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How Cloud Solutions’ Elasticity Help Manage COVID-19 Online Sales Spikes

  • May 15, 2020 at 11:54 AM EDT
  • By Bryan Wassel
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how consumers shop, both temporarily and in the long term, and many retailers are struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing environment. However, retailers can prepare themselves for ongoing changes by adopting cloud enterprise solutions, which can insulate their operations from sudden changes and help them focus on customer-facing tasks.

“It becomes a question about where you want your IT organization to focus,” said Mark Sieczkowski, Senior Product Manager at Vertex during a Retail Reset webinar. “You’re looking at a very large volume of employees all working from home. Your IT staff is probably focused on ensuring those systems are up and running to support the staff doing their daily jobs — video conferencing, email, chat — whatever IT infrastructure is needed to support them.”

Cloud solutions can offer the flexibility and peace of mind retailers need to respond to numerous challenges that arise during times of heavy traffic. One of the key benefits of the cloud is its ability to take basic yet vital tasks off the company’s plate, letting both leaders and staff remain agile and react to the specific needs of the moment rather than day-to-day necessities.

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Retailers also can benefit from some cost savings after the initial installation, according to Sieczkowski. Utilizing a cloud solution means a third party is managing updates and patches, which can defray the costs of maintaining IT infrastructure and further increase flexibility during difficult times.

Extra E-Commerce ‘Slack’ Essential For Handling Traffic Spikes

Some retailers are reporting Black Friday levels of e-Commerce traffic on a regular basis, far exceeding what they would normally expect during this period, according to Peter Sheldon, Director of Commerce Strategy at Adobe. Cloud-based systems can give retailers the bandwidth they need to handle these order volumes without experiencing downtime or otherwise ruining the shopping experience.

For a lot of e-Commerce merchants, they plan for Black Friday for six months of the year,” said Sheldon. “They’re planning for this from May onwards, and infrastructure planning is a big part of it. For them to be put in a position where they’re almost in a permanent Black Friday scenario during COVID-19, only the cloud can handle it in terms of giving you elastic capacity. Especially at this time, when there is no fallback, you have to be putting forth a first-class experience.”

The need for e-Commerce elasticity will remain even after social distancing becomes a memory. While the current level of online shopping will eventually give way to restored brick-and-mortar traffic, more people have been exposed to e-Commerce and omnichannel options — which means they’re more likely to use them again in the future. The additional flexibility that comes with a cloud solution will help retailers prepare themselves for this new normal.

“Are consumers and buyers going to go back to face-to-face interactions with sales reps and going to physical stores?” said Sheldon. “The answer is ‘of course,’ but I don’t think the pendulum is going to swing all the way back to where it was. I think we’re going to see a shift back to those other channels opening up for business again in the coming days, weeks and months, but there is a permanent shift going on here.”

Cloud Solutions Value Extends Beyond The COVID-19 Crisis

The country is slowly recovering from the pandemic, but there may be other scenarios that cause sudden shifts in consumer behavior, and cloud solutions can give retailers the flexibility they need to navigate these as well. The ability to handle a crisis quickly and remotely is a universal benefit no matter the specific cause or effect.

“It’s all about business continuity — how can I keep my business moving forward if something were to happen?” said Sieczkowski. “If I’m managing my infrastructure locally, and something goes out, what’s my recovery plan? How do I manage it? Where do my resources have to be applied in order to focus on supporting the business to get it back up and running? If you’re running a cloud-based system, that’s probably managed for you.”

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