Edward M Durbin, Director Global Retail Industry Group, VMware
Despite online sales booming last year, retailers are in a desperate race of digital catch-up.
It doesn’t matter whether retailers are big or small, with physical stores or online-only, that source direct or have complex supply chains and logistics to manage; they are all in the same fight when it comes to digital experiences. To win the hearts and minds of consumers, retailers can’t just talk digital; they need to think digital-first.
As Matthew O’Neill, Industry Managing Director at VMware points out, “There is a ready-made digital audience hungry to experience new online services, but they’re not yet excited or compelled by what they’re being offered over the last year. Retailers have a real opportunity to differentiate themselves by taking a digital-first posture, creating apps that attract, engage and retain consumers either online or in their stores. Retailers with digital in their DNA have everything to play for.”
The role of apps is critical. Retailers appear to realise this – a Forrester study noted that 86 per cent of retail CIOs said promoting better customer experience through improved apps is “very” or “extremely” important. Or, as Jarek Matschey, Retail Industry Director EMEA at VMware, puts it “applications are the new storefront for customers, and they are the most important tools for the employees.”
Jarek Matschey, Retail Industry Director EMEA, VMware
The point about employees is an important one, and often overlooked. Giving employees the right tools and access to relevant and timely information not only makes them more productive and allows them to deliver a higher level of service to customers, but also keeps them safer and shows employers care for their well-being. All enabled through apps.
Of course, wanting to deliver better experiences through apps is one thing; being able to actually deliver it is another. Eighty five percent of respondents to the Forrester study said that choosing the right platform for each application (whether on-premises, or private, public or hybrid cloud) was either “very” or “extremely” challenging.
Those CIOs struggling with choosing the right platform need to reset, think about what they actually need their apps to do, and then find the environment that best supports those requirements. It might be they need to capture customer data with an engaging, agile and flexible app that can work across multiple devices and operating systems, so public cloud could be the answer. Yet they then need to keep that data secure and stored in compliance with privacy regulations, so the back end of that app might reside in an on-premises data center. So, rather than being all-in on one type of cloud, they actually need a multi-cloud model which allows them to move apps, workloads and data around as they require it.
What it all comes back to is building a platform. Consumers and employees expect new experiences that make their lives easier – apps are the platform from which to do that. The apps themselves need to be supported by infrastructure that enables them to operate at an optimum level – here, cloud (in all its forms), is the supporting layer. Underpinning all of that is a digital foundation which makes life easier for the retailer – allowing them to develop and deploy apps, manage multiple clouds, and secure it all, in a consistent manner.
In doing so, retailers can create a platform on which to thrive. Or, as Matschey puts it, “retailers who are able to adapt, who are able to use customer data, create the right applications for their employees to be efficient, create the right apps to interact with their customers, will be the winners.”
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