The days of legacy tech stacks and Frankenstein-ed integration solutions are coming to an end. Replacing it are AI-powered cloud-based platforms that integrate easily and provide retailers and brands instant insights.
These solutions provide visibility and data across the entire value chain. And it’s changing the way brands and retailers source, make, market and sell goods.
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“Integrated platforms are the future of commerce for both shoppers and brands,” Remington Tonar, cofounder of cart.com, told WWD. “The ability to connect marketing, sales and distribution channels has the power to improve customer experience across touchpoints on the front-end of commerce and streamline often fragmented operations for brands on the back-end.”
But it doesn’t end there.
Tonar said commerce players “have placed a lot of focus on unifying the front-end of commerce, the pre-purchase and at-purchase experiences that drive customer acquisition and conversion. However, I firmly believe the future will also see integration and unification across post-purchase operations as well.”
While the avenues of integration can vary, one thing is clear: online platforms are making life so much easier for retailers and brands. Take retail sell-throughs. For a typical Monday morning meeting, an apparel or footwear brand used to manually input data into an Excel sheet that listed each stock keeping unit sold from each retail partner. It was a nightmare.
Now vendors and brands are tapping into technology such as Skypad that opens a window into style and location sell-through data across retail partners. Skypad offers an app and a web-based solution that can be accessed anywhere. Skypad fosters greater and more productive collaborations based on style data for retailers.
Cloud technology also improves online and in-store capabilities.
Rick Boretsky, cofounder and managing director of Makira, said retailers and brands are embracing cloud-based solutions “to unlock agility, efficiency and scalability. In today’s world, retailers need to keep pace with change and adapt swiftly to market changes, and cloud technology enables retailers to employ new solutions quickly and at a lower cost.”
When asked if cloud-based solutions improve omnichannel capabilities, Boretsky said, “Absolutely. Cloud technology allows retailers to seamlessly integrate and synchronize their various channels, gathering data from multiple sources in real-time to create a consistent and personalized customer shopping experience.” Boretsky added that Makira provides “a cloud-first integration platform enabling cloud solutions to integrate seamlessly and in real-time.”
And when it comes to inventory management, cloud technology is a game-changer.
Spencer Hewett, chief executive officer and founder of Radar, told WWD that in the context of inventory tracking and management, “retailers and brands are usually dealing with multiple disparate systems (which have the added complexity of often being older pieces of software), which are pieced together with custom integrations.”
“An integrated, cloud-based platform has the two-fold benefit of centralizing operations to one platform and allowing improvements to that system to be made much more efficiently (updating one system versus updating many systems),” Hewett explained. “As a specific example, Radar is a fully integrated cloud platform that allows retailers to understand, in real-time, the precise location of all of their physical inventory across their fleet of stores.”
Hewett said Radar uses overhead RFID to locate 99 percent of products “in real-time (akin to an inventory cycle and headcount) and stores that data in the cloud so the retailer can leverage it in all demand planning, allocation, replenishment and supply chain inventory flows.” Hewett said Radar provides “dashboards, mobile apps and a robust inventory API as a single-source of truth for retailers to understand and optimize their brick-and-mortar inventory operations.”
That phrase, “single-source of truth” popped up again with First Insight. In discussing the value proposition of cloud technology, Greg Petro, CEO and founder of First Insight, said, “An integrated cloud-based platform like First Insight provides a single version of the truth of the data versus silo-based, point solutions. Additionally, an integrated cloud-based platform allows an organization to fully understand and react more quickly, given the consistency of data, providing a competitive advantage of agility. Different departments no longer need to argue the accuracy of each department’s view of their data.”
And it’s all done in real time. Margaret Jastrebski, chief product officer at Stylitics, told WWD that cloud-based platforms “allow brands and retailers real-time integrated access to data and services, giving them the insights, speed and power needed to be extremely responsive to market signals. They can be much faster to engage and inspire shoppers by quickly producing and tracking experiences using the best of these platforms. Retailers can integrate all parts of the shopper journey in one holistic view, take action, and then feed the results back in to create a better result next time.”
For its part, Aptos is offering a POS system, called Aptos One, that leverages “microservices” and cloud-based architecture. Think of it like POS on steroids. Earlier this year, Cole Haan tapped Aptos to use the platform to improve the shopping experience for its customers.
“Aptos One supports one set of universal capabilities, available at any touch point,” Aptos said in a statement at the time of the launch. “Due to its highly composable architecture, Aptos One will provide Cole Haan with unmatched flexibility to deliver new innovations and empower the modern store experience.”
Ron Edwards, chief operating officer of Cole Haan, said that in recent years, “What constitutes a great retail experience has changed dramatically. Our investment in Aptos One reflects our commitment to keeping pace with consumers’ evolving expectations. Aptos One gives Cole Haan enterprise-grade point of sale capabilities that are delivered mobile-first and cloud-native, with highly resilient offline capabilities that give you the confidence of omnichannel transacting anytime and anywhere.”
Aptos describes its POS solutions platform Aptos One as a “unified commerce” solution that mitigates several pain points for retailers. Nikki Baird, vice president of strategy at Aptos, told WWD that when a retailer “is operating with a single source of data and logic for key aspects of its business — such as customer profiles, inventory and promotions — they are going to deliver a more cohesive and elevated experience to the shopper. These retailers are also equipped to operate more profitably and with greater efficiency. That is largely the premise behind Aptos One, a cloud-native, microservices-based platform.”
Baird said Aptos’ goal is to help retailers realize the full benefits of unified commerce, “which is the synchronization between their front-end and back-end systems. A lot of retailers are struggling with what we call ‘systems spaghetti.’ They are bogged down with highly customized and inflexible legacy technologies that limit their ability to adapt quickly to new customer behaviors.”
In response, Aptos created the unified commerce platform with a microservices- and cloud-based architecture. “When we develop solutions on the Aptos One platform, such as Aptos One POS, we assemble interoperable individual services into workflows to create the user experience. With this modular design, when a retailer needs to make any changes to the solution to account for a business need, only a small part of the solution needs to be touched.”
Baird added that brands and retailers can roll out new and differentiating capabilities faster and at a lower cost. “A retailer that can stay in sync with the expectations of their shoppers is going to perform better — that’s what modern technology needs to enable,” she said. “This makes the shopping experience more rewarding for the customer, too.”
Cloud technology is also ideal for brands and retailers looking to grow online globally, said Martim Oliveira, group chief revenue officer at ESW. “Integrated cloud platforms are a game-changer for retailers expanding internationally,” Oliveira said. “This transformative shift offers unmatched scalability, adapting seamlessly to global demands. Cost-efficient models free up resources, while agility ensures quick market adaptation. Personalized customer experiences and real-time inventory updates enhance international [direct-to-consumer] transactions.”
Oliveira noted that centralized data insights can “drive informed decisions, and collaborative features streamline international teamwork. Robust security and disaster recovery ensure operational continuity. Ultimately, harnessing the power of integrated cloud platforms gives retailers a global competitive edge, marked by accelerated time-to-market and a fortified global presence.”
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