The retail industry in Canada and beyond has seen significant changes over the past year amid a shift to digital over the course of the pandemic. As a result, retailers must now innovate quickly or risk becoming obsolete. Already, many retailers are developing digital e-commerce platforms, are expanding fulfillment options, and are working to improve consumer experiences. This shift begins with a move to cloud-based business.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently held a roundtable discussion with three small-and medium-sized (SMB) Canadian retailers to encourage local Canadian companies to share and learn from one another. Amazon wanted to hear about the retailers’ path to the AWS Cloud, including what they have learned and how they are delivering the best customer experiences using AWS solutions. The roundtable included Abdel-salam Aldwikat, CTO at Revive Superfoods; Mike DeBruin, Director of IT and Operations at Mabel’s Labels; and Jackson Lau, Cofounder of Parts Engine.
These are a few insights from the roundtable discussion.
Core Needs of Small and Medium-Sized Retailers
Participants noted that consumer behaviour and expectations have shifted dramatically and the pandemic only hastened it. One of the biggest challenges for retailers is how to provide an exceptional customer experience to meet new expectations. For small and medium sized retailers, this is particularly challenging because they lack the resources of large competitors.
Ability to scale: Now more than ever, small and medium sized retailers need to cost-effectively deal with rapid or uneven growth while enhancing the consumer experience. Mable’s Labels is an ecommerce company that sells labels for children’s clothing and other belongings. The business is seasonal with events such as the start of school or summer camps driving significant sales. During peak periods, the retailer sees about ten times the average orders which means the company needs to drastically scale up order fulfillment and its ecommerce experience. Cloud infrastructure, according to Mabel’s Labels, makes it possible to scale quickly.
Access to innovative tech: Smaller retailers still need access to innovative technologies to meet consumer expectations even if budgets are limited. Machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and innovative security technologies are for the most part too costly to implement for these businesses. Online vehicle parts and accessory business Parts Engine said that having strong security is important, but the company was neither an expert in security nor information technology. Implementing an innovative cloud-based security system allowed Parts Engine IT employees more time to focus on pressing business innovation.
Support IT systems with limited staff: Small and medium sized retailers for the most part do not have the resources to manage all their IT infrastructure fully and cost-effectively. Small and medium sized retailers also typically lack the back-end resources to support new technologies. Mable’s Labels said that a cloud-based infrastructure helped free up IT resources to focus more on consumer-facing initiatives and less on maintaining the company’s infrastructure.
Realize lower, more predictable costs: Small and medium sized retailers realize the importance of keeping costs down by not making unnecessary purchases. Costs to manage such things as data centres, servers, and software upgrades can be considerable. Subscription-based retailer Revive Superfoods said that it realized the cost of building and maintaining traditional data centres was not aligned with its business model. A cloud-based infrastructure made more economic sense by providing the company with savings that it could invest in growing its brand while enhancing the overall consumer experience.
Considerations for Retailers Pursuing Digital Transformations
Small and medium sized retailers need the flexibility and agility provided by a cloud-based infrastructure to get to market quickly and exceed consumer expectations. the panel said that there are several considerations:
Implement simple governance: Although the cloud offers agility and opportunity for testing new technology, it can also result in a proliferation of services and workloads in a business’ account. It’s thus important to take early steps to implement a simple governance plan that can guide usage of resources.
Get buy-in from all stakeholders: A business’ IT staff must also be committed to the cloud and getting support from all team members is crucial to digital transformation success for businesses.
Adopt the right strategy: Panelists said that it’s important to start by having a compelling business case for moving to the cloud. The next step is to work with the cloud partner to plan what’s in the business environment, identify interdependencies, and determine a migration plan for each application that includes required effort.
Catering to retailers, Amazon Web Services empowers retail businesses to reinvent the store and customer experiences while also driving operational efficiencies and IT agility. With Amazon Web Services cloud solutions, retailers can innovate faster, keep costs down, and scale effortlessly as their business grows.
Amazon Web Services can guide small and medium sized retailers as they transform their businesses with proven, industry-specific cloud solutions and services. Amazon Web Services experts can guide a business through its cloud adoption, from strategy to implementation.
To hear more from Amazon’s roundtable discussion about how small and medium sized retailers are innovating with Amazon Web Services Cloud technologies, watch Canadian SMB Retailers’ Journey to the Cloud.