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07.08.18

Storage – why every retailer’s growth depends on it

By Matt Latter, Solutions Architect at telent Technology Services

Data comes in all shapes and sizes – think customer data, product data and financial data – and it’s driving business decisions faster than ever before. And there’s no let-up either. The rise in the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will all create more data.

Retail is one sector undergoing a major digital data transformation, using advanced technologies to generate insights that were once out of reach. Amazon, for example, now uses AI to power its product recommendations and, according to a report, more than a third of Amazon’s sales are driven by its machine-learning-powered recommendation algorithm.

WiFi also opens many opportunities for retail stores. Not only providing a better shopping experience for the customer, but also with the ability to gather user data such as footfall, dwell time and purchase information using analytics, WiFi is providing valuable data that needs storing and processing somewhere.

Retailers more than ever need to make their data work hard for them if they are to survive in the digital economy. The challenge, however, is how they store this sheer volume of data in a way that will enable them to grow, innovate and compete both now and in the future.

 

The future is bright, the future is data-driven

We are already seeing a change in mindset among retailers looking to adopt good data hygiene – an essential component in data analytics. They understand that, if they don’t have a good grasp of the data they hold, they won’t be able to use it to their advantage. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has therefore come at a great time, as it means by law organisations have to review their data and how it is stored, protected and managed.

Everything is underpinned with data, from key business processes through to customer loyalty programmes and personalisation. But do retailers have the IT systems and infrastructure to keep up? And are their storage systems even good enough?

As data continues to expand exponentially, an organisation’s storage infrastructure will be placed under increasing pressure. Any downtime can be disastrous, even more so during busy periods. We all witnessed the websites of several major retailers including Ted Baker and Game fail to cope with the surge in traffic during Black Friday last year.

Failing to prepare for a peak in traffic can cause poor performance, site downtime, and ultimately lost revenue for retailers. Making the same mistake again will also do no favours for brand reputation. After all, customers won’t think twice to shop elsewhere.

Retailers need to get data storage right, investing in solutions that are up to the job and scrapping any legacy systems that can no longer perform. Organisations need to be able to respond, react, and succeed in ways that are often not possible with outdated systems.

 

Finding the right solution, not the best

More and more businesses are taking advantage of cohesive, efficient and easy-to-manage storage solutions to help them streamline IT processes and minimise downtime – including public, private and hybrid cloud storage.

We are also seeing retailers look towards cloud storage. Through capacity planning and trend analysis, the use of automation and orchestration can make flexible scaling a reality.

 

Virtual servers can scale up or down depending on the organisation’s need for computer capacity, which is invaluable given that retailers are notoriously seasonal. Automatically increasing capacity on Black Friday, for instance, can reduce lines at checkout counters and ensure quick service.

Beyond downtime and network capacity, retailers are also choosing storage solutions that encourage them to become better connected. They can no longer accept using siloed data to drive strategy as it makes it near impossible to get a single, accurate view of the business.

People buy products through a variety of channels, which makes data analysis extremely difficult. Information is pulled from a wide range of sources (such as internet searches, websites, apps, email and social media) and therefore stored in separate applications, often in non-compatible formats, resulting in fragmented data. In today’s digital era, integration is critical – and it can only be achieved with a centralised storage solution.

The bottom line is that having the right storage is a deal breaker for retailers. Establishing what data you have, being able to categorise it, process and monetise the value of the data is a key business asset. In fact, every organisation’s growth depends on it. Finding the right solution can be challenging, especially when there are so many suppliers claiming to have the latest and greatest solution.

If you’re in the market for a new storage solution, don’t get distracted by the hype. Choose an established storage provider and one with solid retail experience. Focus on finding a solution that meets your organisation’s current needs and challenges, and one that can adapt as you plan ahead. The Internet of Things and AI might not be within your reach now, but they could well be in the future, and it will change the sector as we know it.

Thankfully, there’s one thing that will remain unchanged – and that’s the need for data storage. With a storage provider that not only caters for storage but offers visibility and control into the compute, virtualisation and application, you’ll be ready for whatever data throws at you.

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