Business changes are frequent and fast, particularly in the retail and CPG industry. Companies in these industries need to be nimbler when delivering new business capabilities. This is where the cloud plays a vital role. Cloud drives revenue, growth and agility. It improves experiences for both the customer and the employee, it connects all operations and unifies all data – a key in driving innovation.
Retailers globally had been on a cloud transformation journey to reduce IT infrastructure costs and enable an omnichannel or harmonized experience for their customers. The cloud was a cost-effective way to provide the capability to share product, customer and order/purchase data across channels. But when companies added new technologies to their cloud transformations, something interesting happened – they saw efficiencies and productivity gains across the business. The Wipro FullStride Cloud Report for retailers, The Big Shift, found that cloud leaders achieved the best results when moving to the cloud and adding new technologies like AI, automation and IoT. This powerful combination results in a multiplier effect on a companies’ performance that allows them to make big strides with the cloud.
Expanded Benefits from the Cloud
The retail cloud report found that among industries that have embraced the cloud, retailers are ahead of most sectors. This is no surprise as retailers globally have been on a journey for several years to improve the customer experience. And retail cloud leaders achieved the best results from their cloud transformations. In fact, of the leaders surveyed in the report, 44% have improved their customer experience using data and customer analysis. Moreover, 61% of cloud leaders improved the employee experience using automation to reduce tedious and redundant tasks, freeing up valuable time for their employees to perform more productive and value-added work.
As previously mentioned, companies that add new technologies saw the biggest business gains, citing AI as the most impactful. The ability to aggregate and analyze data across multiple platforms provides numerous business benefits for cloud leaders including visibility to inventory across locations, shared data with suppliers to plan inventory purchases and integrating with the most efficient last-mile service to ensure quick delivery to customers. The ability to be flexible, share and integrate data across processes and partners allowed these cloud leaders to stay ahead of the competition. Some of the business benefits that these leaders achieved include:
Channel experience has improved with an integrated point-of-sale process, seamlessly supporting transactions across all channels. The cloud provides a 360-degree view of customer interactions across touchpoints and helps retailers use that information to tailor customer experiences.
Merchandisers and planners are using real-time data, to drive product assortments, determine the pricing of products based on demand, evaluate inventory holdings, consider weather pattern impacts, determine product freshness and so many other dynamic variables. They also use cloud for crowdsourcing of ideas, to understand demographics and demand, which helps in new product development and pricing.
Supply chain and logistics planners now have optimal solutions to stock products at the right locations, provide accurate delivery timelines to customers and fulfill orders in the shortest possible time. Stores are being enabled to become micro-fulfillment centers, requiring distribution capabilities to be nimbler and provide accurate inventory visibility.
Marketing officers are now improving customer conversions and increasing repeat buying by providing relevant content and information at multiple customer touchpoints. Engagement with the customer is dynamic based on location, duration of last purchase, last feedback, value-added service availed, etc.
Workforce utilization has been optimized. Talented labor is scarce in today’s business environment. With better visibility, retailers can redeploy labor at the right locations (stores, distribution centers, logistics handlers). They can monitor and predict labor demand based on past data and be prepared for spikes and lows to support the business.
Plan for Comprehensive Change
The cloud can enable a comprehensive retail transformation as companies gain access to real-time data that can improve many businesses processes. Retailers and CPG companies should look at the business processes that will have the maximum impact and create a roadmap to support the change. Keep in mind, moving away from siloed operations to a harmonized/unified model, requires strong change management support and constant communication on the new ways of working. Start by creating a roadmap to support the change and include the following:
Data analysis and management goes hand in hand with the cloud, and its usage will increase as retailers and consumer brands look to harness data from sensors, partners, customer touch points and more. Seaming the data together allows better experience, leads to operational efficiencies and provides valuable insights that can unlock business benefits.
To achieve the best success on the cloud, embrace the cloud for more than just efficiencies – embrace it as an engine for innovation and a strategy to future-proof the business.
Senior Partner, Consumer Domain & Consulting, Wipro Ltd.
Sreekumar leads retail, services and transportation (RSAT) consulting globally and is responsible for delivering business value to clients, driving innovation and creating domain-led solution offerings. With more than 25 years of business, entrepreneurial and technology experience, he has worked with marquee businesses across the globe, helping them with their transformation mandates, customer experience design, optimizing business processes, process automation and building risk-mitigated business plans.