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AWS retail leader Tom Litchford on data, the cloud, retail customer experience

AWS retail leader Tom Litchford on data, the cloud, retail customer experience

Author: Judy Mottl 

Source: Retail Customer Experience

The first thought that pops into most minds on the mention of Amazon Web Services is the cloud, as the omnichannel giant retailer has created one of the biggest cloud services that is relied on by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of businesses worldwide.

But AWS also serves as a retailer’s back-end data environment and application foundation, while providing a modern infrastructure to a growing number of retailers. Likewise, AWS serves as a powerhouse system fostering Amazon innovations as a retailer — such as the cashierless technology now taking root across its expanding retail stores.

So Retail Customer Experience reached out to Tom Litchford, head of worldwide business development, retail, at AWS to get some perspective on how retailers are juggling the increasing number of customer engagement points, along with the importance of data as well as the cloud and what retailers should and should not be doing in the quest for customer experience excellence.

Retail Customer Experience: What are the big pain points you’re hearing from retailers when it comes to boosting CX and the customer journey?

Litchford: Our retail customers are part of an industry that is undergoing an immense transformation. Consumers are engaging brands in entirely new ways. Options for when and how they make purchases — at home, in the store or on the go — are growing, and customers not only have greater access to information than ever, but are demanding access to the products they want on their own terms.

AWS is helping thousands of retail companies transform their customer experience and that’s increasing sales velocity. For retailers, that starts with data. That data needs to be in a single location, real-time and accessible at any time and from anywhere. With a better view at a company’s data, AWS then leans on its 20-year heritage in retail to help companies modernize their infrastructure and reinvent legacy applications to deliver on customer experiences that meet consumers’ new shopping habits and build brand equity.

Retail Customer Experience:  Where does AWS fit into the landscape of a retailer’s CX strategy — network stability, support, uptime etc. — and what makes AWS stand out from competitors?

Litchford: AWS is unique among cloud providers because we were born from retail and built for retail. With over 20 years in artificial intelligence and machine learning leadership, and the innovative emerging technologies generating data like voice, computer vision, AR/VR/MR and IoT, our heritage in developing retail solutions is the definitive differentiator.

For example, AWS worked with the Amazon Go business unit internally to develop cashierless stores, and the Amazon Fresh team uses AWS’ computer vision to remove friction from the «buy online, pickup in-store» process. Further, Amazon Personalize, Amazon Forecast and Amazon Connect are all great examples of how AWS works with and then externalizes those learnings into retail-tested services for all our customers.

In fact, AWS is the pioneer in cloud computing, having a 10-year head-start in providing cloud-based IT services, given it was born out of the learnings supporting the retail arm of  We maintain a significant advantage in core services like computing, storage, databases, networking and security, and our proven experience and global infrastructure are key advantages in this industry.

Thousands of retailers rely on AWS to help them with their data center exit strategies — lifting and shifting core enterprise systems into the cloud, and then modernize these systems into more agile, channel-agnostic, architectures, based on the micro-services and server-less technologies that AWS pioneered. From a cost-benefit perspective, our customers are seeing an initial 30-50% savings over traditional on-premise solutions, and another 30-50% savings when they move to server-less micro-services. That’s huge!

Retail Customer Experience: Are there any common missteps or misconceptions retailers experience when getting a robust CX strategy up and running?

Litchford: For us, the biggest misstep a retailer can make is inaction. Our most successful customers are those that looked at the opportunity to transition to the cloud as a strategic investment. Companies focused on connecting with their customers and leveraging new ways to innovate in that relationship are the ones we find make the best strategic technology investments over time.

When investments are sound, they are enablers of the business, not just a cost center. If companies are able to listen to their customers and tailor the experience from initial engagement, to purchase, to follow-up and post-purchase — they’re going to build brand equity and avoid many of the customer experience pitfalls that plague some companies.  That said, they need to be brave enough to innovate and take chances on new ways to work with their customer base.

Retail Customer Experience: Why is it so critical now for all retailers to provide that same level of customer service?

Litchford: It’s no secret that today’s consumer has high expectations from retailers. They expect access to the products they want, on the platforms, or in the venues they want, and the ability to access them quickly. This seamless consumer journey builds equity in a customer’s brand and keeps those consumers coming back for the same quality experience.

AWS, because of its legacy in transforming retail, is focused on helping its customers innovate to deliver on the ever-evolving and often finicky demands of the consumer. Whether it’s creating a frictionless checkout process or helping retailers offer compelling recommendations with Amazon Personalize, AWS is poised to raise the bar for all retailers to deliver on what the market needs.

We aren’t focused on getting retailers to «outdo» or «one-up» their competition. To put it bluntly, they don’t have to compete with giants in the industry. They just need to listen to and take care of their consumers. We’re here to help facilitate that.

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