Customer expectations are increasing rapidly. They want to know everything about a product before they buy it, and when they do purchase it, they want to do so in their preferred way. From online shopping to window shopping, the cloud is changing retail in many ways. It’s letting brands directly influence how and what their customers are doing, and is adding more facets to the buyer journey. Some brands are even experimenting with new technologies, like artificial intelligence, chatbots and virtual reality. It’s an exciting time to be involved in retail – it’s just a case of acting now, before your competitors leave you behind.
Ensure consistency throughout the buyer journey
Your customers want a consistent buying journey. From the moment they see the product they want, to the moment they pick it up, they shouldn’t feel lost or confused. Many customers will go to a retail store to look and try out a product, before going home and buying it online, taking advantage of online offers and discounts. Or, customers will research a product online intensely, and then come into the store in person to buy it. This means that your stock levels need to be up-to-date. Using the cloud means you can ensure real-time data is used. Then, when your customer goes to buy the product, they won’t be disappointed by it being out of stock or unavailable.
You also need to be wary of the marketing you’re using. If you’re attracting customers with great content and valuable assets, but either your products don’t match up, or your salespeople aren’t briefed on this content, you’ll end up with a confused buyer. They want to see the same throughout their journey. With the cloud, you can ensure this consistency, thanks to data and analytics.
Likewise, your sites should look exactly the same across every platform: whether your audience is accessing it on their desktop, their smartphone, or an app. This consistency reassures your buyers, and makes it a seamless shopping experience.
Offer the right recommendations
You need to know your audience: you need to know what platforms they use, what marketing they respond to, what they like to buy, how they like to buy, and what they bought last. To get all of this information, you need the cloud. Nothing else offers you real-time data and analytics – and without this, you won’t be able to communicate with your audience properly. Personalization is key now: people only want to hear about the offers that interest them. So, use the cloud to push your recommendations. Stop sending your audience meaningless messaging, and improve what you do send them by personalizing it. Roll this out across all your channels: not just in emails, but on social media too.
People will buy from brands who go to the effort to understand their habits. With more and more companies taking advantage of the cloud, you don’t want to be the one missing out and offering a sub-par performance.
Have real-time data at your fingertips
Using the cloud ensures that you’ll know everything about your store as soon as you need to know it. From updating inventories to seeing breaks in the buyer journey, the cloud gives you real-time data and analytics. Plus, there are a multitude of apps that work with cloud-based platforms, to link all the databases and sites you use. For example, NetSuite pre-built integrations from Celigo allow you to connect your online store to the back-office capabilities you get from NetSuite. Depending on who your platforms are with, will depend on what integration app you look for. However, you can usually expect similar benefits across them all: real-time information on orders and refunds, the ability to automatically import orders, and real-time information on your product listings.
Having this data means you can help your customer out throughout the journey. Not only do you have instant access to the progress of their order or return, but you can also check and update stock lists, and prioritize products that you think will be of high interest.
Grow and scale with demand
The most exciting aspect of using the cloud with retail is the ability to meet your customers’ demand, as soon as it occurs. The cloud lets you scale your IT capacity up when the demand requires it, then scale it back down once the demand is over. So, you can have those flash sales and Christmas specials, without worrying that your customers will be put off by a lagging, slow service.
This ability to rise to customer demand doesn’t just improve customer experience by ensuring your buyers can access products when they want to. It also means you can save money, by not having to pay for high capacity all year ‘round, and it allows to please your customers and not lose out on sales due to your IT.
Ensure agility and automation
Automation is changing how you can communicate with your customers. Cloud-based applications let you take data and analytics and turn them into personalized emails and recommended offers and products. With this information, you can appeal to your audience on a much better level than simply offering generic information and standard marketing blurbs.
You can also use project management apps, like Trello, for example, to increase agility in your development and processes. Each member of your development team can add needs and tasks into the board, so everyone knows what needs to be done, and in what order. The ability to work in an agile fashion means you can keep up with trends in retail. You can respond to demand, and change how your products are displayed to buyers.
The cloud is even allowing you to change how you price, in a much more agile and flexible way than before. You can see instantly if a product is doing well or poorly, and you can update your pricing plan to suit the trends. You don’t need to wait around for the end of month reports, or a quarterly update. You can respond to market trends as soon as they occur.