Did you ever wonder how a two-year old photo sharing company with 13 employees could grow to 30 million users, and then have Facebook offer to purchase it for $1 billion? Or how a daily deal company launched in 2008 could close its 10 millionth deal in two years, and have Google offer to buy it for $6 billion? Or how a professional networking company launched in 2002 could reach 161 million users in a decade and have a value of $8.9 billion in 2011? Instagram, Groupon and LinkedIn are amazing success stories that serve different markets, yet share a common link. Each was born in “The Cloud,” a complex infrastructure that, in real time over the Internet, extends a business’s IT capabilities without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. The Cloud provides a wealth of opportunities for smaller retailers, including marketing and loyalty programs, operations, inventory control, human resources and payment services, and can solve communication, collaboration and competition issues.
Building a powerful loyalty program used to rely on websites and paper cards that a retailer could only hope a customer would fill out. Today, with iPad and Cloud based loyalty programs, it’s easy for customers to participate and grow their loyalty points from a phone, tablet, or a store kiosk. Cloud based apps that provide inventory control, employee directory and human resources services allow busy retailers, especially those with multiple locations, to access critical information wherever they are. The information is fresh, as the Cloud uploads data in real-time. The ability to access and update data in real-time, manage a store from where you work, and access the power of Cloud based loyalty and promotional programs, levels the playing field between small retailers and big-box stores.
New businesses are created on The Cloud. Look no further than “eBay millionaires” as an example of success that was unimaginable a decade ago. People have become millionaires selling everything from designer handbags, to beads and bubble wrap. Etsy provides an online shopping portal for 300,000 designers and craftsman around the world. Existing companies are changing how they do business with The Cloud. RehabCare, founded in 1982, has grown to be the third largest supplier of acute care rehabilitation services in the U.S. Its staff includes 11,000 physical, occupational, and workplace therapists, providing services to patients in 1,270 care facilities in 42 states. Over the past four years, RehabCare has equipped each of 7,000 therapists with an iPod Touch to run a Cloud based application that captures the time spent on a treatment and simplifies the billing process.
The small retailer is facing challenges from large competitors, online shopping services, and an uncertain economy. Cloud services provide retailers, whether located in hip urban malls or rural Main Street, access to the very latest Cloud based technology, fully managed and constantly updated, often on a pay-as-you-go basis. The Cloud reduces costs, eliminating the need to purchase and maintain servers, networks and upgrading computers. According to a Samsung survey, employees spend an average of seven hours a week dealing with IT headaches, a cost no small business can sustain. Let The Cloud reduce the time and stress of IT and allow you to do what you do best, sell your products.
Siamak Farah is the founder and CEO of InfoStreet, a provider of IT and Productivity Software as a Service (SaaS). InfoStreet introduced its first business software via The Cloud in 1995, with its flagship productivity application, StreetSmart. Farah’s years of experience as a software developer affords him unique technical knowledge, while his work at NeXT Computer, side-by-side industry visionaries like Steve Jobs, has given him marketing and management insights that help propel InfoStreet’s growth year-over-year. Farah is a frequent speaker at conferences focusing on the Internet and SaaS, such as ISPCON, INBOX and SoftLetter.