It can be tempting to assume that the major market trends and developments in companies' operational models aren't directly connected to the different types of technologies that those businesses have in place. Sure, sophisticated applications and cloud hosting infrastructure can help your small or mid-sized business carry out its necessary functions more quickly and efficiently, but can they actually make new strategies possible where they weren't feasible before?
The answer, it turns out, is yes. Even in cases where major business trends were directly driven by the release of new technology, cloud services can enable firms to push their operations in new directions, expand into untapped markets and put aside old, outdated processes. If your business is on the cutting edge of one of these three trends, here's how the cloud can work for you.
1. Food and beverage on the go
Food trucks have become an everyday sight in many major cities in the United States. At lunch hour, office workers flood urban squares and wait in often-long lines for the unique, high-quality dishes served up by these mobile eateries. The trend is catching on: Forward-thinking businesses like Boston's Coffee Cart have expanded the food truck model to gourmet espresso beverages. According to Emergent Research, the National Restaurant Association estimates that food trucks bring in $650 million in revenue each year, about 1 percent of the entire restaurant industry. While that might not seem like much, more growth is on the horizon: Emergent expects the food truck market to hit $2.7 billion by 2017, accounting for 3 to 4 percent of total revenue in the sector.
At first glance, the food truck scene might seem distantly removed from the high-tech world of cloud computing - but in fact, the cloud underlies many of the technologies that these on-the-go businesses are using every day. Many food trucks have adopted mobile credit card processing solutions, and these applications are often based on cloud storage and data delivery. With cloud-based mobile point-of-sale technologies, food truck owners can save time by eliminating the need to constantly handle cash and cut costs by not having to install POS terminals at every new truck location. These benefits open up the possibility of expanding operations and growing the business where they may not have otherwise been possible.
2. Omnichannel retail
With the rise of e-commerce has come the consumer expectation of omnichannel service - that is, a support experience that remains consistent whether the customer is in-store or shopping online. ResearchandMarkets recently announced the release of a study that shows how the availability of cloud-based automatic call distributor (ACD) technology is pushing this trend forward.
"They also increasingly provide chat, mobile, SMS/text and social media support, along with customer analytics, call recording and workforce management software, referred to as agent performance optimization (APO). In addition, hosted ACDs often have integrations with CRM solutions. Vendors have also paid careful attention to ensuring the reliability and security of cloud delivery," the researchers wrote.
By integrating such a wide variety of platforms into a comprehensive customer service ecosystem, the cloud is helping to make truly omnichannel retail a reality.
3. Rethinking the traditional office
The trend toward remote, flexible work has been ongoing for some time, and while it isn't a market development, it does represent a very clear set of value propositions for a range of businesses and sectors. Not only do work-from-home options give current employees the opportunity to set their own schedules and work in ways that are most productive for them, it also enables firms to bring remote talent onto their teams. With cloud-based delivery of key business mobile and Web applications, your SMB can steadily develop a national or even global presence.