by Shannon Flynn
Use of the cloud has exploded in the last decade and has become a normal part of doing business. Despite its popularity, transitioning to the cloud may be a challenge for small and medium-sized brands — however, Microsoft Cloud for Retail is changing the landscape and helping to highlight the benefits of cloud tech for all retail enterprises.
Microsoft Cloud for Retail
On Jan. 13, 2021, tech giant Microsoft announced its latest innovation — Microsoft Cloud for Retail. Whether it is clothing, technology or food, any business will be able to integrate this new platform into their workplace. Microsoft Cloud Retail bundles several apps and utilities from the company, including Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. Microsoft also added new commerce features for Dynamics 365. Now, users will be able to enact B2B commerce right from the app. B2C is already part of the package.
Microsoft is hoping to score big within retail. These resources offer an abundance of advantages for small and medium businesses. Columbia Sportswear has been using Dynamics 365 since 2018 as well as throughout the pandemic, and is reaping the rewards. Now it is time for those benefits to trickle down to smaller enterprises.
Older systems and software can be latent, inefficient and faulty. Cloud technology shows ways that small businesses can get ahead in their fields. First and foremost, a platform like Microsoft Cloud for Retail has better connectivity. While merchants will most likely store vital information in remote data center locations, cloud data’s scalability makes it easy to process, analyze and transfer in real-time.
Data comes from transactions, purchases and engagement, whether it is online or in-store. From there, retailers will use the information and analytics from Cloud for Retail to make reliable business decisions. For instance, if a company sees an increase in sales for an item of clothing, they may want to promote it more. Cloud-based apps go a step further, too. They include inventory management systems, employee tools and human resources services. With such strong features, retailers can be sure the cloud is working for them.
When it comes to retailers migrating to the cloud, the top hesitation is security concerns. However, with layers of physical and digital safety features, cloud tech has become safer than most outdated systems. Cloud for Retail has end-to-end encryption in its data centers, which use firewalls to protect against breaches — all inside secure facilities that limit outside access.
Of course, data for small businesses is a touchy subject since it is what keeps their business moving forward, and the idea of switching over to a new platform can be intimidating. However, with the right protocols in place, the cloud is reliable and secure. In instances of breaches or outages, these systems have backups and alert systems that allow professionals to take immediate action. On top of this protection, retailer’s rely on a network of IT professionals who uphold vast cloud infrastructures where automatic recovery and backup are standard.
Improved Customer Experience
From consumer behavior and trends to shopping convenience, brands can use Cloud for Retail to boost customers’ experiences. Personalization is the name of the game when it comes to customer loyalty, especially for small businesses. People want reasons to continue shopping. During the pandemic, 53 percent of respondents in a study said they want to support local businesses more than ever.
Cloud technology makes it easy to secure this loyalty. Data allows indie retailers to see exactly how their customers behave and what they purchase. They can use online tools to automatically recommend similar products to keep shoppers engaged and build loyalty. Using cloud tools also frees up space. Data scalability allows retailers to save on storage costs and phase out the need for bulky registers. Products like Square Register make it possible to charge customers on mobile devices at any location. The cloud then stores this data remotely.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, small businesses need to make a profit. Though Microsoft has not yet unveiled a price for Cloud for Retail, it is likely to be around $95 per user per month, based on the company’s other packages. The benefits will make this investment worth it, as companies can better rely on their data and use it to grow their profits securely. With Microsoft opening the door to cloud resources for retail, more companies are likely to jump on board and reach greater levels of success.
Shannon Flynn is a tech blogger who covers trending business technologies and IoT topics. She frequently writes for business and consumer blogs and is the Managing Editor of ReHack.com. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.