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The popular furniture chain IKEA have grown their cloud and digital technology transformation journey thanks to the agility that they have displayed during the lockdowns throughout Coronavirus. This is largely down to the so-called “data analytics revolution” that has happened as a result of businesses being forced into transformative efforts.

Recently, speaking at one of Google’s Cloud EMEA events, the Chief Digital Officer for the IKEA retail section; Barbara Martin Coppola spoke regarding how the company had come a ‘very, very long way’ in their transformation into a much more digitally enabled company; from what used to be simply all retail based.

“We have seen that the whole company has come together to deliver in a matter of days what would have taken a lot longer – months, sometimes – before Covid,” she explained during a blog post following the Google EMEA event.

She further outlined in the same post that the process behind this transformation was largely down to being agile adaptation; something that was forced upon the business and needed them to act incredibly quickly in order to ensure that they were doing the right thing to keep going through a time where people were unable to visit their stores. Thanks to this, they transformed their tech infrastructure and converted any of their existing closed retail stores into huge fulfillment centers that were well placed and enabled to service large numbers of customers thanks to their already wide spread of physical locations.

“An adaptation strategy was important for our business whilst undergoing this period of change. We transformed our current technology infrastructure, converted our closed stores into fulfilment centres and enabled contactless click and collect services whilst increasing the capacity to manage large web traffic volumes and online orders. By using Google Cloud, among other key serverless technologies, we were able to instantly scale our business globally, on the web and in our stores,” she added.

As cited, Google Cloud was something that the company used heavily in order to help staff from different locations really make the most of isolation by enhancing their offering and productivity through the use of cloud computing – something that they felt as absolutely key to increasing the digital adoption across the board at the retail giant.

They also then forwarded their digital offering through their German branches to enable the use of Google Cloud through the Google maps platform; which helped them to build a vastly improved and user-friendly store locator – this gave their customers an easily accessible and usable platform to find their stores plus also give the visibility of locations with the certain stock that they were looking for. Additionally, the project for digital expansion is not stopping there as they are now looking into ways to enhance the usage of Virtual and Augmented Reality to help shoppers preview their furniture whilst remaining at home; a virtual “try before you buy”. No longer will the sofa look out of place in your living room!

Barbara Martin Coppola said that the process of making sure that they have a data-centricity and using the AI to help with machine decision making had been an ongoing process for almost four years. She also cited that Google’s Cloud had been “absolutely essential” to this process of ongoing transformation and digitisation. 

“We have been able to concentrate our efforts into creating new experiences for customers [and] co-workers, without having to be on difficult infrastructure, understanding and predicting how much capacity we would need. Thanks to cloud we are able to do a data analytics revolution. This is only possible through cloud – before, with on-premise, it was not possible capacity-wise [or] computing-wise.”

IKEA seem to have become an absolute example of how a business who are typically physical in location can then move quickly into a digital space quickly thanks to the agility and prior planning that they had available to them. As a high-value customer to Google due to the industry that they reside (retail); this specific sector has been the target of many different analysts who keep a constant check on the software and services that the industry uses across all large companies (Walmart et al).

Back in December 2018; IKEA was listed as being a customer of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and when the infrastructure behemoth opened data centers in IKEA’s native Sweden, that’s where it seemed they would remain. IKEA then opened up the idea of selling products directly on Amazon’s marketplace and it was likely that the cloud functionality of AWS had something to do with this decision.

This further shows the importance of cloud technology and software agility to companies across all industries; not just in retail.

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