It was on a cloud-based Christmas night, when omnichannel retailing became the right way to go

4 December 2012 -

Richard Goodley, Managing Director at Davidson Richards, explains how cloud technology can make small and mid-sized retailers' Christmas wish for increased sales - in 2012 and beyond - come true.

A cloud-based retail solution will allow SMEs to keep up with the demand for omnichannel by integrating selling to the millions on eBay and Amazon, e-commerce and m-commerce into their retail solution - at a fraction of the anticipated cost. The nature of a cloud-based solution also allows SMEs to scale and flex the number of in-store lanes and tills depending on demand, paying only for what they use that month - no more crushing Christmas queues then.

As ever, an increase in sales is at the top of the Christmas list for small and mid sized retailers. This year, the combined pressures of producing an omnichannel strategy to remain competitive with the likes of John Lewis and attracting squeezed Christmas shoppers who are expected to spend less this festive season, means it isn't going to be easy for Santa to deliver the desired results this time round. And, with the British economy looking likely to remain bleak until 2018 and consumer demand for omnichannel  rising at a rapid pace, retailers need a strategy that deals not just with Christmas but for the next five years.

Cloud is almost certainly the answer. OpSuite, a new cloud-based retail solution for SMEs developed by Davidson Richards, Microsoft's leading European RMS development partner, offers small and mid sized retailers three particular benefits that will enable them to meet Christmas highs and summer lows for many years to come.

Meet the millions

Amazon and eBay are Christmas shopping destinations of choice for many UK consumers. On the peak Christmas shopping day last year, Amazon dispatched a truck every two minutes and 45 seconds from their 550,000sq ft warehouse near Milton Keynes.

So, it will come as good news to SMEs that such online marketplaces can also be easily integrated into the retail solution, giving them easy access to the millions of consumers who use them, particularly to purchase gifts over the festive season.

A very merry omnichannel Christmas

Christmas 2012 has put a lot of pressure on all retailers to showcase their omnichannel approach and give customers the best shopping experience possible. According to a forecast from the e-retailers' industry body IMRG and consultants Capgemini, internet sales are predicted to hit £4.6bn in the first two weeks of December, with £1bn of goods snapped up via mobile devices. Retailers can of expect this sort of growth to continue year on year.

Small and mid-sized retailers have to bow to the pressure if they want to remain competitive. The use of a cloud-based retail solution can help them offer seamless omnichannel trading, pricing and promotional consistency - which is precisely what shoppers are expecting. If a customer feels frustrated that an offer they saw in store is not available on the retailer's mobile internet site, then they won't hang about - it takes but a second to open a new tab and run a new search for a similar product from a different retailer.

Scale and flex to meet Christmas peaks and summer troughs

With so much festive focus on m-commerce and e-commerce this year, it is easy to by-pass the significance of the 'in-store' element or the fact that £3.2bn of in-store Christmas sales will be influenced by smartphones this season. Millions of shoppers will be hitting the high street to make the final purchase and the best way to confirm the sale and ensure they return is to make the in-store experience as smooth as possible.

There is little capital expenditure involved in implementing OpSuite, meaning that retailers can open extra lanes for Christmas and simply pay for the period of time - say the month of December - that they use the extra tills for. They can then close the extra lanes once the rush is over and pay nothing more until they open them again next Christmas.

Customers don't have to experience the classic Christmas queuing crush and retailers don't have to waste money on services they don't need during periods of lower demand. However, most importantly, the happy customer is the one who will be returning with their wallet in each subsequent new year.