Few outside the retail industry understand the level of complexity required to get an item to a store shelf. It’s immensely tricky trying to gauge (and influence) levels of consumer demand with manufacturers’ ability to supply, and the logistical challenges of moving inventory through often aging systems (both physical and IT).
While much of this process has become more precise with the growing adoption of advanced analytics and data science, there still is a great deal of retail art involved. It’s more than systems and algorithms. It’s about having the ability to connect and collaborate with colleagues to make sense of the data, or discuss trends in human terms.
As if the traditional retail environment wasn’t complicated enough, retailers are facing increasing pressure because of digital technology. Consumers are more fickle, harder to reach, and more likely to cut retailers out of the buying portion or their purchase decision (i.e., try in store, buy online).
Smartphones, tablets and other devices have given shoppers more power than ever; they don’t “go shopping”; they’re always shopping. According to Deloitte, digital interactions influenced 0.64p of every pound spent in retail stores in 2015. That number is expected to only increase over time. High street retailers are also facing increasing competition from up-and-coming shops, as well as big online brands.
How can retailers respond? “Adapt or die” has become a common mantra for them, and many (88 percent) are focusing on running leaner operations to free up funds to reinvest in innovation — allowing them to become the disruptors, not the disrupted. For many, this means moving to the cloud where they are able to extend the lifecycle of their existing infrastructure and create truly omnichannel offering.
Going back to the challenge of getting an item onto (and more importantly off of) store shelves, the cloud enables retailers to be more nimble, secure and productive across the business. Imagine merchandisers and planners being able to create, discuss and adjust inventory plans anywhere on any device. Or buyers being able to identify and articulate emerging trends to management and other key stakeholders in clear and compelling ways. Think about the impact of enabling shop floor employees to connect with other parts of the business (from customer service to warehouses) in real-time. All of this is possible with the cloud.
Cloud offers solutions that are incredibly cost-effective, highly secure and reliable, and engineered to support productivity and growth. They give retailers the communication, collaboration and analysis tools that will help companies stay agile and flexible — to not just maintain traction, but to compete and thrive in the great omnichannel race.
To help retailers of all sizes get a better understanding of how Office 365 can help their business, we’ve created the Retail Toolkit: A Guide to Position your Retail Business for Success. This short eBook provides practical tips for using the cloud to maximise retail productivity and profitability.