Cloud computing promises retail stores a high-tech upgrade

| March 26, 2014

It’s every shopper’s dilemma: finally finding the perfect dress, lipstick, pair of sneakers, or other fill-in-the-blank item in their local shop, only to learn that said store is sold out. Innovations in cloud computing — a network of servers located online used to process information — are now aiming to address that problem, reports Entrepreneur.com, as “cloud-hosted software-as-a-service solutions are making data available in real time and are poised to unite the digital and physical retail environments.”

How cloud computing will change the face of retail

Cloud computing will change the face of retail in six significant ways, suggests the site. For one, real-time information shared between the sales floor and executives will allow retail teams to view sales trends as they unfold. Additionally, traffic patterns and conversion levels would also be shared. Take clothing stores, for instance: “Imagine how powerful it would be to know which products are being brought into fitting rooms and then which are converted to sales.”

From runran.

Cloud computing will change the way we shop. From runran.

Another important effect of cloud computing and real-time data sharing is on employee morale. While customer service quality can decline when salespeople are “disengaged, [and] feel isolated and disinterested,” the trends and traffic information provided by cloud computing can boost confidence. Salespeople will be able to chart top-selling items as well as unpopular items, and become “empowered to take action to turn lagging styles into leading styles.”

Being able to track sales progress and inventory data helps salespeople fill orders on out-of-stock items — which improves their sales quotas and keeps customers happy. Salespeople can immediately tell if an order is fillable with a product not available in-store, and receive credit for the sale. Real-time information on available products and sales goals encourages salespeople to remain focused on work, rather than zone out due to boredom or a feeling that their work doesn’t make a difference.

There are also effects on competition: both for individual salespeople, as well as among their associates and between stores. Real-time leader boards available in all stores incites a spirit of competition, just as a reward system for the store or salesperson who earns the highest sales. Take, for instance, a store which usually undersells a particular item. “Set the goal of reaching parity with other stores, create an attractive reward for reaching the goal, and make the average units per transaction metric available in real time to all store staff,” says Entrepreneur.com. “They will no longer need to be reminded to suggest the perfect belt to go with the outfit their customer has chosen.

How cloud computing will change the sales floor

The sales floor is changing too, as mobile point-of-sale systems help retailers redesign their spaces to better accommodate stores, increase sales, and encourage friendlier and more effective customer service. The sales counters shoppers are accustomed to seeing — big enough to store computers, printers, servers and cash registers — are being replaced by web-based mobile POS technology, so customers can be checked out on-the-go. (An added bonus: less sales counter space means more usable real real estate.)

Perhaps most importantly, cloud based technology can help small and mid-size retail stores get — and stay — in business. The majority of these use transparent pricing and tiered scales, reports Entrepreneur.com, and easy-to-use interfaces means that employee training time is reduced. “All that is required is internet access and a web-enabled device with a web browser.” The science is as simple as that — for both shopper and salesperson alike.

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