Integrated Technology Backbone Key in Today’s Digital Retail Era
In this era of digital transformation, the customer experience is paramount to the success of retail businesses. This includes personalized offerings, engaging experiences, improved customer support, a more secure environment, and convenience (e.g., ways to shop, pay, make returns, provide feedback). Enabling this type of experience leads to increased brand loyalty that drives differentiation, additional revenue and profitability. However, many retailers are struggling to deliver these experiences. To accomplish this, a change in cultural mind-set is required as well as a technology backbone to support the flexibility needed to make changes, updates, add new applications and support future innovations.
Many retailers offer in-store, web and mobile offerings, but oftentimes it’s not integrated, which leaves the customer frustrated. If a retailer understands complete buying patterns, like percentage of time a customer shops online, the patterns a customer walks through physical stores, preference to buy online and pick up in-store, or likelihood a customer would buy more with one-day delivery, it's better able to provide the customer with personalized offerings and services. Not understanding customer behavior means leaving sales and profits on the table.
To create this complete omnichannel experience for customers, retailers must have an integrated backbone technology, driven by automation, that's able to analyze information to create single customer profiles as well as quickly support new applications for both employees to do their work and provide consumers with a frictionless experience. The technology should also be able to deliver the highly reliable performance necessary to support the traffic on its website, applications used by employees, and Wi-Fi consumers may want to use while in a brick-and-mortar store.
We’ve all been in a store waiting for a cashier to come, on the phone with a customer service agent that’s transferred you three times, or waiting for a package or shipment to arrive that's lost or delayed. Increasingly, more retailers are using analytics supported by data science, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to have end-to-end visibility throughout the business. This impacts everything from labor management, customer service, loss reduction, maintaining optimal inventory levels, supply chain logistics, and delivery. All these areas impact the bottom line and offer opportunities to increase efficiency and lower costs while increasing customer loyalty and the value retailers offer them. Insights from data collected from applications used by employees, kiosks, point-of-sale systems, mobile devices, website, sensors and IoT devices (in-store and during transportation) provide a wealth of data that when used proactively can help improve operations and, ultimately, the customer experience.
Another important aspect of the customer experience for retailers is cybersecurity. According to some estimates, data breaches occur every 39 seconds in the United States. Customers want to be assured that any information, including personal, financial and purchase history, is not sold to third parties and safeguarded by retailers. Depending on the location — business office, retail store, manufacturing plant, distribution center — cybersecurity needs may differ, but just like your operations, retailers need to have secure authentication for data created, stored or shared. Furthermore, cybersecurity policies should be defined centrally, but also be capable of being enforced on a per location basis while maintaining complete control. A cloud-based cybersecurity model is attractive for retailers to accomplish this, as company-defined policies and updates from cybersecurity tools can be automatically updated and applied in each location quickly.
The modern retailer relies on a complex infrastructure backbone that includes data center, wide-area networks, and multicloud environments that support a wide range of applications for collaboration, communication, cybersecurity and operations to deliver the best customer experience. Ensuring it’s fully integrated maximizes the value for the retailer, improves customer retention and provides opportunity for growth. Putting this technology backbone in place helps retailers build a competitive advantage in the new digital era. Don’t let your customers walk out the door and into the hands of a competitor!
Kumar Ramachandran is the founder and CEO of CloudGenix. CloudGenix makes the cloud-delivered Branch possible by providing an Autonomous SD-WAN™ and the Cloud-Blades™ platform.
Related story: 2019 Retail Technology Report
Kumar Ramachandran is the founder and CEO of CloudGenix. CloudGenix makes the Cloud-delivered Branch possible by providing an Autonomous SD-WAN™ and the Cloud-Blades™ platform.
Prior to founding CloudGenix, Kumar was Director of Product Management at Cisco, leading products for the multi-billion dollar branch routing and WAN optimization businesses. Prior to Cisco, Kumar held software and network engineering roles, developing solutions for companies such as Citibank and Providian Financial. Kumar holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Bombay.