How Omni-Channel Technology and The Cloud has Changed Retailing
Abnesh Raina
Founder & CEO-PlumSlice
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
From the days when the only way for customers to buy was to walk into a brick and mortar store, to now, where we have multiple channels including retail stores, ecommerce sites, mobile apps, catalogs, as well as social commerce, customers expect a seamless, as well as an interactive experience, across all channels. This creates added integration and collaboration demands on retailing processes and systems, whether it means having comprehensive and consistent product information across channels or the ability to purchase, fulfil, and return across channels, this shift in consumer expectations and behaviours is here to stay.

The evolution of cloud technology has also changed the retailing landscape quite dramatically. Cloud technology is gaining maturity and cloud computing prices are coming down significantly, thus the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market can also afford these workflow tools that were once only available to large enterprises. Cloud computing solutions now give businesses an unprecedented ability to communicate, collaborate, and innovate. This is huge, especially if you are a smaller ecommerce business. For example, you can now easily source materials globally and make decisions fast, an advantage once held only by larger enterprises with many physical locations. For SMB enterprises, the cloud can easily give you a 20 to 30 percent improvement in time to market when the constraints of time, location or language are lifted. This creates a huge shift in the competitive playing field as smaller firms can compete much more effectively in an ecommerce retail environment where the ability to get products to market faster and to respond to emerging market trends is critical to success.

Ecommerce and omnichannel have upped the game for getting products to market on time, and products customers really want to buy. Fortunately cloud-based technology is now available in the marketplace to help enable collaboration internally and with your customers, earlier in the production cycle, so issues such as dealing with slow suppliers; mistakes in sizing of fabric or not hearing the customer is tired of charcoal grey can be avoided.

Savvy retailers of all sizes understand these trends well and are using cloud-based technology to produce smarter goods, faster, and deliver consistent experience to all stakeholders across all channels by:

• Providing accurate, consistent product information to customers across all channels.
• Using collaboration technology to bring all the stakeholders (internal and external) together to manage and maintain information and processes.
•Embracing the ideas and concerns of stakeholders, and managing the back and forth with suppliers who often are located around the globe.
•Utilizing integrated product information management to establish one point of truth for product data throughout the lifecycle.
• Engaging customers upstream, at the design inspiration stage, and identifying their customers' needs during the product design and selection process so they are bringing products to market that customers actually want.

As the online marketplace gets even more competitive and diverse, product management continues to evolve, requiring one go-to place for information and collaboration. The next step would be to create central visibility into end-to-end product management processes from conception to post sales. Today, data tends to be split in organizational groups or various SaaS applications, which creates the information disconnect between selection, design, development and production. Better team collaboration can happen with new cloud-based technologies that offer a holistic and dynamic view of each retailer's unique product management processes. Every product you develop involves a complex set of internal and external participants: managers, vendors, and customers who can be brought together under a single collaborative umbrella. This eliminates mistakes or misunderstandings and allows faster response to market trends and accelerates time to market.

For retailers, the lightning-fast interaction between consumers and businesses via social media also offers a huge opportunity: to use social media for more than 'listening.' When you engage much more closely with consumers to find out what they really want and how they actually use your products, you can increase the intelligence of your design and production teams, improve the business value of the products and ecommerce sites you create, and increase sales.
Founded in 2013 and the San Francisco based PlumSlice uses the cloud to unite all stakeholders in the product lifecycle to create better products, faster.

To get to that point, retailers have to methodically evaluate what your organization needs to do to get there. Based on our experience, we have created two eBooks of what small and large retailers need to consider when developing their cloud game plan, and planning for peak sales. They can be downloaded from our website at www.plumslice.com.

PlumSlice provides cloud-based collaboration solutions and services to unite all stakeholders involved in product management to create better products and accelerate time to market.

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