How to break out of tech prison

It’s no secret that the retail market continues to struggle, with consumer confidence hit by ongoing political uncertainty and an increasing shift to online shopping. A recent industry survey showed British consumer spending in May was the lowest for more than two decades and we continue to see more established brands disappear from the high streets.

Consumers are now demanding far more from their retailers, with loyalty being quickly lost or gained based on their experiences. And these experiences are equally important, whether you’re shopping online or in store. So, how can retailers align these two worlds and achieve the flexibility that is critical for them to quickly capture consumers hearts, minds and wallets – in a highly competitive market?

The successful retailers I work with have adopted cloud technologies as their foundation to disrupt and enter new markets. This sounds like a no-brainer, so why are so many retailers slow to adopt more robust cloud strategies?

While some retailers are starting to realise the flexibility that cloud offers, too often it’s a prison they are waking up in. Stuck in a silo of one cloud provider for its set of apps, solutions, platforms and APIs is what many retailers are getting very frustrated about. To understand this better, let’s use an analogy. We all use banks, but we know that if we ask our bank to freely connect and share our accounts and transactions with another, it just would not happen. If we think about data as we do money, the picture on how limiting the flow can be, becomes clearer. To be fair, the banks have gotten a lot better about transferring money, but it’s still not as seamless as we’d all like it to be.

Retailers know they need to be innovative and disruptive to stay competitive, but like banks, are finding their limits quickly. They see other retailers have successfully stitched together any service, set of data, marketplace or cloud, but how have they done this without losing flexibility, imposing a financial burden, or incurring too much risk in what is a very competitive marketplace?

There is a least one company offering true flexibility and integration value and that’s SAP and its partner ecosystem, who have the expertise to provide innovative retail solutions. More specifically, SAP Cloud Platform gives retailers the ability to have a multi-cloud, multi-marketplace, multi-services and an all-data strategy. While other enterprise software providers have resisted partnerships with the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft Azure, Amazon and more, SAP has embraced them deeply.

Even if a retailer does not want to adopt or create a new business model, they must accept that access to rich data sets outside their business can deliver powerful insights. Just connecting to things like weather, traffic, events and more will deliver an up-tick in revenue if used wisely. With the SAP Cloud Platform, a retailer can get started with no – to – low impact to their infrastructure play to leverage data to drive revenue. Savvy retailers are starting with data insights to get them on the path towards bigger change. An interesting side effect is that data is helping drive cultural and reporting structure changes. The trick is to have a few accelerators handy and – again – SAP has solutions ready for retailers to adopt today.

But wait, it gets better. In the race to find new ways to interact with consumers, maximise opportunities to increase basket size all while delivering a personalised experience, it’s SAP partners like Keytree who have already done the heavy lifting and built packages for retailers to make fast starts. The lessons we’ve learnt is that adopting new technology ahead of the curve does bring benefits, and leveraging packages fast-tracks success. You can’t do an RFI on innovation, but you can lean on a trusted advisor to get you there quickly. What any savvy retailer should be doing now, is looking at solutions like Keytree’s: Bridge for Retail.

It’s time to break out of prison and all that’s needed is the right technology, a partner who knows what they’re doing, some trusted advice and proven solutions.

By Shane Finlay, Chief Value Officer, SAP