Using the Cloud to Connect Bricks With Clicks

The boundaries between online and brick-and-mortar retail stores are dissolving rapidly, with each borrowing from the other to create a more compelling retail experience for the consumer. Many of these advances can be attributed to the awesome power of cloud computing.

Expensive, sophisticated software that was too expensive for independent retailers can now be accessed with a simple monthly fee. These services scale easily, provide real-time business insights and require minimal investment in hardware, maintenance or technical support. 

Here are a few to consider for your retail business.

The Power of Cloud-Based Solutions
The convergence of brick-and-mortar operations with e-commerce platforms represents a tremendous opportunity for independent retailers to leverage the power of the cloud. Cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps for Work are extremely effective because they ensure that an entire team is using the same products and templates, which can be edited, shared and delivered from anywhere, at any time. Shared storage of files, the outsourcing of IT problems and the streamlining of business processes are just a few ways that the cloud is making small businesses more efficient.

Take the critical business processes of accounting. A cloud-based accounting services such as Freshbooks radically alters how a retailer will operate. Invoicing, expenses, time tracking, payments and reporting can be managed with cloud access, which lessens the burden on a small retailer’s resources.

Human Resources
Another arena where the cloud has changed the game is human resources. With HR software such as BambooHR, new employees can be onboarded quickly, reports can be generated and time sheets and sick leave can be processed. Companies find themselves with the ability to attract better candidates through sophisticated talent acquisition software.

Call Centers
Cloud-based call centers are also changing the face of customer service for independent retailers. Retailers no longer need to invest large sums of money and time into a physical call center. The cloud does the work for you. By signing up with online services such as the 8×8 Cloud Contact Center, retailers are able to launch a contact center almost immediately that requires no expensive hardware, no software licensing, implementation or maintenance.

A simple monthly fee gives a brick-and-mortar store instant access to a call center system that empowers your agents to handle inbound calls, emails and web chats simultaneously, all which dramatically improve customer satisfaction.

The Future of Retail
Retailers that offer a hybrid experience of e-commerce and traditional retail are thriving, and attracting customers who delight in making use of the benefits and ease of e-commerce without giving up the immersive experience of a brick-and-mortar retail space. This in turn has meant that retail spaces can be re-imagined as more vibrant, experiential, social spaces such as a pop-up store, gallery or a clubhouse.

More and more retailers allow returns in-store for products bought online, which blurs the lines even further. Social media channels are used extensively, not only to advertise products and services but to build communities, monitor customer sentiment and spot trends in real time.

Brick-and-mortar stores that once viewed e-commerce with a sense of hostility are reshaping their operations to incorporate the best aspects of e-commerce and, in so doing, enhancing and improving the complete retail experience.

Photo Credit: Provided by Social Monsters with permission to use. 

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