IBM Store in the Cloud is Helping Retailers Look to Cloud to Become Agile and Rapidly Innovate

5 min read

IBM has been helping retailers innovate for well over 100 years; it’s embedded in our company’s DNA.

From selling coffee mills and retail scales in the 1890s, to the key part played in developing the now ubiquitous barcode, to applying transformative technologies like Cloud, AI, and Blockchain, IBM has played a central role in retail innovation.

Over that time, it’s fair to say retail has changed at a vigorous pace, going through different phases of development and disruption, with technology playing an ever more essential part in both. Whilst every retailer is different in how they respond to market changes, one common challenge is managing the layers of store technology that have been installed over time. This, combined with a need to integrate digital retail, physical stores, and backend supply chain operations, has led to more complex technology environments.

We’ve also hit a tipping point where consumer expectations from retailers are so much higher than just a few years ago. IBM’s latest Institute for Business Value Global Consumer Study polled nearly 19,000 consumers from 28 countries and found that 98% of consumers continue to shop in stores, but that they are expecting more from retailers.

Highlights from the 2020 Global Consumer Study

  • Immersive commerce: One in three customers are shopping in ‘micro moments’ and wish to buy anywhere, and fulfill anyway, anytime.
  • Simplifying life: 86% of respondents state that having the right assortment is the top criteria in determining where to go shopping.
  • Trusted information: 84% of consumers said that trust is a top criteria when choosing a brand, with product transparency also rating highly.
  • Great experiences: 84% of those polled indicate that they are looking for shopping experiences that allow them to easily find what they need and get in and out of the store quickly.
  • Technology assisted: Over 70% are trying new AI technologies such as voice and visual search as part of their shopping trip.

The study findings tally with feedback from retailers who state that their operating model and supporting technologies are challenged to rapidly deliver innovation that meets ever-changing customer expectations, whilst still managing cost inflation in store operations. Retailers are also seeking greater agility by implementing technology when opening new stores, reformatting existing stores, and deploying new technologies to stores as effortlessly as downloading an app on their mobile device.

These objectives illustrate that future success requires strategic transformation of the store, not sporadic experimentation or digital widgets. What is required is the reimagination of a store’s role within its neighbourhood context, aligned to a new operational model, with new performance measurements and supporting technology architecture.

Retailers will need to consider how their supply chains enable customer fulfillment everywhere and transactions in any way, how to bring more digital experiences with enriched content and personalisation into stores, how to empower store associates with intuitive tools (not simply more apps), and how to sustainably lower their store operating costs.

Introducing IBM Store in the Cloud

There’s no doubt that Cloud technology is a game-changer in this regard, helping retailers accelerate the speed of deployment, differentiate their offerings, and meet financial objectives. That said, Cloud technology has surfaced a vast array of new capabilities, and the key to success is the ability to securely connect disparate applications and data across multiple clouds and legacy environments. In doing so, retailers can take advantage of the widest range of capabilities, apply AI to automate or inform decisions in store, surface content and connect customer experiences, and importantly align multiple applications needed for end-to-end store processes.

The following are some examples:

  • Combining complete inventory visibility and past and forecast sales with on-shelf availability in real-time to prompt replenishment, markdown, and other tasks.
  • Providing store associates with relevant customer insights so they can offer exceptional service when fulfilling ‘buy online, pick up in-store’ customer orders.
  • Using data and AI to surface highly personalized promotions and communications across the shopping journey.
  • Applying hyper-local data to pricing and digital content to provide contextual information for customers when at the shelf.
  • Connecting IoT devices to store assets and applying AI to weather and utilization trends to lower energy and operating costs.

To help retailers become more agile in delivering these types of consumer and employee experiences, IBM has launched ‘Store in the Cloud,’ built on open, flexible hybrid multicloud technologies from IBM and Red Hat that encompass IBM’s leading capabilities, such as Sterling, Weather, Watson, Data, IOT, Mobile, Services, and Security.

Hear from our partners

IBM is further enhancing Store in the Cloud capabilities by working in collaboration with its partner ecosystem:

  • Flooid [formerly PCMS] to provide seamless transactions across digital and physical channels.
  • Opterus for intelligent store task management and communications.
  • RelevanC [part of Casino Group] for smart loyalty and promotion management.
  • Trax for real-time monitoring of on shelf availability and planogram compliance.

IBM is delighted to be working with our partners on Store in the Cloud as it allows retailers the widest choice of capabilities to transform operations and in-store experience.

The approach also benefits partners and innovators from being pre-integrated with a connected suite of store solutions, built on a flexible architecture that accelerates deployment to more clients.

Flooid (formerly PCMS)

“Flooid and IBM have a long-history of collaboration and highly complementary offerings, which is why we’re thrilled to be part of this initiative. Flooid is a highly specialized platform, and what we really do best is provide a seamless platform for the basket. The basket is a key component of successful store and digital transformation.” - Tony Houldsworth, Global CEO, Flooid

Opterus 

“At Opterus, we can see the value of what Store in the Cloud will provide to today’s modern retailer. Having all operational components and customer engagement tools collaborating together is a huge win and a definite advantage for any retailer. Opterus’ flagship solution has robust tools—such as tasking, messaging, dashboarding, and visual merchandising reviews—that will play a big role in ensuring all the Store in the Cloud solutions are seamlessly delivering value to the retailer.” - Janet Hawkins, CEO & President, Opterus Inc.

RelevanC (subsidiary of Casino Group)

“We are proud to collaborate with the IBM Store in the Cloud initiative to help other retailers improve their marketing ROI. Our suite of applications leverages data, artificial intelligence, and technology to deliver personalization of promotions and improve consumer loyalty. IBM’s ecosystem will allow faster and more efficient deployment of our platforms to these retailers. This collaboration is a unique opportunity for RelevanC to expand beyond France and leverage our capabilities and assets internationally.” - Blandine Multrier, Director, RelevanC (subsidiary of Casino Group)

Trax Retail

“Trax is proud to partner with IBM's Store in the Cloud. Trax believes retail transformation begins at the shelf and that the winners will be those able to integrate granular shelf data with best-in-class retail technology to unlock the potential value throughout the retailer organization. With Trax’s industry-leading, real-time monitoring of shelf conditions integrated with IBM's Store in the Cloud, retailers finally have the data and platform to drive operational efficiencies and merchandising optimisation at every shelf in-store and build on the store of the future.” - Mark Cook, EVP, Head of Retailer Solutions, Trax

Innovate the retail space with Store in the Cloud

In summary, retail is now facing a new generation of customers that come with higher demands and expectations and bigger challenges that retailers must face in 2020. To address rapidly changing purchasing decisions and delight customers both in store and online, retailers need to look to the cloud to connect disparate applications and data across multiple clouds and legacy environments. With Store in the Cloud, retailers can rapidly innovate with new capabilities from IBM and its ecosystem of partners.

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