COVID-19 has led every segment of our economy to rethink business practices. Customers continue to buy. What they buy and how they buy has changed, however. Many of these changes, such as digital-first experiences and hybrid retail models, are here to stay. Retail is at the forefront of an accelerated digital transformation.
The current environment puts the spotlight on smart customer acquisition, end-to-end virtual customer experiences, post-sales support that delights customers and, finally, smart business practices such as inventory management and inventory placements.
Successful retailers have evolved to a hybrid model that includes online orders with in-store pickups, using third-party services such as DoorDash for last-mile delivery and leveraging their brick-and-mortar footprints for customer service. Getting here isn't easy, but it's also not prohibitive. Successful retail transformations are often led by smart technology choices, with public cloud services at the center. Here are the steps retailers can take to leverage the cloud to transform and scale their businesses:
- Deliver rich data-driven customer experiences. Modern applications know their users and deliver rich buyer experiences across any device or browser. Cloud can help modernize e-commerce platforms with data lakes and cloud-native architectures such as micro-services and containers to deliver such experiences.
- Prepare for peak buying periods. COVID or no COVID, peak buying periods exist. You need to prepare for them, but you don’t have to spend year-round for these bursts. Cloud can help you build resilient systems to support burst capacity during events like Cyber Monday, but with the ability to rightsize for normal business operations.
- Continuous experimentation helps deliver the right products. Delivering the right products and experiences at the right price point requires continuous experimentation. Digital storefronts can help you localize experiments, collect data and transform faster. Cloud helps you to enable DevSecOps to build applications on-demand for experimentation and continuous learning, be it product catalog, pricing or customer acquisition.
- Implement capacity planning. Integrated inventory and supply chains are the backbone of retail businesses. Cloud can help you plan for capacity with dynamic constraints, tapping into multiple data sources and vendor systems to optimize inventory and supply chain as well as last-mile excellence to customers.
- Set up digital call centers and transparent issue tracking. The cloud can help you implement standup systems that deliver fast and accurate responses to your customers. Deliver best-in-class customer satisfaction remotely with modern insights that drive efficient digital call centers, issue tracking and remediation.
Traditional IT systems and IT teams aren't designed to operate in this manner. They often require huge investments for marginal growth. Cloud-powered solutions, on the other hand, deliver 10 times more efficiency and scale infinitely.
However, most cloud services are API-driven. Cloud requires a CloudOps team with deep API scripting expertise, that abstracts cloud infrastructure and operations, to enable intelligent retail applications and services. Quickly upleveling IT teams to become skilled script writers can be challenging and expensive.
No-code cloud management platforms can help bridge the skills gap with automation. You can onboard your applications into compliant environments, configure the desired state for your applications, and constantly monitor and enforce your guardrails. In the event a remediation is required, you can also quickly bring together your DevOps, SecOps, IT and business teams. Automation is the key to driving reliability, security and costs.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” These words of wisdom are more true today. These challenging times are an opportunity to refactor your retail business and emerge stronger. Automation with the right tools is the key to long-term success in the cloud.
Venkat Krishnamachari is CEO of MontyCloud, a company that helps customers manage and monitor their cloud services, automate maintenance tasks, and manage governance, compliance, and provisioning.
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Venkat Krishnamachari is CEO of MontyCloud and a proven technology and business leader with a passion for innovation through cloud computing. Venkat has 16 years of experience in building platform products at Microsoft, Commvault and Amazon AWS and has worked directly with Fortune 500 enterprise customers. Venkat is also a founding member of a live theater and music group that has successfully staged over 25 sold out shows to benefit various charities.