Technology is rapidly changing the way customers shop. With the ever-increasing prevalence of mobile phones, tablet computers and online shopping, the consumer has come to expect a different type of retail experience. Where once it was acceptable for a retailer’s online presence to be a separate channel to its bricks and mortar operations, a seamless flow between the two is what the shopper now demands.
The key to providing this is to treat all stock across all channels as a single pool, and to have the technology in place that allows the customer access this pool from any number of points. These access points could include your high street store and e-commerce website, as well as mobile apps and social media sites. Similarly, Customer Relations Management should also be equally seamless, meaning a preference expressed online will be reflected in store, and that special offers delivered by SMS can be easily redeemed via website.
This “cloud retail” – like cloud computing in general – relies on inter-communication and networkability. Unfortunately, many older EPOS hardware and software systems simply do not have the capabilities required to function as part of such a setup. Most electronic cash registers lack any sort of networking functions. It may not even be possible to connect them to a computer. While more advanced models may feature interconnectivity, this is usually quite limited and based on individual stores operating in a self-contained way.
Meanwhile, legacy EPOS systems may feature proprietary locked down software which simply cannot be made “talk” to the cloud. They might also lack a network port, making it impossible to connect them to any web-based stock/CRM software.
Businesses now face the task of upgrading their out of date technology to meet the new requirements of cloud retail. In the current economic climate, many are understandably hesitant to embark on such an investment. However, being left behind is arguably a far greater risk, and there are many long term benefits.
For instance, cloud retail allows staff to use tablet computers on the floor. Perfect as a sales tool to engage customers, tablets with POS software can also be used to queue bust and process transactions during busy periods. This greatly enhances a customer’s experience by eliminating long wait times. It also means more sales can be completed without the need to install new tills and counter space.
An organization’s stock control and CRM is also greatly simplified by having all information available at all points. Cloud retail will open up many new points of contact with potential customers, as well as new sales channels. Future IT and technology costs may also be reduced, as there is no longer a requirement for specialist hardware. Instead, a device with an Internet connection – be it a PC, tablet or even a smart phone – is all that is necessary. Furthermore, the image of your company is sure to benefit from being seen as modern, trend-setting and engaged with new technology.