to business processes and decision making will be key to keeping your company solvent.  

Want to learn more about how cloud solutions for retail can help your company? Let’s connect.  

About the author

Greg Deckler

Greg Deckler is New Era's VP of Cloud Services and has over 20 years of experience in the industry. He excels at assisting Fortune 500 firms with global systems by delivering professional services related to data and business intelligence, enterprise collaboration, web architecture and design, business process improvement/automation, enterprise architecture, identity management, application development, core infrastructure design/optimization, and project management. Greg has also been published in numerous trade journals on business and technical subjects and is the author of the book “Achieving Process Profitability, Building the IT Profit Center. 

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