Take the guesswork out of retail

It’s predicted that up to 90% of companies will have cloud computing functionality by 2019. That’s a staggering forecast by Gartner and it illustrates the extent to which businesses are waking up to the benefits of digital transformation tech.

Retail, with its omnichannel and supply chain challenges, is one of the sectors poised to reap some of the biggest benefits from such emerging technologies.

For example, digital transformation is making it increasingly easy for forward-thinking retailers to improve their bottom line by streamlining mission-critical internal processes.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics are now being used alongside cloud computing to plug the holes through which many retailers have slowly but steadily been haemorrhaging cash for decades.

Some of the leakiest retail process have traditionally been sales forecasting, stocktaking and ordering, which, in the absence of internal visibility, robust data and thorough analysis, tend to be heavily reliant on human intuition and a certain amount of calculated risk-taking.

Complex variables

This risk-taking usually involves employees committing to key retail decisions after taking a punt on a whole range of incredibly complex variables – any one of which is capable of turning a seemingly sensible retail decision into a big mistake. For example, attempting to base a barbeque order on the expectations for a British summer.

Artificial intelligence and data analytics, however, can help to stack the odds in the retailer’s favour. When used together they can analyse massive amounts of data, building up a complex image of customer behaviour and how it is influenced by multiple variables. The resulting data is infinitely superior to even the best educated guess made by a human.

Supply chain decisions can then be reviewed by a human or executed automatically. These benefits can be enjoyed across the retail sector from grocery to fashion.

Thanks to the growing power of cloud computing, access to this new, rich, data-driven view of retail need not be isolated to company HQ.

Business-critical systems

Cloud enables employees to access business-critical systems, such as sales forecasting, stocktaking and ordering, on a mobile device, armed with an easily downloaded app and a login.

The nature of the cloud also means colleagues can access one continually up-to-date version of the truth from wherever they are in the world – from the boardroom to the shop floor on a different continent. No more version control problems and no more emailing sensitive documents back and forth, just instant real-time access.

The benefits of cloud computing are no secret, with Gartner predicting 90% of businesses will be using cloud in some way by 2019.

These benefits include:

  • ‘Run anywhere’ capability
  • Continuously current, with potentially zero system downtime
  • Automatically scalable.

At Black Pepper we have seen first-hand how transformative these emerging technologies can be, thanks to our work with Catton Hospitality, a company that collaborates with pubs, hotels and restaurants to boost their operational efficiency.

Single automated platform

Catton turned to us to create a cloud-based software programme automating the whole process from the very beginning of stocktaking, through to sales forecasting further down the line.

The beauty of this system is that it can identify upcoming periods of increased trading, including public holidays and events such as St Patrick’s Day, and recommend an increase in stock to satisfy anticipated customer behaviour.

We now plan to include point of sale into this system to create a single automated platform giving visibility throughout the full value chain.

This approach proved hugely beneficial to Catton, but there’s no reason why other retailers shouldn’t wave goodbye to ‘educated guesses’ and instead use tech and data-driven insights to give them a compelling commercial advantage over their competitors.

If nothing else our work developing the Par-q software for Catton showed first-hand how emerging technologies can be used to harness robust data to help retailers understand their customers better - cutting costs and significantly increasing efficiency in the process.

Find out more about digital transformation within the retail industry.

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