The last twelve months have seen dramatic changes in the retail sector. The pandemic has forced the closure of many high street stores, while other businesses like supermarkets, pharmacies and online retailers have experienced a surge in growth. A recent report from Fujitsu confirms that Coronavirus has accelerated digital transformation within the global retail industry. In fact, more than 70% of respondents agree that digital transformation is an essential part of retail technology.
In the latest episode of our IT Channel Perspectives podcast, I had the chance to speak with Peter Noren, Senior Sales Specialist – Data Center & SAP Solutions at Fujitsu Sweden AB, about retail digital transformation, and take an in-depth look at some of the ways that IT channel partners are collaborating to help retail customers to use technology to create a competitive, market edge.
Digital transformation in retail
Peter revealed that in these uncertain and challenging times, he believed every company needs to be more visionary and invest in becoming future-proof – something where IT was pivotal. He also noted the need to build a strong digital ecosystem and acknowledging the expertise of other partners to realise your ambition.
However, while times have been tough for many sectors, IT spending in retail is increasing. The Fujitsu research found that retail organisations are predicting an increase of around 40 percent in their spending, with major areas including digital transformation, comms, networking and cloud.
In retail, Fujitsu is helping customers utilise technology to transform their digital operations and change the in-store customer experiences. For example, Peter mentioned we had recently worked with a high-profile retail organization operating over 400 grocery stores in Sweden.
The customer wanted greater standardisation of IT solutions across all of its stores, with the main catalyst being a focus on reliability. What we learned was that in collaboration with Schneider Electric, Fujitsu was able to standardise and pre-integrate their infrastructure environment, ensuring resilience for business-critical applications in multiple sites.
Further, the edge computing solutions were integrated with the customer’s remote monitoring system, leading to an overall cost reduction, which included savings related to the monitoring and management of the infrastructure.
“We try to be ahead of the curve and anticipate our customer’s needs,” said Peter. “So the early stage pre-sale work, not only around technical questions but also on the economics side, is crucial when standardising across multiple sites, especially when we talk about customers buying in large volumes.”
When it comes to such repeatable orders, planning in line with the customer’s strategy and executing the job in collaboration with the partner is crucial. As such, Schneider Electric was involved in the project from inception and was able to answer any questions around specific site deployments, design criteria, services, warranty and pricing.
Of course, the retail industry is not alone when it comes to the challenges associated with their networks and IT infrastructure. Across all key sectors, organisations are adopting digital transformation strategies, beginning to automate as much as possible and are looking to identify new ways to monetise customer data.
“Data, as we all know, is the new oil, “ said Peter. “Our job is to help customers navigate these areas and find value from their investments. Today most of the companies I talk to look at different hybrid solutions for cloud and on-prem, meaning there is no one size fits all approach.”
Indeed, the main concern across all sectors is still a lack of understanding of on-site, IT infrastructure and the need to have a resilient system that is robust enough to guarantee uptime for the servers, applications and data processing. Many companies continue to outsource to data centre operators, but when it comes back to the on-site and on-premise, there is a lack of awareness of why the IT infrastructure was put in place and how crucial it is to operations.
Importance of partnerships
One key theme that emerged throughout our discussion was that partnership is critical. Today Schneider Electric is helping to simplify edge computing requirements by working with both our channel and Alliance Partners like Fujitsu, to create pre-integrated solutions that overcome edge complexity. This is a growing opportunity for partners supporting end-users in the retail segment where on-site IT is crucial.
As such, we provide our IT solutions providers, resellers and managed service providers (MSPs) partners with sales support, enablement and access to digital tools like our Local Edge Configurator (LEC).
Such tools ensure that partners can guide their customers through the design, specification and installation process, ensuring a repeatable approach to deployment. Further, due to the pre-integrated approach, where we pre-assemble all the products at a factory level, test it and ship it as a single system ready to deploy to our resellers, it reduces much of the cost, complexity and on-site engineering work.
Finally we also have dedicated partner programs, such as the new Edge Software & Digital Services Program, providing financial benefits, enablement and support for IT solution providers to build their own, dedicated Managed Power Services practice.
What’s key is to acknowledge that collaboration between different vendors is absolutely essential for delivering customer digital transformation, no matter their sector.
Here Schneider Electric is ensuring seamless integration capabilities with Alliances Partners like Fujitsu, which result in a reduced cost for customers, alongside increased resiliency, security and availability for business-critical applications.
“Together, we are working to ensure predictability for our joint retail customers,” said Peter. “Partnerships are crucial today and especially when it comes to being successful in digital transformation. No one organisation is able to achieve this by themselves.”
“IDC predicts that 35 percent of large companies in Europe will participate in various partnerships,” he continued. “Meaning a collaborative approach to end-user digital transformation is crucial.
Experience has shown that those who participate in partnerships are more successful in their growth, and at Schneider Electric, we know that the insight and expertise of our partners is fundamental.
How digital transformation is accelerating growth within the retail industry, with Fujitsu can be accessed here.
To learn more about mySchneider IT Solutions Provider Partner program – visit the website.