By Richard Goodley, Managing Director of Davidson Richards, European RMS development partner of Microsoft.
Everybody has experience of the cloud these days. Solutions such as Google Gmail and Twitter have introduced it to millions of users worldwide, but the cloud has only recently been seen as a way to allow small and medium retailers to compete with the business advantages held by the industry majors. Davidson Richards recently launched OpSuite, a revolutionary cloud-based retail solution for SMEs. We understand that clarity on some of the queries and concerns SMEs have about moving their retail management systems into the cloud need to be addressed.
I've heard a lot about cloud. But what can it do for my retail management system?
The cloud, if harnessed correctly, offers seamless multichannel trading, pricing and promotional consistency and allows the retailer to maintain real-time financial control over all outlets from any location – all without the headache of managing a central physical infrastructure. In 2013 it is critical that SMEs offer a consistent retail experience across all channels if they want to remain competitive – taking the retail management system into the cloud will strongly support this aim.
When's the right time to take my retail management system into the cloud?
Unlike most decisions, the usual question of 'can we raise the capital' is largely redundant because with the move to the cloud comes the move from a CAPEX model to an OPEX model. There are of course other factors to consider – moving to the cloud is a multi-faceted decision and getting the timing right can be a challenge. SMEs might want to take into account the age and type of retail solution they have already bought, its useful life expectancy, and how much they have invested in it. But at least as important is when a retailer finds himself at a key point of looking to take his business forward by changing the balance of how it trades through its channels of bricks and mortar, web, catalogue and mobile – then a move to the cloud is the optimal option.
I can see the benefits of cloud but don't want the hassle of ripping out and replacing my old system
Upending an existing retail system, losing data and wasting time during the changeover process is not an idea that is welcome to busy SMEs. It is possible, however, to get the benefits of a new cloud-based retail solution but without the levels of intrusion usually needed during implementation. The open architecture of OpSuite means the retail management solution can be connected to pre-existing solutions – finance and e-commerce, for example. This ability eliminates the hassle factor involved in 'ripping out and replacing' and means that the unique needs of each retailer can be catered for.
I know I need to compete with the large scale retailer. But how am I going to afford it?
The perceived cost of upgrading a retail management system is such that many SMEs do not consider it a realistic option. They often believe that being able to offer consistent pricing and promotions across all retail channels and allowing the consumer to pick and choose at whim whether they want to browse and purchase online, on their mobile or in store to be the reserve of the large scale retailer. Thanks to cloud delivery, SMEs can do everything the heavyweight retailer can do – at a fraction of the cost.
My needs as a retailer are always changing, how will one retail solution cope with this?
In retail, tomorrow will never be like today. Requirements of retailers change in accordance with consumer demand, changes to the supply chain, expansion or contraction in the number of stores held and regulatory and legislative adjustments. SMEs, understandably, do not want to invest in a new retail solution only to find it no longer suits their needs five months down the line. Cloud-based retail solutions, when correctly architected like OpSuite, can be easily customised and personalised to cope with new needs as they occur over time. In addition, their design and engineering make them scalable so growth in number of outlets can be easily catered for.
I like the idea of a cloud-based solution but not the idea of losing control of my data
Data and record storage can be an emotive issue – after all, a business would more than struggle to operate without it. Many SMEs are concerned that moving their retail management system into the cloud could mean losing control of their data – both in terms of where it is stored and what happens if the system crashes in the event of a power-cut, for example. The cloud is in many ways safer than hosting your own data without the complications of off-line back-up. OpSuite client data is stored on the hosted devices and backed up on a secure data storage system based in the UK. This is also important to some of our overseas trading clients. Because the client maintains autonomy over their data, there are no concerns over international law and, in the event of the system crashing on site, all data is safely backed up and secure.