The retail sector is wide-ranging and encompasses a vast array of businesses, structures and styles. The growth of the cloud is portrayed as inexorable but online retailing is still very young, accounting for almost 16% of total sales last year. Digital is a bigger focus for business than ever, it is anticipated in 2017 that larger retail businesses will spend 34% of their budget on software. However, cloud accounting does not require this level of investment. While adopting the cloud will be a sharp learning curve for some businesses, going digital facilitates a level of efficiency and data access unprecedented for many SMEs.
What do consumers want?
Consumers want quality, transparency and a more unique in-store experience. Where once this might have seemed too great a cost for small, boutique business, the ubiquity of technology is bringing costs down and drawing retail and tech closer together. Similarly, faster access to real-time data is enabling retailers to collect big data and action their findings with personalised interactions and purchasing experiences. This shift in customer expectations is demonstrated in the new customer-value equation.
Customer Value = Cost + Choice + Convenience + Control + Experience
Cost – Connected consumers have unprecedented access to price comparison information, which means competition is higher and added value needs to be apparent from the first engagement.
Choice – The ability to tailor features to individual needs, tastes and occasions is enabling the consumer to be more demanding with their expectations.
Convenience – Consumers know what they want and when and where they want it. Instant gratification is something that consumers are coming to expect more and more.
Control – Consumers want to influence, control and shape the entire purchasing journey.
Experience – Consumers want an aggregation of all interaction points. The journey needs to be inclusive of all touchpoints and demonstrate consistency across in-store, online and delivery experiences.
How will the cloud help?
Leveraging the cloud’s speed, scalability and flexibility facilitates a more efficient business model. Streamlining operations will alleviate you of time-intensive tasks and enable you to focus on customer-orientated activities. More analytics and the ability to drill down into projects, departments and even staff members will provide greater control over teams and performance. Access to this granular information on a real-time basis will help you make informed, data-driven business decisions and create achievable and realistic long-term strategies. Cloud software, although a small investment, is the new way to run a business. The integration with apps will alter business processes: manual tasks can be automated, administrative tasks can be completed on the go and compliance tasks are reduced with in-built software capabilities. Utilising third-party apps can assist in remodelling some functions, allowing for greater flexibility and scalability. This is most pertinent to retailers who require increased capacity at seasonal peaks and cutting back during quieter periods.
How can your business achieve this?
Cloud facilitates the centralisation of data and enables businesses of all sizes to deliver a seamless experience to every customer. Connecting your e-commerce, point of sale, order management, fulfilment and inventory management tools to your cloud accounting software will enable all your business data to be available from a single source. Investment in the cloud will increase your efficiency and preparation for future business developments.