With shifts in consumer behaviour spurred by cost-of-living pressures, retailers have little choice but to adapt and innovate, especially as we begin the new financial year and move towards some of 2024’s biggest sales periods.

As retailers face these challenges alongside increasing competition and changing market dynamics, adopting strategies to stay agile, harness data, leverage scalable cloud solutions, and optimise operational costs is essential for sustainability and profitability.

Adapting to changing consumer expectations

In a competitive market, meeting evolving customer demands requires agility, and that starts with embracing a customer-centric approach and prioritising the understanding and anticipation of consumer needs. A good place to start is personalising the customer experience, which involves implementing personalised marketing strategies and tailored shopping experiences based on individual customer preferences.

Taking this a step further, retailers can then work towards creating a seamless shopping experience across various channels, including online, in-store, and mobile platforms. Finally, responsive customer service and support to address inquiries and resolve issues quickly is crucial and is a key area where retailers can foster loyalty and drive repeat business.

Forecasting customer behaviour with predictive models

Data-driven insights are crucial for tailoring marketing and sales strategies effectively. While retailers have been leveraging these systems for years to segment and target consumers more effectively, predictive models are quickly becoming the standard as many strive to stay ahead of trends and purchasing behaviours.

Implementing real-time data analytics to monitor customer interactions and adjust strategies dynamically is essential, but utilising predictive models to forecast trends, anticipate demand, and optimise inventory management is where retailers can really see benefits. Experts in digital transformation can provide invaluable guidance, helping retailers identify the best-fit, best-value infrastructure and services to stay competitive.

Experienced engineers working with leading applications and backend retail workloads support multiple retailer business models, assisting with application migrations, upgrades, scaling, security, compliance, application usage, and maximising application performance and uptime.

Scaling teams, not just scalable tech solutions

Scalability is a well-known subject to retailers, yet some still struggle to ensure site and infrastructure reliability during traffic spikes, many of which occur during major promotional events. Operational scalability is especially challenging for retailers as it’s often dependent on human capital and the need to hire a relatively large number of people over a short period, but it’s not impossible to address.

Scalable cloud solutions mean retailers can efficiently manage their operations during peak periods, providing a seamless shopping experience for customers and more robust security measures to protect sensitive data. This also reduces the need for significant upfront investments in IT infrastructure as services can be adjusted to demand. On the human capital side, having reliable solution partners matters.

For instance, a retailer with a low-cost, high-quantity sales model faced challenges when their eCommerce platform could not scale to support high traffic during key dates like Black Friday. This resulted in revenue loss, poor visibility, and lack of communication.

To address this, the retailer engaged with experienced cloud resources to guide their project and deliver a successful outcome quickly. The solution involved a flexible and scalable team with expertise in platform engineering, DevOps, and migration competencies. Within three months, this approach ensured ongoing support and day two operations, providing resilience, flexibility, and growth.

Optimising operational costs

Improving operational costs doesn’t mean compromising product or service quality; there are many ways to enhance the bottom line while still maintaining high service standards and customer satisfaction. Before looking at ‘what can be cut back’, it’s best to approach cost reduction from the perspective of ‘what can be improved’.

One approach is implementing automation technologies to reduce manual tasks and enhance efficiency and labour costs; another is adopting energy-efficient technologies and practices to lower utility expenses. Both examples, if implemented appropriately, show that business efficiency and operations can be improved without compromising product or service quality and reduce costs.

In the face of cost-of-living pressures and shifting consumer behaviours, retailers must adapt and innovate how they navigate challenges and seize growth opportunities. While tried and true methods still apply, success means taking that next step to not just meet but stay ahead of costs, demand, and consumer expectations in the new financial year.

Martin Dube is vice president of public cloud for Asia Pacific & Japan at Rackspace Technology.