By Sekete Patrick Maphopha, NetApp Africa CTO and Technology Evangelist
Cloud-based digital technologies are transforming the retail industry in order to provide customers with more personalized services and a seamless brand experience both online and offline. The retail chains are facing new significant challenges due to the digital transformation and the convergence of social network, mobile and cloud: customers want to have the same purchasing experiences both in-store and online at any time. Consumers expect consistency across channels and touch points, regardless of when, where and how they interact with the retailer. They also want to receive personalized offers based on their shopping behaviour (as data analysis shows) and expect a seamless brand experience both online and offline. Often, however, retailers who have yet to adopt the proper technologies that deliver this kind of customized customer experience may lose once-loyal customers.
Retail companies will experience huge increases in demand now as we bid farewell to summer and expect massive sales, it’s also mother’s and father’s day season, supported by a series of in-store or email promotional marketing initiatives, with a peak of online access. During this period, their site must remain available and always be quickly accessible in order to guarantee a valuable shopping experience.
From an IT perspective it means that the retailers’ IT system must be able to combine front-end and back-end infrastructure that needs to host huge amounts of data for public consumption (online catalogs, inventory, promotional data), as well as sensitive data like credit card numbers, contact information, and shipping requests. All of this calls for vast storage resources – and without a cost effective and integrated hybrid cloud storage option, these storage needs can rapidly become unsustainable.
In retail businesses, IT budgets have been reduced, but at the same time the challenges faced by IT have remained the same, and now the IT managers have to solve the new challenges at minimal expense. That is why outsourcing of an existing IT infrastructure, or its acquisition via the service model, based on Cloud, has become more and more popular.
Clouds change the traditional way of doing business - new technologies not only provide a more effective data management, but also help to develop innovative IT infrastructure, which has a direct impact on the overall success of a business. Retailers are actively focused on the Cloud as a way to optimize investments and respond quickly to business demands.
In particular, NetApp’s hybrid cloud storage allows retailers to address these demanding requirements and provide greater consistency and personalization meeting new consumer expectations. The hybrid cloud offers unique features to retailers helping them load balance their information just as they would their staff during busy seasons. For a retailer of any kind, the ability to scale - and to have an infrastructure that is resistant to outages during high traffic - will always be one of the key differentiators of success of a retail organization.
Scale also means having the technology capacity to handle spikes in demand from customers of brick-and-mortar retailers as well as to meet the online demand.
For much of the year a retailer can operate their business on premise and then during this mission-critical time of year, can take advantage of the capabilities of the hybrid cloud. Thanks to the NetApp solutions, retailers use compute power, storage capacity, new applications for data analysis and cloud backup & recovery delivered by public cloud providers. This flexibility is gained without new capital expenditure or lengthy on-site implementation processes.
However, scaling resources in the cloud at the flick of a switch becomes a different beast when data is part of the equation. It has mass, meaning it is difficult to move. And it has ongoing value, so it needs to be properly managed throughout its lifetime, which in many cases could be years. Hence, consistent data management is key. NetApp’s Data Fabric allows the customer to control their data wherever it lives and move it to where it’s needed most at any given point in time. The Data Fabric also means that for those organizations that choose to adopt it they are not locked-in. It establishes one logical layer by which customers can manage their data across different locations, whether the private cloud, a hyperscaler, local cloud provider or co-locator is the best answer for a given requirement.
IT teams of all sizes companies, including retailers, are pursuing emerging technologies to complement their existing IT investments. Their goals: to accelerate critical applications, gain data visibility, streamline data protection, and increase operational agility. Meanwhile, budgets continue to shrink.
Data Fabric Solutions from NetApp are designed to address these IT challenges by delivering the benefits of the Data Fabric. Whether IT-deployed or a cloud service—or both—NetApp hybrid cloud solutions for the Data Fabric combine best-in-class technologies and partnerships across a variety of use cases.