Binoo Joseph is Head of Technology for Tesco PLC (Singapore). As one of the world’s largest retailers, Tesco understands the transformational impact of cloud technology – and how it can be harnessed to deliver a seamless customer experience.
Customers can now buy almost anything without having to leave their homes. But this retail revolution isn’t limited to the virtual world. Increasingly, savvy retailers are using cloud technology to positively change the in-store experience for shoppers.
Joseph, who spoke at CeBIT Australia 2018, believes all retail today should be seen as digital retail. That means offline channels, ecommerce, mobile commerce and marketplaces combine to deliver a superior, secure, hyper-personalised customer experience, enabled by:
- intelligent applications that leverage artificial intelligence/machine learning
- data platforms
- infrastructure that is flexible, scalable, cost-effective and available on demand.
And where does flexible, scalable, cost-effective, on-demand infrastructure live?
In the cloud.
Look to the cloud
Joseph calls the cloud a “no-nonsense pathway to technology” that is within the reach of the majority of retailers.
“It provides an opportunity to meet consumers right where they are – on their mobile devices, at their laptops or shopping on their lunch break – and arms the workforce with fast, instant information, from the retail floor to the C-suite,” says Joseph.
Critically, the cloud also gives retailers the digital tools they need to deliver a superior customer experience across multiple channels.
Joseph offers up some compelling reasons for retailers to adopt cloud technology:
- It lets traditional retailers compete with cloud native ecommerce/marketplace giants like Amazon that are also venturing into physical retail
- It gives retailers the digital tools they need to deliver a superior customer experience across multiple channels
- It helps improve efficiency and reduce cost – which is a significant issue in an industry with one of the lowest IT operating budgets as a percentage of revenue.
And if that’s not enough, there are also some compelling statistics:
- 98% of global IT decision makers state that cloud-based solutions are critical to transforming the digital retail experience
- More than one-fifth of retailers have now moved core business applications to the Cloud
- 71% of retailer software decision makers believe that agility is a critical benefit of moving to cloud-hosted software-as-a-service
- The retail cloud market size is estimated to grow to US$28.53 billion by 2021
Joseph says the cloud is successfully being used by retailers for business planning, customer engagement, buy, manage and sell products, and enabling functions such as finance and HR.
But it is the ability of the cloud to deliver a hyper-personalised experience to the customer that Joseph believes is most transformational.
The role of data
In the past, merchandising was considered an art form, with no true way to measure the specific impact of merchandising decisions. And as online sales grew, a new trend emerged where shoppers would perform their physical research on products in-store and then purchase online at a later time.
The advent of people-tracking technology offers new ways to analyse in-store behaviour and, as a result, measure the impact of merchandising efforts. A data engineering platform can help retailers to:
- Make sense of their data to optimise merchandising tactics
- Personalise the in-store experience with loyalty apps, and
- Drive real-time offers to incentivise consumers to complete purchases.
The end goal is to increase sales across all channels. In other words, data is central to turning retailers into omnichannel operations.
Data engineering can turn in-store customer data sources into a major competitive advantage for retailers. Insights can drive cross-selling, increase promotional effectiveness, and much more. Joseph says these insights can be gathered from websites, point-of-sale systems, mobile apps, supply chain systems, in-store sensors, cameras and more.
This means that with the help of data engineering platforms, omnichannel retailers can:
- Test and quantify the impact of different marketing and merchandising tactics on customer behaviour and sales
- Use a customer’s purchase and browsing history to identify needs and interests and then personalise the in-store experience for customers.
Furthermore, with cloud-based predictive analytics solutions, retailers can forecast product demand and manage inventory levels and store locations, including from mobile devices, while offering consumers a measure of curation and convenience that brings new value to the shopping journey.
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