Resilience in Retail: How to Increase It with eCommerce and the Cloud
eCommerce and cloud technologies are not new to retail, but the pandemic condensed years of digital commerce transformation into a few months or even weeks for many retailers. Retail resilience took on a whole new meaning, with retailers forced to quickly launch or overhaul their eCommerce channels to adapt to changing user requirements.
The ability to scale is another important benefit of the cloud for eCommerce. Businesses that were already on the cloud before the pandemic were able to react and scale up fast to adapt to suddenly growing demand. And while some had to temporarily shut down their eCommerce sites because they could not handle the volume of customers accessing them, those businesses on the cloud remained robust and operational.
Even with physical stores re-opening, eCommerce and cloud technologies have continued to play an important role in retail resilience. While taking advantage of the cloud was a wise strategy under pre-pandemic conditions, it has become a “must” as we move out of that period. Under the most extreme circumstances, cloud deployments were proven critical in enabling businesses to quickly adapt their workloads and processes and continue operating and supporting remote workforces.
The Coca-Cola Company shifted its business operations to Microsoft Azure to modernize the way employees work and engage with customers, enabling a 360-degree view of the business, and roll out an employee hub to connect, collaborate, and attend large-scale virtual meetings. The company is also using AI-driven insights and real-time dashboards in its call center operations.
Put the Cloud and eCommerce Into Action for Retail Resilience
What we learned from the pandemic presents opportunities to improve your retail resilience:
1. Bring the Brick-and-Mortar Experience Into the Homes of Your Customers
eCommerce was already going in this direction, but the pandemic sped things up. Purchases that most of us would have never considered buying online without first seeing them in person, are now commonly sold that way. The key is to bring the shopping experience into the homes of your customers. Employ a unified commerce platform, which unites your various channels within a single software solution and database, to be better equipped to bridge the gap between online and offline–click-and-collect, for example. You are also able to monitor and better manage sales, stock, and customer preferences, regardless of the channel.
2. Be Sure You Can Scale
A common story during the pandemic was some retailers’ inability to keep up when online demand went through the roof. This is an unfortunate example of businesses that lack retail resilience. If you haven’t already gone through this experience, be sure your infrastructure can handle a sudden, unpredicted spike in your online business, and not just on days like Black Friday. One of the best ways to impact your retail resilience is a flexible, cloud-based commerce platform that can quickly scale up or down as needed and handle peaks in traffic without slowing down or crashing.
3. Adapt to Your Customers’ Changing Demands
With cloud-based technology, you can take advantage of the innovation occurring around the cloud, particularly during times of change, to strengthen your retail resilience. With the agility the cloud offers, you can see and quickly respond to your customers’ changing demands. Demand forecasting and modeling tools help you predict and prepare for consumer behavior changes by adjusting your product mix, merchandising, pricing strategies, and messaging. Business intelligence and machine learning tools can help reduce waste and overhead, and AI can help you create better customer experiences and automate customer support.