Retailers today have to serve consumers as they shop online, in stores and through new channels opening every day. For instance, Facebook is now making it possible to sell through its popular Messenger Service and Amazon.com through its Alexa voice-activated home shopping device.
For a retailer to gather data from all these customer touch-points make them available throughout the company and connect to external data sources and sales channels becomes a daunting task. That is making cloud technology increasingly attractive.
How Does Cloud Help Retailers?
What it boils down to is that the cloud provides retailers and other organizations a centralized, secure location where they can store data and use it to analyze trends, craft offers and connect to consumer touch-points of every description.
Cloud Technology companies can afford to keep up with every change, whether it’s a new sale feature on Pinterest or a technology advance in the Android mobile operating system. By working through these cloud providers, a retailer can be shielded from the complexity of the constant advance of technology and focus on what it does best: selecting merchandise its customers will want and presenting it to them in an appealing way.
Today’s software-as-a-service e-commerce platforms are hosted online and accessed users via web- offer a full suite of customizable features retailers can use to create unique feature-rich websites. Retailers can connect applications they already use, such as shipping solutions and inventory management software, to their website and share data among them in real time. Connecting an inventory management to the e-commerce platform through an application programming interface allows a retailer to display up-to-date inventory availability to customers on the website, and automatically update inventory counts in the inventory management system after each online purchase.
For instance e-commerce platform provider BigCommerce allows ready-made integration path retailers can use to synchronize their product catalog to Amazon and Facebook without having to write or edit existing code.
Building and Managing The Technology
Building and managing the technology required to run an e-commerce business is a challenge and complex task. As a reason, retailers are turning to cloud technology providers for the infrastructure, knowledge and services they need to support their businesses and satisfy customers. Before moving to internet –hosted technology, retailers should research the options available, weigh the differences among those options and determine which type of web-delivered service best suits their needs.
A SaaS (software-as-a-service) based platforms use the web to deliver applications by a vendor to a retailer. This eliminates the need to create, install and run applications on in-house servers. Retailers typically pay a monthly fee for the software and the applications are accessed online.
A PaaS (platform-as-a-service) based platform provides retailers access to a provider’s application programming interfaces to customize their website. The vendor manages the software and the hardware needed to run the platform while the retailer uses the vendor’s API to create consumer-facing digital features.
Retailers using an IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-Service) based platform simply rent server space from a host. Vendors manage the facilities where the servers are located and are responsible for hardware upgrades, maintenance, performance, uptime, troubleshooting and disaster recovery.
Understanding the differences between the various types of cloud-based services is important as most retailers often underestimate the need of required IT skills to carry out work. Also, retailers selecting a cloud service provider should ask the vendor about the experience level of its engineering staff, its plan for fixing performance issues, what its upgrade schedule is, how it came into existence and how closely it works with clients.
Gautam Gupta, Chief Executive Office, NatureBox adds,
“Being cloud-oriented allows us to focus our bandwidth and investments in the places that matter the most.”
Data flows wherever it needs to go and retailers are moving to the cloud to more effectively serve consumers in a world in which they shop in many ways.