New online-only entrants may have set the pace on customer experience, but they’re no longer the only disruptors in retail. Hundred-year-old operators are now breaking new ground in accelerating customer journeys, heightening experience and employing more targeted personalisation and service.
So how have legacy retailers levelled the playing field? By adopting elastic technology and subscription-based tools that allow them to experiment and scale at an astonishing rate.
Ryan Bryers, SVP Engineering, Flooid, explains more.
Ryan, how is technology helping legacy retail to fight back?
Legacy retail has been fighting a rearguard action against online-only players like Amazon for years. Amazon set the pace for customer experience; almost single-handedly it raised the bar for convenience and choice. Together with non-retail operators like Uber they sent customer expectations through the roof. And because Amazon is a digital-first business, its growth was never held back by reliance on legacy technology or large expenditure on store estates.
Understandably, this put legacy retailers in a spin. Many just couldn’t cope with the move to a multichannel world. Others tried to innovate, perhaps with pilots on new ways to serve, such as self-checkout or click and collect or online ordering, but then they struggled to scale across the entire store estate because of too many legacy systems built on top of one another.
But now new technology is available that makes it easier for operators to experiment and scale, and save cost. It’s enabled them to get faster and leaner, and concentrate on innovation rather than just keeping the lights on.
What benefits does the cloud bring?
To survive today retailers need agility, flexibility and the ability to scale at speed. They also need to drive down cost while getting faster to value. The cloud delivers on all fronts. Legacy retailers no longer have to buy and maintain huge on-premises servers that are sized for the biggest possible sales day of the year. Instead they can work with Flooid to adopt public or private or multi-cloud strategies that mean capacity scales up or down, instantly, as they need it. They’re no longer paying for space they’re not using.
The other thing cloud gives is the ability to experiment and calculate at speed. With hyperscale providers like our partners Google and Microsoft, you can spin up more capability as you need it. The time and cost to test a concept has come down exponentially. And with the cloud its possible to scale successful pilots almost instantly.
Why should retailers adopt a SaaS model for their commerce platform?
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a game changer for retailers. Speed, certainty and costs are the obvious key benefits. By using Flooid’s SaaS model, they can benefit from having certainty of (typically lower) costs billed monthly, more touchpoints with us and more ongoing updates than they’d get from an older-style arrangement. With SaaS they move from a heavy CAPEX model, with one major upfront outlay and then significant maintenance costs to a lighter, more evenly-spread OPEX arrangement that covers not only the product and maintenance but also innovation. It also makes onboarding swifter and simpler, because there are fewer time-consuming integrations to allow for.
SaaS is good for Flooid too. Our new SaaS model has allowed us to streamline our software development, ramp up automation, testing and deployment and push out very specific client and scenario testing in record time – particularly in preparing for ‘spikes’ in transaction activity like Thanksgiving and Black Friday. It’s given us much greater flexibility over our roadmap, meaning we can invest not just in products for what our customers need now but also what they are going to need in the future.
In short it brings us closer to our customers, and means we can do things faster for them.
What other technologies are important?
Automation will be an incredible growth and productivity driver for retail; particularly in testing and quality assurance. Before automation, developers would only ever test systems manually and typically along what I call a happy path – IE only testing the way things are supposed to work. But of course in a store, things can change. You might have to scan an item in twice, void items, deal with vouchers in a certain fashion… and take a different journey than the expected path. And that’s when problems can occur, because that journey hadn’t been planned for or tested. But with automation, you can test any number of scenarios, at speed and with limited use of man hours. So you get a more robust product, tested and quality assured faster.
Now take that small example and apply it across any number of projects and processes and you can begin to see what automation can do not only for transactions but stock checking, loyalty, promotions. The possibilities are mindblowing.
How is Flooid expanding its offer to meet the needs of retailers?
As a company we’ve grown in our ambition and become much more forward and future-focused. In the past we might have been looking 12-18 months down the line. Now we’re having regular reviews where we’re envisaging what our customers might need from us not just over that six or 18 month period, but also over a longer term. And we’re developing that technology now, so that when a client joins us we’ve already been able to predict and develop that technology, so we can offer it as an out-of-the-box solution that’s ready to go when they sign on the dotted line.
To hear first-hand how Flooid is helping legacy retail to fight back against online-only upstarts, contact us here.