As look at the state of hybrid cloud technology and retail experiences, I reflect on how my buying habits have changed throughout the years. In the past, I would go into a store with the intention of gaining information from a salesperson and make my decision from there. These days, I tend to enter the store with an understanding of what I want, and merely ask the salesperson to ring up the cash register and swipe my credit card.
My experiences are not unique, as retail experiences are no longer confined to the store. With retailers developing connected experiences across a variety of platforms, customers are now empowered to make their purchases from just about anywhere and anytime. Recent data suggests this is a growing trend as well, with 30% of eCommerce purchases made from mobile devices and 90% of buyers using their smartphones to research products while in a physical store.
For IT leaders, the evolving retail experience presents an opportunity to reach out to customers in new ways and provide innovative buying journeys. With technologies like IBM’s WebSphere Application Server 9 and Bluemix, such possibilities can become reality. Let’s explore.
Best Practice #1: Application Development
The first best practice for retailers lies in application development. Not only do new retail applications require compliance with modern devices, they must also provide the best customer experience, tying in elements such as social networking and sharing. Furthermore, IT organizations must also develop guidelines and best practices around application development, quality, and deployment to ensure that customer interests and demands are met as the market changes.
Best Practice #2: Hybrid Cloud Connectivity
To enable the development of the best applications, IT leaders must look to hybrid cloud applications like Bluemix, which allows for the connection of services through the hybrid cloud, allowing for the maximization of on-premise legacy and cloud technologies. Furthermore, developers leveraging Bluemix will also be able to connect to numerous other applications through application programming interfaces to increase capabilities, such as payments, language translation, customer relations management, inventory management, call center applications and data analytics. This ensures that the application can serve the customer best no matter what region, buying habits, or payment scheme they might use to purchase products. Best of all, all of this is available at a far lower cost than traditional platforms.
The other half of hybrid cloud connectivity in this example lies in call center applications. As customers encounter issues with their order, they may also want to reach out to a live human being to get their problems resolved. Though there may not be support agents for each available language, leveraging a platform like Watson or even using bots can be a savvy and global support strategy.
Best Practice #3: Tying Back to WebSphere Application Server
Bringing everything together in this journey is WebSphere Application Server (version 9), which provides the capabilities to connect business logic to the cloud and enhance applications with cloud services. Retail organizations that handle an exceptional amount of data will find WebSphere Application Server helpful because it reduces the need for costly data centers. Tied with Java Enterprise Edition (JEE7), the platform also extends the life of legacy frameworks while innovating towards the future.
Best Practice #4: Evolving Retail Culture
Finally, the ultimate change lies within retail culture. As more customers purchase via online applications, the role of both developers and sales changes within a retail organization. Namely:
- For sales, conversations become more contextual and informational. With more informed customers emerging on the show floor having done their research and experienced the customer journey, employees become key hubs for continued service if needed. They must be more knowledgeable than the customer to be considered exceptional.
- For developers, development becomes more collaborative as DevOps policies are placed into view. They must not only be cognizant of customer demand as communicated through sales, but also be creative in developing more innovative applications that serve needs while remaining elegant.
You can see this play out in the graphic below:
With WebSphere Application Server 9, retailers can experience cloud and mobile interoperability in a standard, industry-leading, highly available platform. Developers and IT leaders alike can enjoy the benefits of hybrid cloud while continuing to innovate for the future to connect applications, compete on the global market, and optimize their technology needs. As we’ve explored in this blog, the transformation occurs across the entire organization, impacting innovation, customer experience, and customer service.
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