The shift to digital has been well underway for years in retail, but today, retailers have a replacement sense of urgency to digitally transform because the industry responds to COVID-19. The pandemic has dramatically impacted the retail industry at-large, exposing gaps in omnichannel capabilities, business continuity plans, and provide chain responsiveness.
Today’s environment is uncharted territory for many retailers. Government-imposed lockdowns, social distancing guidelines, rapid changes in consumer behavior, and uneven demand for various product categories have introduced challenges to retailers around the globe. For retailers, crisis planning typically covers events during which a group of stores or warehouses are down thanks to natural disasters or other power outages. However, closing down all stores or, conversely, supporting demand surging to twenty times normal may be a new dynamic that a lot of retailers hadn’t contemplated previously.
The pandemic has also had a polarizing effect on retailers. On one hand, grocery and mass merchandisers are experiencing unprecedented surges, while retailers in other categories, like fashion and wonder, are experiencing declines in many product categories. As we glance at the longer term, we all know that recovery will take time and can vary by sub-segment.
To help retailers tackle these challenges, we’re sharing a variety of industry-tailored solutions to support our customers and partners during this point.
G Suite collaboration tools to help workforce enablement and optimization
As some retailers, particularly those in grocery and mass merchandise, experience a rapid rise in hiring to satisfy unprecedented demand, they’re realizing how critical it’s to create and maintain collaboration with their employees. G Suite offers video conferencing, chat, email, and shared documents, allowing teams to efficiently work together remotely and in real-time.
As remote work and video conferencing still be the norm for several retailers, supermarkets like Schnucks—a family-owned supermarket with 100 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin—are using Google Meet to assist keep dispatch running smoothly and as a help desk for in-store clerks. And within the UK, DFS company Ltd has been ready to transition its entire workforce to performing from home using Google Meet.
Rapid Response Virtual Agent program to quickly answer customers
Our newly launched Rapid Response Virtual Agent solution allows retailers to face up new chatbot-based services within a fortnight to assist answer their customers more quickly and efficiently, especially because it relates to critical information around COVID-19. This new chatbot can help with store hours inquiries, inventory questions, pick-up options, and more, offloading an immense amount of calls getting to human agents, in order that they can specialize in more complex service needs.
Retailers like Albertsons faced call volume to their stores that increased five times the norm during COVID-19. to urge customers faster responses, Albertsons enlisted the Rapid Response Virtual Agent to manage inbound call volumes and address customers’ more basic questions, like hours of operation, pick and delivery options, and order status.
Accelerated migration and PSO migration factory solutions to scale back operational overhead
Rapid changes in customer demand are causing significant capital and expense constraints. Accelerating the migration of IT systems to Google Cloud can help retailers quickly cut fixed costs, reduce their operational overhead, and found out the proper infrastructure to map to their changing business needs—while ensuring business continuity during unexpected business disruptions.
Lush, the UK-based beauty retailer, migrated its global e-commerce sites to Google Cloud in 2017 to assist run its online channels smoothly, especially during peak seasons like Boxing Day. Migrating to the cloud has allowed Lush to regulate costs and, in return, develop innovative projects which will help drive its business forward, especially in light of COVID-19.
Capacity Management and Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) Assistance solutions to quickly rightsize cloud deployments
Buying behavior has changed drastically, with atypical demand for a few retail sub-segments and extreme declines for others. This, paired with sudden shifts from in-store to online, has caused a strain on omnichannel capabilities. Through early capacity planning, reliability testing, and operational war rooms, we will help retailers quickly rightsize cloud deployments to reflect the changing needs of their businesses. We’ve also activated our special high season support protocols for retailers seeing e-commerce traffic surges.
Ecommerce modernization to help offline to online
As customer expectations shift during this point, providing a top-tier digital experience has become increasingly important. Having a versatile and agile e-commerce platform is crucial to enable retail teams to quickly introduce new shopping experiences to stay up with ever-changing demands. Google Cloud can help untangle legacy e-commerce systems, introducing a containerized architecture that gives flexibility and agility for businesses.
Retailers like Ulta Beauty, whose stores are temporarily closed response to the government-imposed lockdown, are leaning into their online channels to remain connected with shoppers, providing them with foreign digital experience. While some shoppers roam isles within a store to seek out exactly what they’re trying to find, Ulta Beauty’s Virtual Beauty Advisor tool, built on Google Cloud, is proving particularly useful, providing consumers with data-driven product recommendations.
Google Cloud’s demand forecasting and modeling capabilities to assist answer significant consumer behavior changes
For retailers, shifts in consumer spending present both a near-term need for a responsive supply chain and a longer-term got to predict how customer behavior changes will impact demand. With Google Cloud’s AI/ML capabilities, in partnership with o9 Solutions, retailers can develop custom models supported their own data and signals to accurately forecast future demand of products at any given location—reducing lost revenue through stockouts, excessive discounting and markdowns, inventory holding, and spoilage costs. Retailers also can use Google Cloud’s broad range of public datasets, including weather, traffic, and more, to raised forecast demand right down to the shop level.
Google Cloud/Looker solutions for a 360-degree view of the customer
With the substantial disruption in business thanks to COVID-19, it’s imperative for retailers to rely even more on data that are real-time and reliable. Google Cloud and Looker provide pre-built data models and analytics packages (called “Blocks”) that are specific for retail needs. With these pre-built resources, Looker can help quickly deliver solutions that transcend traditional business intelligence offerings like reports and dashboards. By bringing multiple datasets across a corporation together, retailers can create data experiences that help optimize in-store operations, increase retail margins, and improve customer lifetime value.
Looker is additionally fully integrated with Google Cloud for Marketing solutions, allowing retailers to form informed marketing decisions in real-time. Through this integration, they’re ready to bring all of their marketing data from Google together for analysis to ascertain how changes on Google Ads, YouTube, and Google Analytics affect each other. Retailers across all sub-segments can discover real-time insights and immediately implement changes within ongoing marketing programs.
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