The cloud is the future of retail business - what the experts say?
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retail business

The cloud is the future of retail business

The retail business is undergoing changes much faster than other business sectors. Entrepreneurs are aware that business has entered the era of digital transformation which affects both small family stores and large retail chains.

In this era, the cloud seems to be a success key for retail business. It is a platform that combines the capabilities of modern systems such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV and the latest achievements in analytics and artificial intelligence. New solutions stimulate staff efficiency, improve product and service quality, streamline communication and collaboration as well as contribute to the increased number of customers and their loyalty.

Presently, more than 90% of 500 Fortune companies use cloud services, many of them operating in the retail sector. For business owners, it is the best time for change. The best time to launch the digital transformation of their business.

Retail business: 9 benefits which make companies migrate into the cloud

1.     Scalability

48% of retailers indicate that the main reason for their decision to transition to the cloud is the capability to scale resources which enables them to instantly accommodate the current needs of their companies. This is particularly important in the case of peaks in sales, for example before Christmas or during seasonal sale periods, promotions, etc.

For this type of organizations, it is recommended to use the hybrid cloud which ensures complete control over company data and enables them to decide where information such as transnational data or customers’ sensitive data should be stored.

Moreover, cloud solutions decrease operating costs substantially. Companies pay only for resources used, which 51% of retailers consider a decisive factor while making their decision on cloud migration.

2.     Flexibility owing to the cloud

The hybrid cloud is the most frequent choice of retailers. Such a solution combines the public and private clouds and enables data and application interchange as well as the extension of local infrastructure, which makes storing company data resources in external data centers unnecessary.

According to the 2016 Right Scale Survey, as much as 71% of business owners select the hybrid environment, because it ensures easy scalability of resources for retailers and prevents redundant expenses which companies have to incur during periods of peak demand. As an additional benefit, companies are able to release some resources and allocate them anew to meet the demand related to data confidentiality and application tasks. Entrepreneurs pay only for resources they use on a need basis, which means huge savings on servers, software and equipment that would otherwise have to be purchased. Cloud processing is an ideal solution for retailers as it ensures benefits such as flexibility, scalability and decreased costs as well as improved data security.

The Intelligent Cloud is also an opportunity to boost the efficiency of each employee and the entire organization. Easy access to the system for mobile employees, better communication and collaboration are the main advantages. When working with mobile devices and Office 365 tools, users can perform their daily tasks even on the move and collaborate with anyone anywhere anytime, e.g. while visiting vendors or stores, working in a call center or travelling.

3.     The highest security for transactions

For 88% of customers, transaction security is of fundamental importance. However, retailers are aware that complying with the highest security standards is a prerequisite for business success.

The cloud offers multiple solutions such as identity management and behavioral analytics as well as detection of suspicious network traffic. With such solutions, the company is able to prevent many hazards it is exposed to such as hacker attacks, cyber-crime and forgery. The retail business is oriented at electronic and omni-channel commerce. Internet sales has been growing by additional 10-15% each year. Nevertheless, market growth is accompanied by an increased number of hazards.

Microsoft is a leader in security and protection solutions. Microsoft’s experience is a guarantee that the Microsoft Azure infrastructure platform is attack-proof. It ensures secured access to the platform environment and customers’ data security. With its Azure Security Center, Microsoft’s platform is presently the only public cloud which ensures continued monitoring of the security status of the whole environment i.e. the cloud platform, local data and other public clouds.

4.     Benefiting from rich capabilities of IoT

According to the 2017 Retail Vision Study, as much as 70% of retailers are willing to implement IoT solutions. 65 % of retailers assume that by 2021 they will have moved their investment into automation technologies for inventory management and planogram consistency. In addition, as much as 65% of retailers are planning to implement innovative delivery services, and 80% have decided to implement a personalized customer journey.

Dynamics NAV as an ERP system offers immense opportunities for such companies, enabling them to improve the quality of customer service, reduce delivery times and streamline orders. Integrated with retail business software, the system responds to present retail needs for omni-channel and innovative solutions.

Moreover, the Microsoft cloud offers many simple methods for improving the efficiency of business operations and cost reduction. It offers solutions for IoT which means customers can use predefined setup for the most common IoT scenarios such as remote monitoring and resource planning. By tracking store traffic patterns, inventory levels, energy use for e.g. food freezers, retailers are not only able to adjust margins flexibly, but also prevent waste of resources, food and other products.

5.     Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)

Using the benefits of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, retailers are able to convert data into effective actions.

Microsoft Azure is the only public cloud which offers Cognitive API, Bots, Machine Learning and Blockchain as BaaS for developers and data management specialists. Such services enable the development of intelligent solutions on a large scale.

With Cognitive Services and Bot Framework, companies can generate interactions within applications which are gaining the highest popularity among users. By using predictive analytics, based on Machine Learning, retailers can make more conscious business decisions and discover new opportunities hidden within their structured and unstructured data resources, including ERP and CRM systems, IoT devices and big data sets, as well as integrated applications and tools their employees use for their daily tasks such as Power BI and Microsoft Excel.

Blockchain is used to store and transfer data related to internet transactions. It ensures secure processing of various types of transactions including e-commerce, currency, stock transactions. Owing to this technology, data and transactions are protected against forgery and manipulation.

6.     Supporting global growth

The Azure platform is managed from Microsoft’s datacenter network which is constantly extended. Microsoft Azure is already available in 140 countries worldwide, including China. It supports 17 languages and 24 currencies. Microsoft continues its investment in innovative technologies, focusing on reliability, perfect functionality, efficiency, environmental protection as well as its credibility among customers and partners worldwide.

7.     The most reliable cloud platform

Microsoft is the only cloud service provider offering sophisticated solutions for infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).

Azure offers many crucial capabilities such as identity management by means of Azure Active Directory. It is a complete solution to manage identities and access to the cloud, providing at the same time a reliable functionality for user and user group management. The platform enables users to easily access on-premises and cloud-based applications, including Microsoft’s Web services such as Office 365 and many other SaaS applications provided by other software vendors.

Mobile Device Management using Microsoft Intune, like Azure Active Directory, increases not only efficiency and mobility, but also ensures the right balance between accessibility for users and security limitations.

8.     The development of business applications

Retailers use many business applications which are of key importance for their business.

Microsoft Azure is an open and flexible cloud which supports multiple operating systems, programming languages, frameworks, tools, databases and devices. It is constantly evolving, providing new capabilities based on the collaboration with multiple software vendors that offer their certified solutions to cloud users.

9.     Personalized offerings

As much as 73% of customers prefer buying at stores that respond to their purchase expectations by offering a personalized customer experience. A cloud-based system is not only an efficient way to manage purchase operations and manage the supply chain. It also enables retailers to create a personalized customer journey.

Based on advanced analyses, retailers provide product recommendations to their customers, forecast sales volumes and customer expectations, winning customer loyalty and retention this way.

Modern customers have a high purchase awareness of the solutions, apps and capabilities available and are eager to use them. To meet their expectations, retail companies have to keep developing, accommodate market trends and implement new technologies. With the cloud, it will be much easier for them to develop and grow.