Within the past few years, cloud computing has gained traction in the retail space as a means to provide a seamless customer experience. Stitching together customer touch points across brick-and-mortar stores, ecommerce, and call centers continues to be a major obstacle for retailers. But cloud computing offers a possible solution by allowing companies to connect various databases and deliver services at minimal capital expenses.The cloud computing industry is expected to reach $107 billion by 2017, up from $47.4 billion in 2013, according to research firm IDC. Scale and speed are two of the major drivers behind the growth in cloud adoption, say industry experts. Lovesac, a furniture retailer, is one such company that needed to streamline its data to keep pace with order volumes and customer expectations.
The Connecticut-based company was looking for a platform to connect its data from inventory and order management to CRM and point-of-sale processes across its 60 retail stores. Lovesac selected cloud ERP provider Netsuite's cloud-based retail solution. The platform gives store associates access to customer history, inventory availability, and online and in-store order information from tablets.
"Our buying cycle is longer than average since it often takes customers a couple visits before they make a purchase," explains Brian Witherow, director of customer loyalty at Lovesac. "Netsuite lets us stay organized and see a customer's complete journey when they visit one of our stores, our website or speak with an agent through webchat."
Many other retailers are also exploring the benefits of cloud computing for improving customer experiences. The rise of interconnected devices--the Internet of things--also supports the growth of cloud computing as cars, stoves, and other objects become connected to the Internet.
But while cloud technologies have made a lot of progress they still have a long way to go. Questions about the reliability of cloud connectivity and security continue to dog the technology, among other concerns.
According to a survey of more than 2,800 CIOs, nine percent are not using cloud computing for software-as-a-service (SaaS) projects, and that number increases to 15 percent for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) projects, reports Gartner.
The survey shows that public clouds in particular may be an option for projects, but are "only a first consideration for a small minority," said Gartner Vice President and Analyst Dave Russell in a statement.
Cloud computing has moved beyond being an industry buzzword into a viable solution for providing better customer experiences, but more work is still needed before companies can get a complete view of their customers.