Retail customers are more demanding than ever before. Each requires personalized guest experiences across both on-line and physical storefronts. The rapid integration and consistent view of customer information across omni-channel interactions are a driving force behind the new digital economy. To foster relevant and meaningful customer relationships that create positive sentiment, drive loyalty and inspire advocacy; retailers must enable a seamless experience across all touchpoints – online, in-app, on location and especially during customer support phone calls.

Online sales accounted for 11.1% of retail sales in Q1 of this year. InternetRetailer recently reported on another big quarter for the e-commerce market, as web sales totaled $86.3 billion for the period ending March 31, a 15.1% increase over $75.0 billion in the first quarter of 2015.

These numbers are obviously impressive and conjure recognition and accolades for the eCommerce teams doing a phenomenal job out there, as they should, but we have to at the same time recognize that online sales are not only a result of customer’s eCommerce experience. Sales are driven from a culmination of brand interactions working in tandem, like the customer’s in-store experience, their access to reviews and sentiment on social platforms, and their trusted relationship with the brand. Building such trust and loyalty isn’t easy, and it starts with a strong foundational infrastructure supporting and integrating data across each customer touchpoint. Customers rely on merchants to provide secure, always-on eCommerce experiences. Yet many struggle to capture the power of new retail digital transformations. And their problem is the IT infrastructure.

Many online sellers are still unprepared. In fact, 40 percent of retailers claim back-office technology is the No. 1 issue hampering eCommerce strategies. Companies must build infrastructures with the flexibility, scalability, and reliability to keep pace with emerging requirements. Unfortunately, most lack the right foundation to adequately manage the application ecosystem of a complex eCommerce environment, let alone an omni-channel environment that integrates data for a cohesive customer experience. Many retailers are surviving by hosting their eCommerce ecosystem on legacy systems, and don’t even realize the cost, uptime and resiliency advantages of moving toward a hybrid environment.

And it’s more than a technology issue – with departments hampered by lack of IT staff they lack the resources available invest in strategic hybrid and cloud initiatives. To arm the business with reliable and intelligent eCommerce solutions – and accelerate effectiveness of popular retail solutions like SAP Hybris – organizations should be looking to  service providers with expertise in managing, hosting, and providing the security and network resiliency of these complex environments, while the business can allocate their focus on revenue generating activities.

But it’s not just about throwing the workload to any partner. Not all partners have the same expertise and not all partners are willing to partner with you and dedicate the focus on your eCommerce presence the way you demand. Given newly stringent requirements, service provider offerings need to lead with best-of-breed technologies – fully supported by deep partnerships with leading technology providers to construct integrated solutions. By orchestrating a seamless environment where workloads are hosted in the appropriate hybrid environments that meet the workload demands, and provide ease of management across the hybrid environment, the best partner with the right hosting and network capabilities and focused eCommerce application expertise can generate the necessary IT scalability, flexibility, and agility to ensure the uptime and resiliency of your current and future customer demands.

CenturyLink Hybrid IT hosting and network solutions coupled with its eCommerce ecosystem application management services (AMS) expertise are designed for just that purpose. As a dedicated provider, we’re uniquely positioned to offer business and solution flexibility across a full suite of computing and communication platforms – from dedicated cloud and managed hosting to colocation and remote infrastructure management (RIM) for on-premise infrastructures, all enabled by its high-speed NFV/SDN enabled global network. For retailers, one of the most powerful solutions are enabled with Hewlett Packard Enterprise as the foundation. These high performance server, storage and networking technologies ensure businesses can store, manage and analyze core information with unprecedented speed. It also provides the agility to support applications that match emerging customer needs for today and tomorrow.

The lines between physical and digital climates are increasingly being blurred. Retailers must act now to create an infrastructure for the next new digital economy. Backed by the power of HPE, CenturyLink’s broad-based Hybrid IT offerings deliver a key piece of eCommerce puzzle. Build your to success now. Contact CenturyLink today – or risk being left behind.

To learn more about how CenturyLink and HPE can help you today please visit us to set up a meeting or visit us at booth 220 at HPE Discover 2016 to start your journey today.

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