Exclusive Q&A: Tyson Cornell, PwC U.S. consumer markets leader

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Cloud computing not only provides a competitive advantage for retailers, it is becoming a necessity for operational success.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Tyson Cornell, consumer markets industry Leader, PwC U.S., about how cloud technology is evolving in the post-pandemic landscape into a required tool for offering customers the flexible, omnichannel experience they expect. PwC also shared some data from a recent survey of retail executives about their usage of cloud technology.

What are the biggest advantages cloud technology offers retailers?
Consumer-facing companies were among the hardest hit by the pandemic and resulting economic fallout. Now, they are facing the challenge of restoring growth as well as sustaining new revenue streams. 

Retailers are turning to cloud-based digital transformations to help. The biggest retail cloud success story has been improving resilience, agility, and security, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. Nineteen percent of consumer markets executives say they’ve already realized substantial value. 

Today’s reality is everything is shoppable, and retailers need to show up wherever their customers are. This is where the cloud’s greatest potential comes into play. It enables retailers to meet customers in new channels with greater convenience, leading to increased brand loyalty and buying frequency.

Are there specific verticals or types of retailers who can especially benefit from the cloud?
Any company of any size in the retail space will benefit greatly from the cloud. Put simply, the cloud is the new technology backbone of retail. Our survey found consumer markets executives expect to see improved decision-making through better data analytics (31%), improved resilience and agility (45%) and better customer experiences (30%) as the primary outcomes driven by the cloud. Retailers that hold special shopping events can leverage the cloud’s ability to scale up for those events and back down as necessary, instead of paying for that capacity all year round.

Are retailers who continue to lag on cloud destined to fail?
Cloud technology is vital for digital transformation so it’s hard to imagine a retailer will be successful without it being a central part of the strategy. The cloud is continually evolving, meaning there is a ton of room for further innovation and advancement, but we found a few common obstacles the industry can learn from. 

Cloud requires a broader transformation with new metrics, governance and organizational structures. For example, it’s important to define roles and responsibilities related to cloud ownership and address a lack of technology talent. Procuring new cloud capabilities can be simple but that ease can also mean redundant solutions, leading to increased costs and integration complexity, ultimately slowing down operations or failing to deliver value. We found the challenge isn’t simply adoption, it’s defining the vision, talent and processes for reaching the cloud’s full potential. 

Interesting findings from PwC’s consumer markets cloud technology survey include:

•    34% of consumer markets executives, compared to 19% of executives overall, measure cloud value by revenue growth.
•    11% of consumer markets companies report substantial value in using cloud solutions to increase profits, while 6% say the same for boosting innovation.
•    The top two barriers to turning cloud solutions into bottom-line growth and consistent innovation reported by consumer markets companies are a lack of alignment and clarity on roles and responsibilities relating to cloud ownership (68% vs. 48% overall), as well as a lack of tech talent (68% vs. 51% for all sectors). Other obstacles include governance, value measurement and stakeholder engagement.