On a flight back home from London, I found the catchy headline “Clicks meet Bricks” in British Airways’ magazine “business life”. The article highlights the new age of retail, showing how Amazon Go, Alibaba’s Hema or Farfetch from the UK work and try to close the gap between the digital and analog world to provide a hybrid shopping experience.
However, the article does not discuss the tremendous impact of one of the major trends in retail on service providers. Although cloud computing has become a crowded space among service providers, still many traditional providers prefer cloud enablement of their customers from the bottom-up. Service providers typically help to move, operate and manage existing infrastructure and legacy applications from on-premises environments, data centers or colocations onto a cloud environment for cost-efficiency. Only a minority focus on the top-down approach where the capabilities of cloud technologies and services are analyzed, and novel business opportunities are created based on cloud. In fact, cloud computing serves as the foundation for a number of game-changing technologies and expedites digital business.
Service providers are no longer responsible for merely keeping IT operational activities running. They must start acting as true business enablers to make a difference. Identifying common trends and the needs of enterprises are critical to stay relevant in a cloud-first world, where every service provider offers the same portfolio of standardized (infrastructure) cloud-based services.
One area for differentiation is the empowerment of business opportunities at the digital touchpoint – like a retail store. This is the environment where the business interacts directly with customers using all sorts of devices (e.g., mobile, kiosk terminals, ATMs and wearables) and services. Gartner estimates that, through 2020, 80% of large enterprises will integrate customer touchpoints to increase revenue, profits and satisfaction. The cloud is the technological foundation of digital touchpoints and serves via the edge with the current most important emerging technologies that help to engage closer with customers. Hence, service providers must take the cloud as given and elaborate their cloud-first strategies with the following three technologies to start empowering their customers with business opportunities at the digital touchpoint:
- Edge computing extends the cloud and transports resources closer (back and forth) to the digital touchpoint. This includes services like data collection, content delivery, information processing and data analytics. Forty-three percent of enterprises have an edge strategy to support their IoT agenda.
- Intelligent automation enables new business opportunities at the digital touchpoint through a better understanding of customers, data-driven personalization and more conversational experience. This augmentation of intelligence leads to a deeper customer engagement when delivered through edge computing to the digital touchpoint.
- Blockchain opens new business capabilities at the digital touchpoint that conduct a value-exchange interaction. Examples include smart contracts, mobile payments, supply chain, logistics, shipping, voter registration, healthcare, check authenticity and real-time transactions.
I am looking forward to talking to you!
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