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Operating in the cloud to drive retail innovation – A Vend founder’s take

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Operating in the cloud to drive retail innovation - A Vend founder's take

Both globally and here in Australian, the ongoing pandemic has had a seismic impact on the business landscape.

The reverberations of such a historically significant event which will last for some time, leaving businesses little choice but to adapt to survive.

Organisations of every size in every industry must invest to identify where technology can support them to remain sustainably successful amongst changing conditions.

While ‘the cloud’ has gradually increased in prevalence in everyday life, only recently have businesses begun to make it a central component of their operations.

By moving business operations and workflow to cloud technology, it can lead to efficient integrated processes that are the hallmark of today’s successful businesses.

Take, for example, the retail industry which for generations has been built upon delightful retail experiences and beautiful products.

While these factors will always be key, utilising sophisticated cloud-based technology is what helps set retailers apart.

Whether it’s a single family-owned store in rural Tasmania or an omnichannel company with multiple locations in Australian and New Zealand, savvy retailers understand that operating in the cloud is no longer a consideration for tomorrow, but today.

An introduction to the cloud

The cloud is the process through which data is stored virtually, accessible anywhere, any time from any device connected to the internet.

For example, when we purchase additional storage for photos that can’t fit on our phone’s built-in memory or edit a collaborative document with colleagues, we’re using the cloud.

Previously, this data only existed in a specific phone or computer, which has limitations for businesses seeking greater agility. For retailers, the cloud can help you view inventory or sales figures from any of your stores, wherever you are.

Irrespective of a business’ industry or size, the cloud’s benefits are broad, from cost- and time-efficiencies to enhanced insights and greater collaboration.

Cloud software was once complex and therefore only accessible to organisations with money, resources and expertise to implement it.

Now technology providers, like Vend, have made cloud software so simple and intuitive that any retail business can utilise it to streamline processes and manage their entire operation.

So if your retail business is yet to embrace the cloud, here are various retail operations you can enhance through cloud-empowered technology like Vend.

Deep, real-time insights

While the cloud does not automatically consolidate information or enable you to sell online, it simplifies the process through which different software systems sync and ‘speak’ to one another.

From customer details and financial reports, to inventory and online orders, storing information digitally in the cloud helps you to establish a comprehensive, real-time understanding of how your entire business is performing.

Traditionally, this information was fragmented and stored in independent silos across different IT systems, and in order books or a Rolodex.

Storing that data in the cloud means that you’re able to ease the administrative burden and instead focus more on growth and providing delightful retail experiences.

Take inventory management, for example. Whether you have one store or 30, effective inventory management helps you identify popular products and ensures customers aren’t disappointed by ‘out-of-stocks’.

The days of using pen and paper to complete a stocktake are long gone, which will be particularly pleasing if you have multiple stores.

Instead, when inventory exists in the cloud, it’s easy to ensure you have the right products in the right locations.

For example, it can help you identify if you need to send additional board games to your Victorian stores or sunglasses to the Northern Territory, all while you’re running a pop-up market stall in Tasmania.

Your shop floor, from anywhere

Regardless of how you managed your business pre-pandemic, it’s likely you worked from home more than usual during lockdown.

While that could have been problematic 10 years ago, it’s less so today thanks to the cloud, which makes working from anywhere infinitely easier.

If you’re running a pop-up stall at a market, are posting orders remotely from home due to lockdown or managing multiple stores from a central location, you can track inventory, oversee cash-flow and manage payroll just as easily as if you were in your store.

An omnichannel experience

An omnichannel approach is a holistic, intertwined presence across platforms designed to cater to consumers who increasingly desire to interact with brands across multiple channels, including your website, social media pages and in-store.

With 90% of global shoppers searching for products online before going in store, limiting your business to only online or offline operations limits your ability to grow. Through the cloud, though, it’s easier to implement an omnichannel presence.

To create a seamless omnichannel experience, ensure your online and offline sales channels and insights are aligned so that data about store operations, stock availability and customer orders are easily accessible anywhere, anytime.

This is especially beneficial if your retail operation covers multiple locations. Customers expect a personalised interaction with you regardless of the channel, and cloud technology streamlines and enhances that experience, wherever they’re active.

Building customer bonds

Outstanding customer service is imperative, especially today when every sale and interaction matters.

Powerful cloud technology like Vend allows you to centralise data from a number of sources to develop a 360 degree view of a customer – their spending habits, key traits and more.

With that holistic understanding, you can deliver the targeted promotions, marketing strategies, and personalised in-store and online experiences they’re increasingly prioritising today.

Customers like feeling valued – a name and a face rather than a number – so use cloud insights to understand how they shop and what they’re buying to deliver meaningful customer experiences.

While the ongoing pandemic has impacted many things, one thing it hasn’t changed is the importance of delightful retail experiences.

While this was once dependent almost exclusively on beautiful products and memorable service, savvy retailers are now leveraging the power of the cloud technology to build sophisticated, streamlined and sustainable businesses.

These will add diversity and vibrancy to Australian communities today and well into the retail future.

Vaughan Fergusson is the founder of Vend.

Operating in the cloud to drive retail innovation - A Vend founder's take
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