Cloud computing is quickly becoming one of the major players in the retail industry. As a result, many retailers are looking at ways to use this innovative technology in their operations. Amazon, for example, has opened two new stores, one in Seattle and one in Las Vegas. This all speaks to the power of cloud computing. But how exactly is it transforming the retail industry?
Let’s start with an example. Say you sell Microsoft Windows operating system and software to customers who buy computers or laptops. Microsoft’s online site sells hardware from Dell. At the end of the year when the customers have paid for their computers, Dell sends the receipt to the online store, where the customer can check out the latest model. If they like it, they can order it online and have it in their hands in a few days.
With today’s systems, the online store can log on anytime and check out what is in stock, and if they want to, they can place an order. If the online store has a busy day, or something else on their mind, they don’t have to spend extra time processing orders. The system knows everything. What happened during the last three months of sales? The system can easily tell the manager and tell them to prioritize which customers should be e-mailed, which ones require phone calls and which need to be physically met.
Another way to think about cloud computing is that it reduces inventory requirements. It can also help with the cash flow by reducing the need to keep track of sales and inventory. And it is all done without having to store any data on the computer itself. This is what makes it so appealing to retail companies. They can quickly make use of new features without worrying about lost data.
But what about the sales person? How does cloud computing affect them? Will their jobs be affected as well? This is a hot topic right now in the retail industry and there is some interesting discussion going on about this. Some people argue that sales professionals will not be negatively affected because their data is actually already on the server (in the cloud) and accessed at any time.
How about for-pay software? Will this be affected if the sales staff no longer need to store their information on their own computer? That certainly seems to be a possible problem. Will software still have its place in the retail world? And will cloud software really be any different than traditional software that requires you to install and configure it on your own computer?
So how do you view cloud computing? Is it really a positive thing or a negative one? In my opinion, cloud computing can only be beneficial to those in the retail industry. For employees, it may mean that they no longer need to spend hours uploading their data onto their home computer. For customers, it means that they can order products online, without having to worry about how that data is stored, or whether it is secure. And finally, for retailers, it means that they don’t have to spend time configuring and maintaining a server to run all of that software.
It remains to be seen how other areas of business will fare as cloud computing takes hold. But for the retailer, it can mean fewer dollars for software and hardware, less overhead, and more efficiency. If you are a retailer, and are interested in using cloud computing in your operations, talk with your vendor. They will be able to advise you on the best options for your business.