12 May How the Cloud Has Changed Online Retail Forever
The cloud: for many, it’s still a weighty, vaguely threatening concept that’s fairly easy to grasp, yet difficult to truly understand.
But for anyone who works in the world of online retail, the cloud is very real.
What is The Cloud?
How best to explain cloud computing?
Imagine if everything you need to run your retail business – your database, your finances, your stock, your records, your customer profiles – could be immediately and securely accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection. And imagine if, rather than having to access this information on a dusty old desktop computer in a dingy back office, this information could be accessed on any device, including your standard everyday smartphone or tablet.
That’s cloud computing. It involves hosting a whole or a part of your IT system online, with no need for costly servers or data centres.
Cloud-based data is just as secure as it would be if it were stored on a standard server. In fact, it might even be argued that it’s more secure. Because it’s automatically backed up, you’ll never have to worry about it being compromised by fire, flood, or theft. With a cloud based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you can manage almost every aspect of your retail business on almost any device from anywhere that has internet access.
It’s quite easy to imagine how such a system might shake up the online retail game. But let’s take a look at precisely how.
Reduced IT Costs = Quicker & Easier Growth
It used to be all too easy for even the smallest of online retail businesses to run up stratospheric IT costs. Servers aren’t cheap, after all. Nor are the trained IT specialists required to keep things running smoothly. But with cloud-based systems, businesses can enjoy immediate access to all the benefits of an advanced ERP solution with a series of easily-manageable monthly payments. This makes it considerably cheaper and easier for businesses of all sizes to effectively manage their existing systems. But beyond that, integrating new systems is less of a financial strain too.
Cloud technology makes every online retail business significantly more scalable. It’s because of this that companies as diverse as ASOS, Specsavers, and Amazon have been able to swiftly expand their services overseas in recent years.
Cloud Technology + Offsite Data Storage = Better Customer Relationships
The cloud enables any retail business, online or offline, to offer a more streamlined and flexible shopping experience. In the offline world, the cloud can be used to create a seamless mobile PoS experience. Retail staff can now access a wealth of information to offer their customers whatever assistance they need.
No more “checking the back room” or calling the suppliers to see if item are in stock. With cloud-technology, all of this information is readily available on a handy mobile device. In the world of online retail, cloud-based systems can prove invaluable when it comes to efficiently processing orders and managing spikes in demand.
For far too long, many retail businesses have seen their servers crash during public holidays and special sales events, as the demand rapidly outstrips their IT systems’ processing capabilities. And of course, for every second that their systems are down, sales opportunities are missed, and would-be customers get increasingly antsy.
But with the cloud, rather than overloading their own servers with a surge in orders, they can instead let powerful offsite servers take the strain. This enables online businesses to focus on what really matters – swiftly and accurately processing and dispatching customer orders. So no matter how many purchases are made, every single customer will always receive exactly what they ordered, and in exactly the right size, style, and quantity.
Automation + Flexibility = More Efficient Supply Chains
The cloud makes it possible to access and control every aspect of your retail business, at any time and from any place that has an internet connection.
The possibilities are endless. You can monitor and control your stock from a single screen, even if it’s spread across multiple sites. At the touch of a button, you can automate purchase order processes, supplier returns, and reorder processes. Invoice management can also be automated. A good cloud-based system will be able to handle the processing of multiple orders at once, ensuring that each individual order goes through its unique process before it’s shipped to your customer.
With more visibility and more flexibility, the cloud can singularly create more efficient supply chains. Which, of course, makes for more satisfied customers.
More Funds + More Data = Better Product Development
A cloud-based system will save you a huge amount of time, energy, and money. You’ll no longer have to buy your own computer hardware, and you’ll no longer have to worry about ongoing maintenance or repair costs. Cloud-based systems are also comparatively future proof. You won’t have to think about replacing or upgrading all of your systems a few years down the line.
All of this time, energy, and money can thus be channelled into other, more lucrative areas. For instance, you’re collecting a huge amount of customer data which, thanks to the cloud, is now easily accessible. So why not spend a bit of time parsing this data? With a cloud-based system, you can easily deduce which products your customers love the most. It’s possible to get immensely granular. You can filter sales by colour, size, style, or make – anything, really.
Some of the biggest online retailers in the world have used the cloud to take their businesses to the next level should be enough to convince anyone that the cloud is here to stay. Indeed, some are already describing the cloud as the new normal. It is now apparent it will play such an integral part of the future of online retail that, before you know it, it will be taken for granted just like card payments are taken for granted today.