Cloud computing has ushered in a new era for business. The ability to store business data in the cyberspace with access on the go, anytime and anywhere definitely takes a business to new frontiers.

The retail industry was among the first adopters of cloud computing, driven by the urgent need to engage with consumers in real-time communications and ensure their loyalty. Coping with the evolution of consumer technology, e-commerce and social channels, global giant retailers such as Walmart, Carrefour, Tesco and Amazon have led the trend, which is expected to gain momentum as retailers compete to tap into the huge potential of the digital consumer.

No doubt, the concept of the consumer has evolved. Today’s consumers are sophisticated and technology-driven; they use mobile phones to make purchases online without restrictions of time or space. They would expect retailers to keep pace with their sophistication by providing digital customer service and quick response to their requests or complaints.

The online retail industry in the US alone will be worth approximately $279 billion. Retailers just cannot ignore these changes and need to also adapt their customer service to be digital and in real-time.

Better positioned

Retailers who operate in the cloud will be better positioned to win the digital customer service challenge by being able to engage with customers instantly. This entails that retailers should train their salespersons on digital customer service.

They will need to provide them with mobile phones with access to the Internet and the cloud to be able to communicate with customers in real-time. Office space for customer service employees is no longer a must.

Cloud computing is also critical for retailers to track consumers’ behaviour in order to sustain their loyalty, stay competitive and boost sales. This implies that retailers will have to handle huge volumes of data of millions of customers, which should be streamlined and analysed to help retailers understand consumer trends and expectations.

Key role

Cloud computing plays a key role here as it helps retailers meet these challenges through cloud-based apps that can analyse all sorts of data about consumer behaviour and buying habits. The analytic data generated help retailers design customer-oriented campaigns that can potentially increase sales.

Obviously, cloud technology has the potential to reduce IT cost for retailers while optimising their customer service. Also, the time saved by cloud computing can be used by retailers to focus on being more innovative in their overall services and consumer campaigns.

In our region, cloud computing is still gaining traction in the retail industry. I think, however, that in the near future we will see an accelerated trend towards adopting the cloud technology.

Mobile penetration and consumer confidence in the region are among the highest in the world, and these are strong factors driving the growth of online transactions.

— The writer is the CEO of Emax Electronics,