How many people could remember the first time they did their first purchase on the internet? Many of those who were born in the 90s can probably not remember a world without internet and internet shopping. As long as there is something to sell, there will always be someone who will be willing to buy. Life has always been about demand and offer. The way we do business has evolved over the years. Retailing has been about selling from a fix location. It has always been about offering services that customers need and want. Retailers have been quick to adopt new ways to market their goods. The internet has helped many retailers achieve greater exposure for their products. What about the new technology called cloud computing? What effect will it have on retail and retailers? Will cloud computing have an impact on retail applications? Is cloud computing a fancy word for what we already do with retail? Let us take a closer look at retail to see if it relates to cloud computing. Cloud Computing What is cloud computing? The easy way to define this is to use an example. If you think of the internet and your favorite search engine, you only have to type in what you want and the results are displayed. You don't have to worry about where the information is located or how the information is retrieved. You are only interested in the services you requested. Cloud computing is something similar. It provides you with the information and the services you want, anytime and anywhere. You don't own the software or hardware, you only pay for the services consumed. Some have said that it is nothing new. They claim it is just a modern marketing strategy, a way of retagging existing services. We shall look into those allegations later. Cloud Computing and Retail Everything that has to do with retail is demand driven. Retailers want to know how people behave; they want to know how they shop; what makes someone buy over the internet and not go into the shops; they want to know how shopping history and shopping experience affect the way people live. Retailers spend thousands of money on market research because they want to "know" and understand their clients. Many retailers were slow to adopt the ecommerce trend. They played a sort of wait and see game because selling and buying over the internet was a new experience. Those retailers, who were slow to adopt internet retailing, are now trying to catch up to well established internet retailers like Amazon and eBay. A lot of companies are now aware of the power and the potential of the internet. They are now willing to tap into it and get a share of the market. That being said, what has cloud computing got to do with retail? Is there any link between the two? We need to step back in time in order to understand the link between retail and cloud computing. When big technology companies started to move away from mainframe to client-server systems, what prompted the move? Technology was the reason behind the move. New ways of doing the same thing became available. In those early days, technology drove businesses. Times have change, businesses now drive technology. The relationship between cloud computing and retail will be driven by the needs of clients and how retailers perceive those needs. Customers don't really care how the services they require are delivered. They are only interested in ease of use and availability. How many people care about how the pizza home delivery gets to them? If it gets there by plane, car, bicycle etc, it doesn't matter. Everyone is just concerned about availability, speed and cost. If the pizza delivery personnel had to break a lot of traffic rules to get the food to you on time, you don't really need to know. Customers are not interested in the inner workings of the company they are dealing with. The same goes for cloud computing and retail. If cloud computing can deliver the services that will help retailers connect better with their clients, they will gladly jump onto the computing cloud. Retail Applications Months before the Ipad became available; Apple gave some privileged newspapers access to the Ipad. This allowed them to develop applications for their sites and offer paid and unpaid services to potential clients. This example highlights the fact that retail applications will be made available if retailers see any potential in them. These applications are already available but they just don't have the cloud branding. Back in the 90s, companies added the letter "e" to every brand just because they wanted to show they were into the internet age. They started with e-commerce, e-writing, e-computing and any word that was available was tagged accordingly. Is this to be expected with cloud computing? Will technology companies start retagging just to show that their services are based on the cloud computing paradigm? Time will reveal if history will repeat itself. This also brings us to the question that was raised at the beginning of this article. Is cloud computing a fancy word for what we already do? Is Cloud Computing a Fancy Word? Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation was quoted when he said that cloud computing was "everything we already do". So, is cloud computing a marketing ploy to get companies and people to buy into proprietary services? If cloud computing is a hype and it is what we already do, then, retail is already in the cloud. If retail is already in the computing cloud, we already have retail applications that are served by the same cloud technology. Look at it from another angle. What if cloud computing is real and not just a fancy word for what we already do? Those who do not believe will be playing catch-up in years to come. Profitability and survival in business is sometimes linked to being at the right place at the right time. You need to monitor market trends and understand what people are searching for. This will help your business stay in tune and be at the cutting edge of technology.