AWS for Industries

How Small and Mid-sized Canadian Retailers Are Innovating with the Cloud

The retail landscape has seen enormous change over the last year. Retailers must innovate fast or risk obsolescence. Many are developing digital commerce platforms, expanding their fulfillment options, and working hard to improve customer experiences to match new consumer expectations. It all starts with a move to the cloud.

AWS recently held a roundtable discussion with three small- and medium-sized (SMB) Canadian retailers to encourage local Canadian companies to share and learn from one another. We wanted to hear about their journey to the AWS Cloud—what they’ve learned and how they are delivering the best customer experiences using AWS solutions. Our roundtable featured Abdel-salam Aldwikat, CTO at Revive Superfoods; Mike DeBruin, Director of IT and Operations at Mabel’s Labels; and Jackson Lau, Cofounder of Parts Engine. Here are a few highlights from our discussion.

Core Needs of SMB Retailers

Consumer behavior and expectations have shifted dramatically. The pandemic only hastened it. One of the biggest challenges for retailers of all sizes is how to provide a great consumer experience to meet those heightened expectations. For retail SMBs, this is particularly challenging, because they lack the resources of large competitors.

Ability to scale: More than ever, retail SMBs to cost-effectively deal with rapid or uneven growth while enhancing the consumer experience. Mable’s Labels is an ecommerce company that sells labels for children’s clothes and other belongings. The business is extremely seasonal; events like the start of school or summer camps drive huge sales. Peak periods generate ten times the average orders, which means they need to drastically scale up order fulfillment and their ecommerce experience. A cloud infrastructure makes it possible for Mabel’s Labels to scale quickly.

Access to innovative tech: Even if their budgets are limited, smaller retailers still need access to innovative technologies to meet consumer expectations. Machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and innovative security technologies are usually too costly to implement on your own. Parts Engine, an online vehicle parts and accessory business, is keenly aware that security is job one. But they were not security experts, nor was their IT staff.  By migrating to an innovative cloud-based security, the Parts Engine IT staff was freed up for more pressing business innovation.

Support IT systems with limited staff: Let’s face it, SMB retailers typically do not have the resources to fully and cost-effectively manage all of their IT infrastructure. Wearing many hats and having limited resources, SMB retailers lack the back-end resources to support new technologies. For Mable’s Labels, a cloud-based infrastructure helped free up IT resources to focus more on consumer-facing initiatives and less on maintaining their infrastructure.

Realize lower, more predictable costs: SMBs understand that every tech dollar is precious and that there is little room for failed projects or needless purchases. The costs of managing data centers, servers, and software upgrades are considerable. Subscription-based Revive Superfoods realized the cost of building and maintaining traditional data centers did not make sense for their business model.  From a cost perspective, a cloud-based infrastructure made more sense. It provides them with savings that can be invested in growing their brand and enhancing their consumer experience.

Considerations for Retailers Pursuing Digital Transformations

With limited resources and fierce competition, SMB retailers need the flexibility and agility provided by a cloud-based infrastructure to get to market quickly and exceed consumer expectations, but our panel said that there are some considerations:

Implement simple governance: Although the cloud offers agility and sandboxes for testing new tech, be aware that it can result in a proliferation of services and workloads in your account. Take early steps to implement a simple governance plan that can guide resource usage.

Get buy-in from all stakeholders: It’s not just about getting buy-in from the business side. Your IT staff must also be committed to the cloud. Getting support from all team members is crucial to your digital transformation success.

Adopt the right strategy: Start by having a compelling business case for moving to the cloud. Then work with your cloud partner to plan what’s in your environment, identify interdependencies, and determine a migration plan for each application that includes the effort required.

Born from retail and built for retailers, AWS empowers retail businesses to reinvent the store and customer experiences, while driving operational efficiencies and IT agility. With AWS cloud solutions, retailers can innovate faster, keep costs down, and scale effortlessly as their business grows.

As the pioneer in cloud-based architectures, AWS can guide SMB retailers as they transform their businesses with proven, industry-specific cloud solutions and services. AWS experts can guide you through your cloud adoption, from strategy to implementation.

To hear more from our roundtable discussion about how SMB retailers are innovating with AWS Cloud technologies, watch Canadian SMB Retailers’ Journey to the Cloud. To learn more about how you can begin your own digital transformation journey with AWS, contact your account team today or visit the Retail on AWS and Digital Commerce Solutions on AWS pages.

Betty Chung

Betty Chung

Betty Chung is the SMB marketing lead at Amazon Web Services in Canada where she develops marketing strategies and programs to empower small and medium businesses with cloud to accelerate their digital transformations and realize their growth potential. Prior to joining AWS, Betty led initiatives and teams across industries, including food and beverage retail, automotive retail, and delivery/transportation technology.

Ed Jimenez

Ed Jimenez

Ed Jimenez is the Global Head of Retail Industry Marketing at Amazon Web Services where he helps retailers leverage the power of the cloud to accelerate their digital transformation. Prior to joining AWS, Ed served as VP of Marketing for Sight Machine, led Cisco’s industry and retail marketing teams, and was a retail/CPG technology analyst with Gartner.