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BizReport : Ecommerce : November 04, 2020

Expert: How to re-enter regular business post-lockdown

While the COVID-19 pandemic has not simply disappeared as some have said it would, businesses are trying to return to a more normalized setting. For many that means opening physical stores, for some it means keeping their workers at home but with better security connecting them to work, and for some it means developing ways for their customers to continue shopping online but getting their goods and services faster. We asked a digital expert how business can 'unpress' the pause button one their digital transformation initiatives.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: What does a lack of digitization do to a growing business in the retail industry?

Heikki Nousiainen, CTO, Aiven: Technology powers nearly every aspect of the retail industry. From merchandising to point of sale and fulfillment, even inventory management, retailers must rely on contemporary, nimble processes -- especially in the days of Amazon where immediate gratification is expected. Digitization enables this at every scale and when lacking, makes it difficult to not only stay afloat but grow in an industry that is largely low margin and therefore dependent on high turnover.

Kristina: How can managed cloud services support activity like a surge in sales?

Heikki:COVID-19 is not so much responsible for a new phenomenon as it is accelerating it; that is the transition of the retail experience from a physical to digital one. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that managed cloud services actually support activity in both environments. One way is distributability and proximity; for instance, retailers can make sure that their data infrastructure is where it needs to be to both quickly receive and provide data. On-demand resource provisioning is another way, whether that is provided via services that scale automatically according to load or that can scale with minimal intervention, e.g. the click of a button. And yet another is the fact that they will likely have access to the latest technology, such as local solid state storage that can help smaller deployments handle heavier workloads due to their speed. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that these services reduce the amount of planning and effort needed to handle the data spikes that are associated with seasons that place heavy load on the underlying systems.

Kristina: What are a few ways technology can support the retail customer experience?

Heikki: Three areas come to mind: personalization, availability, and fulfillment.

Looking at personalization, this is something that is already in place and will continue to improve, especially as retailers get better at harnessing the data they gather. In terms of availability, we can look at both the physical and digital retail space. For example, Target uses a sophisticated inventory management system that helps to ensure better availability and replenishment of on-shelf inventory. Regardless of theater, technology can deliver predictive and near real-time insights into consumption patterns that help retailers maintain optimal inventory levels. Fulfillment is especially important and an area that Amazon has revolutionized both in the actual delivery of goods and making it easier to order everyday items. For instance, we can look at the Amazon's Dash button and Alexa technologies as examples where technology has made it more convenient to order what is needed, when it is needed -- especially fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products.

Ultimately, all retail technology is in service of the customer. And it needs two things: connectivity and data. Each component needs to be connected so that data can flow freely throughout the retail chain. The closer to real-time that this and its processing can happen, the more that responsiveness can be baked into every facet of the customer experience.

Kristina: Data collection in the retail industry is key. What are some of the benefits of moving to the cloud?

Heikki: In essence, we look at what cloud effectively is, infrastructure as a service, then its benefits boil down to flexibility and responsiveness -- that is true whether you're talking about latency, capacity, etc. That means that you can requisition the resources that your applications run on top of a lot more quickly. Expanding to a new market and concerned about latency effects? You can replicate your set up to the closest cloud region in minimal time and exponentially less effort. Need to increase and reduce capacity to seasonality? A few button clicks is all it takes.

Cloud-native technology is also making it easier for retailers to scale without having to worry about over-investing in hardware and team resources, thereby leveling the playing field. This extends the benefit to the customer because it promotes more competition in the ecosystem.

More from Aiven later this week, including why the tech aspect must be embraced for a better digital transformation strategy.

Tags: advertising, advertising tips, advertising trends, Aiven, ecommerce, ecommerce tips, ecommerce trends

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