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Open source stack in retail


We live in an era which is flooded by information everywhere and this facilitates towards a well-informed and an observant society. This awareness has affected the society in every way, be it politically or economically. The Consumers are very well aware of their purchases and their rights. Considering all facts and figures congregated by the masses, the tastes, habits and requirements of the consumers are changing frequently. The retail industry has been constantly trying to adapt and cope up with these changing requirements of the customers and has become one of the most dynamic industries today. They need high levels of flexibility and customisability in their systems to incorporate the changes resulting from the frequently transforming consumer behavior. The retailers are expected to do more with less, which is causing them to reduce market time and personalise marketing campaigns. However, their legacy systems are not capable of doing so, if they are based on proprietary software rather than open source. Open sources are increasingly being preferred by retailers as the need for scalable and responsive information technology is increasing day by day to meet the ever increasing workload requirements and also to become future ready. The driving force behind this paradigm shift is the numerous benefits that open source offers such as flexibility, scalability, security and customisability.

The e-commerce industry especially the online retail websites have benefited immensely by the use of open source software and tools. It offers all the features that are required to run an e-commerce business. The open source stack has enabled many small and medium sized businesses to be able operate their websites quickly and at a lower cost. More than 300,000 Open Source Software are known and used on the internet in the retail industry. These installs are successfully being used to sell products services online around the world. Everyday open source software is being used to make millions of dollars through online sales all over the world.

Also known as (FOSS) is referred to all free of cost software’s, where people can copy, edit and study the source code of the software to customise it according to their requirements. It gives users more control over the software and allows them to customise it according to their needs, unlike the proprietary ones that are restricted and not open for public view as the source code is only visible to the owner or the authors of that software. The open source also gets great support from the IT community which continues to enhance and improve open source software.

The use of the open source has a lot of benefits and usability in the retail industry like:

For social curation and analytics: The retailers need to utilize the power of and social data in various ways to handle the product assortment online and in-store to maximize profits. The retail industry urgently needs benefits of the analytics to measure and analyse the product performance through data and analytics to make future decisions and introduce new products. They need to get the real-time analytics of what the consumers want. These and decisions further enables them to offer competitive prices, custodies offers and make successful GTM campaigns.  For Instance, a large appliance retailer and service provider in USA has used big data innovatively to run their “Shop Your Way Rewards membership program” that helped the company get back on track. It was the cutting-edge technology of Apache Hadoop, an open source data processing platform which was driving the trend and now the company is leading a subsidiary company that’s pitching its services outside retail to help companies to use Hadoop.

Market analysis on consumer trends and behaviors for shopper’s engagement: The focus of today’s retailers is to Capture, Manufacture and Analyse. Keeping the shopper engaged to the brand is their top priority. The retailers are also looking at building long term relationships with the shoppers and attracting and retaining new customers to drive sales. They have also understood the significance of various social channels to fuel their business which is under constant progression. They want to best utilize these platforms that gives them customer information to analyse it further and to better understand the consumer patterns, behaviors and trends. These analytics can help them understand which products and promotions can resonate best with their consumers

Regular customising made easier: The challenge faced by the retailers today is to give a seamless Omni channel customer experience. The outlook of the retail industry is witnessing a transition with disruptive technologies like social, mobile, cloud and analytics. A seamless experience is what a customer demands when making a purchase whether online or in store. Also their frequent changing behavior and preferences causes retailer’s backend systems to incorporate lot of changes, which are fairly easy to manage with open source.

It offers security, stability and scalability: A complete visibility of the code is one benefit that Open source stack offers, unlike the proprietary products which are closed from public view. Retailers using the proprietary products are completely dependent on the authentication of the outside company for ensuring its security, being bug free and maintaining its quality. Apart from this, the retailers are also dependent on them for any expansion, or to develop the scalability of the software to suit their needs. It is completely at the disposition of the company who made that software whether to edit or to not edit it. In most cases, these companies might ask you to buy a higher version of the software which can be at an additional cost eating up your profit margins.

One of the core strength and weakness of this source is that anyone can contribute to it irrespective of the background or proficiency. There are many open source projects created by and maintained by amateurs for fun, intellectual curiosity and research purposes. This feature of the open source is its beauty and at the same time something which people using it should be aware of.

The Open source stack is accompanied with a few misconceptions, one of them is an assumption that cost is definitely an advantage with open source as compared to proprietary solutions, however this is not true and open source is not absolutely free. Though, you can download and implement open source solutions for free with no license fee, there are several implicit hidden costs that cross your way such as for installing, securing, maintaining and configuring the software on your own servers requires a lot of technical knowledge, free time and patience. If you don’t have the knowledge, time and patience you would have to hire a technical person to take care of this. While configuring this you not only would incur a cost but also at the time of upgrades and maintenance you would have to pay for hosting an SSL security as well.