Retailers must turn to Hybrid Cloud to meet the new customer expectations

By Ambeshwar Nath, Senior Vice President, Retail, CPG & Logistics, Infosys

Kurfürstendamm, the once-bustling boulevard in Berlin, lay deserted in the 2020 holiday season. The scene was repeated in every European market. However, as the pandemic stabilizes in 2021, German shops are poised to open, encouraging shoppers with an enthusiastic #Shoppingvorfreude on social media. In a recent survey by McKinsey, 44% of German consumers are willing to spend extra money on shopping, while 91% will continue purchasing online. The future of retail looks promising.

Retailers took to the cloud heavily in 2020 to enable remote access, reduce costs, and build business resilience. An Infosys research reveals that by 2022, 43% of applications, platforms, and infrastructure will be on the cloud. So, what new cloud strategies must retailers build in the coming months?

Delivering customer expectation with a Hybrid Cloud

The pandemic reaffirmed the old age adage that the customer is the king. They decide what’s essential based on their experience. Differentiation and personalization have become critical as customers drive new trends in retail.

Retailers must get ready for the phygital. Brick and mortar stores will continue to exist but not in their traditional formats. Popular online features such as contactless and convenient shopping need to become part of the in-store experience. ‘Just Walk Out’ store is a new concept that does just that by allowing customers to simply enter a store, pick a product, and leave.  Another example is the virtual try-on tools such as GLAMlab by Ulta, the beauty product company, at their stores. Likewise, online stores need to incorporate best practices such as easy navigation and display of seasonal sales.

Customers are also behaving differently. They could select a product at a physical store but order it on their phone. Or they may choose to pick a product from a store that they have ordered online.

Creating this seamless, omnichannel experience requires retailers to be very agile and flexible. Hybrid cloud offers the scalability, portability, and control needed to manage and control the infrastructure and the data that connect the two channels.

Leveraging Infosys Cobalt, our Enterprise Cloud Suite with over 14,000 assets and 200+ market-ready industry solutions, we have partnered with retailers to set up omnichannel capabilities, smart supply chain competencies, and real-time predictive insights through the retail value chain.

As customers become more demanding, retailers need to provide exceptional experiences that are highly immersive. We are seeing new concept stores such as the one opened by Payless or influencer-led live-shopping events like the one Walmart conducted. Cloud-based AI and ML solutions that provide real-time data along with

AR/VR-enabled capabilities can transform retail experiences dramatically.

Supply chain agility will continue to remain strategic as enterprises look for alternate sources and counter economic nationalism. Real-time visibility and traceability to enhance demand sensing and micro fulfilments will play a critical role in ensuring smooth supplies. Cloud-based applications are compatible with emerging technologies like IoT, AI, ML, Blockchain, and Analytics to build a unified supply chain solution. Microservices, APIs, and headless architecture can help retailers adapt quickly to new market demands, including changing the supply chain processes.

Lastly, the increase in the use of connected devices and sensors is creating vulnerabilities for retailers as they amass a large amount of customer data. A single data breach can be disastrous. Cloud provides security services such as DDoS protection and network monitoring that are cheaper and more convenient than on-premises security solutions.

If you are a retailer, particularly with many stores, likely, you have already moved part of your data center and infrastructure to the cloud. For every new feature you add to your stores, be it an electronic shelf or a navigation app, you need to update servers, applications, devices, and software. Hybrid cloud helps you build on top of the existing infrastructure and with speed. It allows retailers to respond to the market demands faster by scaling and making the necessary changes in the complex ecosystem. Hybrid cloud is no longer just an IT strategy. It is part of the broader business strategy for resilience and agility.

Ambeshwar Nath

Ambeshwar Nath has over 22 years of experience working successfully with clients to execute complex transformational and outsourcing programs. He has helped companies develop their digital capabilities to build a competitive advantage.

He is a trusted advisor to many of the leading consumer goods, retailers, and logistics companies headquartered in EMEA.

To read the article in German language, turn to Page 25 of the magazine: