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The Transformation of Retail with Google Cloud

How Google Cloud can solve five current retail challenges

As consumers increasingly rely on technology to make purchasing decisions early on, it's no surprise that the retail landscape is undergoing a transformation. Retailers must now forge new emotional connections with customers and create unique shopping experiences by delving deeper into the world of big data and harnessing digital technologies to gain in-depth insights and analytics.

Retailers were among the first to feel the impact of digital transformation, long before companies in other industries. However, there's still room for improvement. For example, consider how people shopped just a decade ago compared to today. Nowadays, consumers can gather detailed information about their purchases even before stepping foot in a store, especially when shopping online. They also have access to a wide range of purchasing options and price comparisons.

The top challenges facing the retail industry at present include:

  1. Providing a seamless multichannel experience.
  2. Boosting employee productivity.
  3. Improving inventory management.
  4. Addressing the increasing price transparency.
  5. Capturing the interest of Generation Y.

We'll illustrate how Google Cloud solutions can assist retailers in tackling these challenges effectively.

1. Providing a seamless multichannel experience

In today's world, almost every shopping journey begins with a Google search. Consumers can easily find all the information they need, such as product reviews, images, prices, directions, and more. But what if they could start this search even when they're offline? Google Cloud is here to help retailers bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds through solutions like Ads, Maps, Cloud Dataflow, and Chrome, to name a few.

Imagine this scenario: After researching a product online, you decide to visit a physical store. Since you've already made your choice online, this step should be as simple as possible. By aligning the in-store shopping experience with the website/app experience, you create a seamless transition from the online world to the offline one.

For this use case, Kiosk Apps based on Chrome OS are a great choice. The idea is that users who have already gathered information about a product online can "check in" at the store through the Kiosk App, instantly connecting with an informed store associate. Chrome OS provides a secure environment for customers, offering information about special prices and promotions through displays and encouraging purchases. Customers can playfully browse the product catalogue, check inventory, and more using touch displays while in the store, just as they would on the web.

Taking it a step further, Google's enterprise solutions allow for the integration of online and in-store shopping experiences with legacy systems like inventory and sales. Items searched for by users online can also be made available in-store. With the help of Google Cloud Dataflow, past sales and customer trends can be analysed, enabling proactive engagement with customers and the creation of unique opportunities.

2. Increasing employee productivity

Everyone wants to work more productively, but it's in the high-turnover retail industry that there are real benefits to be gained. Google Workspace delivers a real productivity boost here: thanks to the elements of the software that are already familiar, employees need less time to be trained and can therefore work faster and more efficiently.

Moving to Chrome OS devices can also help drive productivity. The gain in performance lets employees turn ideas into reality faster and allows them to handle customer questions more efficiently. The recent user survey revealed that 25% of customer service reps and 24% of retail employees have to wait longer than 5 minutes for their computer to boot up. This causes huge losses in effective productive time every week.

Google's solutions not only elevate the productivity of retailers but can also help motivate employees, often resulting in reduced turnover rates. For instance, you can establish an internal YouTube channel to upload videos that educate employees about product launches or demonstrate how to set up business displays. Employees who were previously isolated can now post updates and provide real-time feedback via Google Plus and Google Sites.

Another strategy to boost overall productivity is sending critical information, such as low inventory levels, directly to store employees' mobile devices. In summary, enhancing employee productivity and engagement leads to a noticeably improved customer experience. Employees can respond more promptly to customer queries and have suitable solutions readily available, both in-store and on social media or other platforms.

3. Improving Inventory Management

Keeping inventory is expensive. But not having the products you need on hand at the right time can be just as expensive due to lost sales. This is another area where Google can help. The potential of Google Cloud Platform in combination with Cloud Dataflow makes it possible to make intelligent predictions.

To what extent do our social media channels influence customer buying behaviour?

In more detail, harnessing the power of Google enables the analysis of historical data to anticipate future trends and tendencies, allowing proactive responses. For instance, it can help answer questions such as: How much do our social media channels impact customer buying behaviour? Does weather affect our sales? Which business branches generate the highest revenue, and how far are their warehouses? How long does it take for products to reach the warehouse? What products spend the most time in storage?

With these solutions, you can gain valuable insights into customer purchasing behaviour. Additionally, you can provide customers with online access to inventory data, assuring them that their desired product is in stock.

4) Increasing price transparency

Whether customers are checking out a product online or scanning a barcode in a store, they always have access to the most up-to-date prices. This means they can easily find the lowest price available. With online shopping being more convenient than ever, there's no reason for them to hesitate when it comes to buying the product they want from the provider offering the best price.

If a potential buyer is already in the store, why not seize the opportunity? By capitalising on customer behaviour, you can safeguard your prices and convert those who are "browsing" into paying customers.

Google's technologies excel at aggregating and analysing internet data in real-time, keeping you informed about current market trends and enabling you to anticipate future ones. Tools like Cloud Dataflow also assist in closely monitoring specific competitors, pinpointing particular market segments, and adjusting your pricing strategy accordingly..

5) Attracting interest from Generation Y

Generation Y has high expectations and isn’t shy to express them – they seek brands that pursue a noble cause, prioritise convenience, and satisfy their needs instantly. However, one of their demands that poses the greatest challenge to the retail sector is the desire for an exceptionally good shopping experience. For this new generation of shoppers, product quality often takes a back seat to the shopping experience.

This shopping experience often begins before customers even realise it. Generation Y is known as the most connected generation, expecting easy access to product information before identifying themselves as potential customers of a store.

To win over Generation Y, it's essential to understand that these customers often enter a store with a clear idea of their shopping goals – they don't expect the typical sales pitch. Instead, they want a consistent experience that fosters customer loyalty when consistently delivered.

Google's solutions provide a comprehensive view of the entire customer buying process, enabling you to tackle new challenges. You can interact better with your customers and offer them a personalised shopping experience. For instance, you can seamlessly build on the customer's online interactions and schedule an appointment with an informed in-store staff member using Google Calendar.

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