TechBytes: Cloud computing trendspotting

Constantly feeling the pressure to innovate, more retailers are reaching for the cloud to stay on their game. As adoption accelerates, so are retailers’ expectations, making companies eager for new cloud-based innovations.

The following trends, gleaned during the recent Oracle Industry Connect conference in New York, reveal how platforms are evolving and what brands can expect from the next wave of cloud computing:

Increased growth of applications that extend the value of IoT

There are already 7 billion smart devices, and volume will grow to 50 billion devices in five years, according to Douglas Suriano, senior VP and general manager of Oracle communications global business unit.

To harness the rising amount of customer data flowing between these devices, from smartphones and tablets to wearables and appliances, retailers need solutions that can quickly process this information and apply it to customer-facing operations. While many companies already rely on the cloud to access data-driven applications, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and voice recognition, the next wave of cloud-based solutions will focus on evolving “intelligent” solutions, such as blockchain, biometrics, sentiment analysis and robotics. These applications will keep companies on the cutting edge, and improve how they engage customers.

Integration of “connected” applications within cloud platforms

As IoT experiences increasingly become a priority for retailers, they need easy access to supportive, data-rich applications. However, there are challenges to leveraging these solutions. In addition to not wanting to manage hardware and software on-premise, “these solutions are expensive,” said Luis Malave, VP of applications for Lucky Brand. “Retailers can’t spend trillions of dollars on systems, but we still need to be prepared for the changing connected landscape.”

As cloud providers begin marketing these solutions as standard components within their platforms, retailers will have immediate access to applications — especially solutions that can strengthen the customer experience, such as voice, AR and VR, and machine learning. An all-inclusive platform also eliminates the cost of software licenses or bolstering IT teams with dedicated data scientists.

Evolution of autonomous, “self-healing” platforms

The cloud is synonymous for automatically sharing application updates, upgrades and new functionality with users as soon as they are available.

To ensure these updates are secure, cloud providers will begin embedding self-diagnostic databases and machine learning tools designed to monitor and diagnose the health and security of all applications available on the platform. If an anomaly or an outage is detected, the database can run a software patch to repair the issue, a move that ensures the security and integrity of the business application for all users.

Monetized loyalty applications

Consumers expect more personalized experiences and access to information from social influencers — two factors that are taking a toll on traditional loyalty programs. As a result, retailers are reaching for the cloud in search of new, more flexible loyalty models.

Overall, retailers need to move away from mass discounts and promotions and instead adopt programs that reward specific shopping behavior. From subscription-based memberships to rewarding customers for sharing experiences on social media, loyalty programs will become more meaningful and personalized and retailers will find it easier to engage with customers.