As a successful retailer, chances are you are already running some of your IT functions in the cloud. That’s smart.
The next logical step is to move your entire retail management system to the cloud, and go from the on-premises version to its software as a service (SaaS) one. But even if you know that the cloud is experiencing exponential growth, and that you will, one day, take the leap, you may be hesitant to do it now. Perhaps you are afraid you’re not ready for the change. Perhaps you have security concerns. Maybe you can’t clearly identify which practical, day-to-day benefits you’d get from moving to the cloud.
Whichever your reasons, you want the best for your business, and you care about staying competitive. You want to make the right decision, and employ technology that will propel you forward today and tomorrow.
While you are debating whether the cloud is for you, here are 8 good reasons why you should consider migrating your system.
1. Stay up to date, automatically
With traditional on-premises software, businesses are responsible of keeping their hardware and software up to date. In order to stay current (and safe), they’d need to purchase new hardware every few years, and to update their software every few months. But in reality, retailers usually have more pressing concerns than keeping track of the latest software patch or upgrade. And if the company is using multiple software solutions and there are integrations in place, a system upgrade can become a costly and lengthy project. As a result, many companies end up with outdated IT environments that work, but don’t really support the business, and may even hinder it. In the worst cases, this old tech might reduce the company’s ability to grow and take on new projects, or stay on top of consumer demands.
When you are using SaaS in the cloud, all these concerns belong to the past. You don’t need to worry about periodic maintenance, or to budget for expensive and complicated software upgrades. Instead, your supplier takes care of updating your software regularly. And if you have configured your add-ons correctly, you can maintain all your extensions, and even your configurations. SaaS software guarantees that you are always, automatically, on the latest version, and can use all the new functionality that comes with it.
2. Enhance productivity with intelligence
One of the biggest advantages of the cloud is the advanced computational power it offers. Tasks that until yesterday were too complex for even the most powerful computer, for example predicting future sales patterns, are now within reach of any retailer. Businesses can run their data into Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) powered tools available in the cloud, and without having to pay for extra servers or data scientists, they can get the answers they need, with minimal effort, very rapidly, and at a fraction of the cost than comparable on-prem technology. There is a wide variety of AI tools available in the cloud, giving businesses infinite possibilities to improve their effectiveness and productivity. AI can also help make smarter decisions, and deliver more personalized, to the point customer service.
Would you like to send personalized promotions and special deals to your customers based on their shopping history and specific tastes? Are you thinking about adding a chatbot or virtual agent as a first-line customer support? Or perhaps you’d like to offer intelligent search on your e-commerce site? When you run your software in the cloud, all these initiatives are accessible to you, and can be started within a very short timeframe.
But AI can do much more than help deliver bespoke customer experiences. You can use optimize your inventory with advanced forecasting that can factor seasonality, promotions, trends, and product substitutes and complements into your forecasts. You can refine your hiring practices with intelligent talent acquisition solutions. You can simplify searches across your catalog for both staff and customers using AI-powered accurate product tagging applied to images. When you infuse your business with intelligence, you also make it more proactive, agile, and profitable.
3. Guarantee business continuity with a reliable infrastructure
With traditional in-house IT setups, businesses are at constant risk of downtimes and failures. On-site servers can’t usually guarantee a consistent performance, and if a key piece of your hardware breaks down, you may be left unable to serve customers or close sales – and could even risk losing your business data. As regards reliability, a traditional infrastructure usually necessitates a disaster recovery plan, requiring you to build redundancy, carefully monitor conditions, having dual firewalls and more – in short, you need to budget for time-consuming, expensive, complex monitoring.
Switch to SaaS software, and you can step away from all of these problems. Even if you experience a hardware failure – say your computers or servers break down – you won’t lose your data, as it is safely stored in the cloud and can be accessed when and as you need to. The cloud also guarantees higher reliability. Large cloud services like Microsoft Azure, with expansive resources and entire dedicated teams, have already built in redundancy, from failover hardware to datacenters located across the world. As a result, Azure, the service where the cloud-based version of LS Central resides, can guarantee 99,995% uptime, and top security features.
4. Respond quickly to changing market conditions
You know how important speed of action is in the retail industry. Yet, traditional IT environments are all but agile: even a project as simple as adding new servers or applications can be very time consuming. First, your IT staff needs time to procure the hardware or software that will fit within the current infrastructure. Then they have to set it up and test it, and finally, they’ll have to go through implementing it.
In the past, this process was the only way to implement change. Today, this is an outdated and ineffective way of operating – especially when the businesses you are competing against are agile and unburdened by traditional infrastructure, such as e-commerce players. To stay on top of change, you need to be able to analyze data in real time, devise plans rapidly, and immediately deploy mission-critical applications, or innovative tech, with minimal upfront costs and preparation time.
When you are running your systems in Azure, you can get this speed of action. Businesses running LS Central in the cloud can, for example, extend their business with extra functionality or innovative applications that won’t require a lengthy integration process, because they are already designed to work with the system. So you are quickly operative, and your IT staff has the time and space to focus on more pressing activities and objectives.
5. Get anywhere, anytime access to your business data
Retail business has become a 24/7 affair: sales happen at all hours and trends change faster than lightning. As a retail manager, you can’t afford to be left with no visibility over the business between 5pm and 9 am or when you are out of the office.
When you run your retail management system in the cloud, you can be operative when and as you want. With data stored in the cloud, where you are does not influence what you can see, or achieve. You can access your data on any pc or phone device and keep track of your sales, make changes and adjustments to prices or items, analyze data, access dashboards and share them with colleagues. So you are always on top of your data, ready to act when you need to.
6. Increase collaboration and support remote work
Demand for remote work has been growing. Workers appreciate flexible schedules and decreased commuting times, and companies reap the benefit of providing more sustainable working conditions. Although retail may not seem like the ideal setup for remote work, the expansion of online commerce and the diffusion of cloud technology are enabling retailers to increasingly meet demands for flexible work. “Retail, and omni-channel retail in particular, is built on data. And today, to analyze data, you don’t need to be on the store floor, looking at tons of printed statistics,” says Carsten Wulff, Vice President Europe at LS Retail.
The ability to access both business data and applications in real time is helping support remote jobs in very diverse positions, from decision-making roles to support to sales assistance. A marketing or sales manager could analyze buying patterns or keep track of sales trends from home, and use this data to create personalized promotions or communications. An online sales assistant could solve customer queries and provide real-time support and advice on the e-commerce site. A store manager could oversee sales and make stock requests from their personal device, without needing to waste time commuting across different store location. And all these workers could collaborate on joint projects, using the same online applications and data.
7. Stay safe and compliant, easily
With traditional in-house IT, it is the responsibility of the business to maintain tight security measures to protect data and users against external threats. Internal IT teams have been bearing the overwhelming weight of staying on top of the patches, updates and diagnostics required.
When you run your business software in the cloud, all of these concerns are transferred to your cloud service provider – who is, arguably, much better equipped than you in delivering top safety features. If you are a business running LS Central in the cloud, you can take advantage of the multi-layered, built-in security controls and threat intelligence that Azure offers. You can also leverage several industry certifications: Azure is ISO, PCI, HIPA and GDPR certified, which makes you automatically compliant with these standards, with no extra work needed on your part.
By choosing a cloud service like Azure that puts data security at its core, you save the time and effort you’d need to stay up to date with legal requirements, today and tomorrow. You can go on with your business, knowing that Microsoft will identify new threats and protect you against them, while keeping you on top of industry regulations at the same time.
8. Lower capital expenditure
When you move away from an in-house IT environment and run your software in the cloud, you can realize some significant savings, especially in terms of capital expenditure. With SaaS, you don’t need to install and run apps on-premises, which means you also don’t need new hardware and servers. Not only: you don’t need to worry about the cost of running and maintaining the system, consider the cost of integrations or upgrades, or budget for the services of system engineers and specialists. When you use SaaS, your system is managed and cared for by the specialists, and it’s all included in your subscription price.
It’s time to take the step
With LS Central now available purely in the cloud, this might be the perfect time to consider a SaaS retail solution. Get in touch: we’ll be happy to talk you through the options, and support you in your transition to tomorrow’s retail technology.