Updated: 7.14.17 Business Solutions

From Collaboration to Predictive Content: How Box Increases Retailer Productivity with Its Cloud-Based Platform & Analytics

By: Jessica Sommerfield

The Crunch: Since the digital transformation began, many retailers have struggled to grow their businesses within the limitations of legacy file-sharing and workflow processes. Unable to collaborate well internally, externally, or use mobile devices, companies have faced increased operational expenses and slowed expansion. Box provides the content management and collaborative backbone to overcome those business challenges in one simple platform. By offering a cloud-based solution for responsive file-sharing, Box helps retailers improve communication, increase productivity, gain mobile access, and reap insight from predictive performance analytics to scale into the future.

At one time, file transfer protocol (FTP) hosting services represented cutting edge technology for companies to share files between system users on different computers. With the rapid digital transformation of the last decade, however, these types of legacy systems have created collaborative challenges for businesses — especially those entering a new phase of expansion.

Clothing company Aéropostale experienced these challenges when shortcomings in the company’s existing FTP file-sharing service nearly ground its store construction process to a standstill.

With user restrictions, limited retrieval options, and slow run times, Aéropostale’s FTP service made it difficult for the construction department to collaborate with outside vendors, and for internal team members to share content like photos, plans, and installation guides. With each new store requiring a new documents folder, the company also kept exceeding its host’s 50-folder limit and racking up overage fees.

Forced to send documents via thumb drive through the US Postal Service, Aépostale’s bidding process for contractors became a lengthy process, and the company was desperate for a solution that would provide the capabilities they needed to grow more quickly and efficiently. That is when it found Box.

“What happened in the past is that companies tried to apply lots of different technologies to the content problem associated with all of this. It started off with network file shares and followed with enterprise content management, but those systems were never designed to be mobile and create external collaboration capability,” said Jeff Shultz, Head of Industry at Box. “We started off focused on collaboration and files we can share and allowing people to move to the cloud for mobile productivity.”

After switching to Box, Aéropostale no longer struggled to manage system users or share content, and the brand could create as many store folders as it needed. With on-the-go access to files, team members and vendors could share and collaborate on the progress of construction from the field on any device. The company also used Box to streamline its bidding process.

As the Aéropostale case study shows, retailers are increasingly looking for digital management solutions that allow them to solve all of their problems in one platform. With cloud storage that makes collaboration easier and more mobile, and content management tools designed to integrate with existing systems while providing security and data analytics, Box provides the solutions retailers like Aéropostale need to operate and grow efficiently.

Better Internal and External Collaboration with Mobile Capabilities

Every day, businesses rely on solutions that are both portable and efficient to collaborate and manage content effectively. Whether it is an SMB owner talking to a client across town or an enterprise-level CEO sharing documents with a counterpart across the globe, flexibility is essential.

Box enables the level of content sharing a business needs to grow. From Box Drive, which stores information in a centralized cloud, to the Box mobile app, which gives users access at all times, Box has every edge of business covered.

Box Drive Makes Communication Easier for Both Employees and Vendors

Unlike FTPs, Box Drive stores content in the cloud instead of taking up limited hardware space, and streams it to the user. To employees, Box Drive files look and feel much like the network-shared files of legacy systems, but with the advantages of file previewing, editing, and search capabilities. The files also have Box Sync, which enables external collaboration with vendors and service providers, providing offline or online access and version control.

“This is huge in the retail industry when it comes to pushing content out to stores, sharing content with people who are doing design, and connect with the customers and vendors that aren’t within the VPN,” Jeff said.

Cloud storage in Box Drive also reduces the risk of data loss due to damaged hard drives, stolen devices, or accidental deletion, and provides the enterprise-level security retailers need.

“Retailers need to have a massive amount of security and governance capability, and this is an area where Box has innovated by providing the types of security policies required for external collaboration,” Jeff said. “We provide the ability to manage your own encryption keys, make sure that content is retained for a period of time, and assign metadata to it automatically.”

Box Mobile App Meets the Fast-Paced Needs of Global Companies

With the expansion of global business structures, employees are no longer tied to a single store location or desktop — they need to be able to get work done while on the go.

The Box mobile app lets companies view and share files online or offline while keeping desktop files synchronized with their mobile content. The app also saves limited space on the user’s mobile device by immediately relaying captured photos or videos to the company’s Box platform. Although all Box app users can manage their content from a mobile device, Box offers additional mobile security features and scalability for enterprises with Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM).

To further enhance mobile productivity for businesses, Box offers over 2,000 apps and makes the selection process easier by identifying top-performing apps for secure, enterprise-level productivity and workflow. It then shares this information with users in a program it calls Box Assured Apps.

Box Platform Allows Retailers to Build Their Own Apps

An increasing number of retailers want to develop their own apps to meet specific business needs and fully engage with customers. Traditionally, this task has been complicated and time-consuming, involving choosing a platform and storage vendor, developing custom code with the help of IT, and working to maintain security and compliance requirements for themselves and their clients.

Box Platform has all the security already built into it, as well as APIs,” Jeff said. “We’ve begun to work with some of our customers on how to use our APIs to build content-rich applications for their websites and mobile devices. Just by adopting our APIs, they can create stores, manage content, and display it from hundreds of different file types, and automatically have security, control, and compliance all built in.”

A visit to the Box developer page offers retailers a glimpse into how businesses are using Box Platform to create customized apps for industry-specific uses.

Identifying Trends Around AI, Machine Learning, and Analytics

Data analytics are vital for retailers to assess not only how they’re engaging with customers, but also how their employees are using training materials and digital assets. Having greater visibility of which documents are being used and how that ties into business efficiency, cost management, and even revenue can help retailers thrive in a competitive market.

Box includes reporting and usage logs, and its partnership with GoodData allows retailers to have more clarity on how their business is using Box – from security concerns to how various departments are collaborating and what pieces of content are performing best.

Jeff Shultz, Head of Industry at Box, spoke with us about the platform’s versatility.

“We provide content analytics so you can see stats on content, who’s using it, what’s working, and what’s not working with real-time data,” Jeff said. “We’re a very data-driven company internally, and that’s something we feel very strongly in enabling our customers to be able to do with data.”

By understanding the importance of data analytics, trends in the digital space, and the interests of its customers, Box is pushing its innovation to the next level: artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Machine learning isn’t just about analyzing images and content coming in, but predicting which content would be most valuable to you based on the data,” Jeff said.

Box is building technology that allows businesses to know what documents are being used and why they are important. And the company is excited about applying machine learning to that data so it becomes more predictive, helping retailers become more productive — automatically.

Innovating Smarter Workflow Tools for the Future of Retail

Box provides a better way for businesses like Aépostale to share data, collaborate internally and externally, and have greater mobility in the global marketplace. And Box Drive helps retailers move their data storage, management, and collaborative spaces to the cloud for increased security and accessibility to solve numerous challenges within one platform.

“The reality is that content management is moving to the cloud, where you’re combining the rich user experience with the enterprise-like capabilities that allow for document workflows and other types of business use cases,” Jeff said. “It’s compelling, especially as retailers are adjusting to the digital transformation.”

In addition to these capabilities, Box Platform offers APIs for custom-built apps that enable retailers to address their unique business and customer needs. Through data tools that offer greater visibility into document usage and reporting, as well as the development of AI to help retailers predict and adjust their content strategies, Box is enabling businesses to move out of the past and into a smarter, more connected future.

About The Author

Jessica Sommerfield is a contributing writer for DealCrunch with over seven years of experience with online publications in the personal finance sector and other consumer-focused niches. Her 13 years of experience in brick-and-mortar stores prior to her writing career have also given her an insider’s perspective on the unique challenges that the retail industry faces.

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