Scaling to demand, and what it means for retailers

Scaling to demand, and what it means for retailers

By Lee James, EMEA CTO, Rackspace

We are constantly seeing new ways for retailers to interact with shoppers. They can walk into a store, browse on a mobile app, or buy by clicking on social media posts. This means there is a massive onus on retailers to deliver flawless experiences across all of these channels. The retail industry has become renowned for buzzwords such as ‘omnichannel journey’ and ‘seamless enablement’, but the truth is that retailers really need an infrastructure that can scale. It’s this infrastructure that could make or break a consistent mobile app service, with the appropriate interrogation of customer data to deliver good customer experiences vital for driving sales.

Timing is everything

With more consumers reaching for their smartphones to buy, the pressure is on for retailers to keep web and mobile sites up and running. As little as a 100-millisecond delay in load time can impact on conversion rates by up to 7%. Especially at peak times like Black Friday and the holiday season that follows. Consumers now expect instant experiences whenever and wherever they want and retailers need to be prepared for whatever event could result in a peak, sometimes without warning. What matters is they do so rapidly to make sure they don’t miss out.

The need for speed goes beyond keeping websites and mobile sites up and running, however. Retailers also need to be fast footed when it comes to capturing, interrogating and acting with customer data to improve experiences. This ranges from enhancing content to meet particular tastes, to identifying cross-selling opportunities or even creating a new product. Being able to take information and turn it rapidly into action could be the difference between profit and loss.

It’s getting personal

Targeting and personalisation is a priority. Brands can create highly bespoke branding and advertising campaigns in order to approach a potential customer with the right message at exactly the right time. They could sponsor an ad on a Twitter feed aimed at the Leeds students heading to the weekend festival, perhaps for a fashionable pair of wellies, or use search history to personalise banner ads showing that jumper you were admiring during your lunchbreak. Behind every timely campaign or niche marketing strategy lies a continuously evolving infrastructure that can deal with changes in demand. It’s all about ensuring it’s set up and ready to go.

That said, while customers won’t stand for slow, clunky verification processes, they also don’t expect their personal data to be exposed for the sake of a smooth experience. Privacy must not get lost amongst all the scalability buzz phrases – it’s about delivering processes that adapt as channels develop and continue to hold data securely, wherever it is. An effective scaling solution should evolve as security processes and standards do.

Data is everywhere

The challenge is only going to get more complex as we continue to see more structured and unstructured data constantly flowing from a wide range of inputs. Developments in voice interfaces – such as devices like Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot – are putting new demands on data and the supply chain. These new devices are not just revolutionising instore buying, but helping to support online retail experiences too, with shoppers trying on clothes in virtual dressing rooms, or getting product recommendations from conversations with chatbots.

We might not always know where data is coming from next, but we do know retailers need to be ready to adapt instantly, turning this insight into cost effective business intelligence. With consumers hungry for fast and helpful shopping experiences, the opportunity is there for retailers to take advantage and build an infrastructure that helps them deliver on this and drive long-term sales. 

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