Why Are Retailers Moving POS to the Cloud?

In today’s increasingly competitive retail environment, companies are each facing a unique collection of challenges as they try to meet consumer expectations, especially in a time of economic uncertainty. And that’s where technology solution companies, like Oracle, have come in — providing not only explanations but the tools to overcome those barriers.

To dig deeper into the leading challenges facing brands today and explore how one brand used Oracle’s technology to achieve decreased infrastructure costs and smoother integrations to loyalty and promotions programs, Megan Douglas, chief digital and information officer at Maurices, Nick Reinbold, senior vice president of Logic, and Rose Spicer, head of global retail marketing at Oracle, sat down with WWD’s executive editor of strategic content development, Arthur Zaczkiewicz, in a live webinar hosted by WWD.

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Spicer said that in Oracle’s research conducted while building its solutions, the company found five key trends that identify what is plaguing the industry: changing consumer expectations, economic uncertainty, supply chain disruption, executing sustainability goals and finding talent.

In the fashion industry, in particular, brands and retailers have heavily discussed generative AI’s use in areas like marketing and customer engagement, while deciphering potential ROI. “It’s figuring out how to bring the right talent in and how to get them spending time on the most strategic things possible with the opportunity to automate but also to enable and empower associates to deliver a better experience for them,” Spicer said.

In her role, Spicer said she has seen retailers be innovative across channels, especially when faced with supply chain disruptions and rethinking stores to fulfill demand in different ways. And the pandemic forced much of this innovation as retailers figured out how to serve their customers.

“The customer experience is critical. Seventy-five percent of American shoppers say that the customer experience is a deciding factor when choosing between competing brands,” Spicer said. “Making sure that you have empowered associates, that you have the right products in store, that you deliver a positive experience, that you have a beautiful, merchandised store so people can find the sizes and styles that they’re looking for [is important].”

Also worth noting, she said, is that “Amazon has changed the way we all think about shopping. We expect [our orders] in the next couple of days. My mom is almost 80 and she expects to get anything she orders in a day.” Moreover, Spicer said it pays for customers to feel loved and appreciated, with store associates playing a major role. Around 80 percent of customers are even willing to share personal data in exchange for better customer experiences and 41 percent of companies who say they are “customer-obsessed” report a 10 percent greater revenue growth over the previous fiscal year.

An example of how Oracle’s technology solutions have worked to combat these common challenges facing brands today can be seen in its partnership with Maurices and Logic. The female specialty retailer currently has just under 900 locations across the U.S. and Canada with headquarters in Duluth, Minn., and a design studio in Brooklyn. The brand offers inclusive sizing from size zero to 24 and is primarily based in small and mid-markets.

What makes Maurices stand out from other brands, said Douglas is the brand’s style, community and service. “About half of our stores are in communities with 50,000 people or less and [we] really home in on our hometown mentality.” Prompting the company’s need for change when the brand partnered with Logic and Oracle was a separation from Maurices’ parent company.

“We’re a retailer so everything we do is under a lens of profitability and revenue and how is this going to affect the bottom line,” Douglas said. “Becoming a stand-alone, private entity, we were looking at what we needed to invest in and what we could do to set ourselves up as our own company for the first time. It was an opportunity to remove technical debt, streamline a lot of our technical operations but then also kind of leapfrog to a modern platform. In addition to that, anything we do we want to have the customer at the center of it and so what can we do about loyalty and omni channel so really be bringing our digital customer into the store.”

To do this, Maurices began to rebuild retail operations from scratch. The company implemented Oracle Retail Xstore, Sales Audit, Campaign Management and Customer Engagement combined with a full hardware refresh in 28 months. The project touches its nearly 900 stores and 10,000 store associates, which underwent training and change management. Hardware in stores was also replaced with new POS registers and new pin pads, new scanners, among other technology.

Answering why the company moved its POS to the cloud, Douglas said Maurices experienced some quick wins in addition to ongoing successes. “So there were some immediate and obvious improvements in just moving to the latest and greatest technology, such as email receipts are faster, it’s much easier to suspend and resume transactions, and an overall faster checkout process that has promotions integrated and automatically applied for the customer.”

Moreover, Douglas said, that investing in POS is an expensive endeavor. “Anytime you’re going to tackle a complex project like this, where you’re touching so many users and locations, it’s a tough decision. And really for us, I think a key point in moving to a cloud-based POS is that it really helps a retailer like us having someone as a partner manage the infrastructure and integration and it’s built into that platform. That’s one less complexity on my team side that we’re having to manage and really enables future flexibility in third-party integrations.”

When launching Maurices’ new system, Reinbold said, Maurices and Logic prioritized what to get done in the initial release, strategizing what to launch with monthly releases. Reinbold pointed to several lessons learned during the pandemic with the industry now permanently shifted and an understanding that there is a need to support agility and flexibility through rapid deployments of functionality several times a year.

“We’re steering around the holidays and making sure that we’re not disturbing the holiday freeze,” Reinbold said. “So, I think that the first thing is you need to be able to update your system regularly. And stakeholder buy-in is key — everyone needs to work as a single unit.”

During the rollout, Reinbold said there were some initial speedbumps, including the need for modifications on organization operations to work within the cloud and embrace leading practices. He called out Oracle’s support and Logic rolled out its project with Maurices, noting the company’s expertise in working with nuances and challenges of migrating mass amounts of data. It’s a collaborative process, one that has built a system specifically for Maurices needs.

“Getting creative across all of the different touchpoints is what ultimately contributed to the value that we got out of it and then ultimately the support that we got from the executive team and private equity owners who were making a really large investment in making sure Maurices was stood up for success,” Douglas said.

Today, the company is in a run-state mode, where every two months new updates and releases are added to make sure that the stores stay on pace with the customer and business initiatives that allow for flexibility. Beyond quick wins of seeing smoother operations in store with immediate support of store associates, Maurices has seen a speed to market with infrastructure to help scale, improved omnichannel customer experience and smooth integrations with loyalty, promotions and credit cards.

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