The end-of-year lists and coming-year prophecies have been rolling in all month, some of them clearly better than others. But for retailers, perhaps the most interesting and prescient set of predictions dates back to November, when the market research firm IDC published their annual FutureScape report and announced a host of forecasts for the coming years.

Most of the IDC predictions revolve around a basic hypothesis: “Companies that invest in mobile enterprise apps will have a distinct advantage over those that do not.”

Since 2007, IDC has been observing the sweeping, enterprise-level transition in IT from a client-server model to Cloud-based platforms, and the results of their latest study show the trend is intensifying.

Though the report describes movements and opportunities across various sectors, we’ve identified three practices that successful retail companies are already implementing. These are the tactics that will define omni-channel retailing in 2015.

Building on the Third Platform

IDC uses the term third platform to describe IT solutions that make the “anytime, anyplace” promise a genuine reality. By 2017, they say, the number of retailers that pin their customer and operations strategies on third platform technologies will increase threefold.

Companies seeking to keep pace with the Cloud revolution should recognize that these changes are being driven by customer adoption first. Consumers expect ready access to all the information they need to make the smartest decision. Retailers should focus on finding business models that align with customer expectations and intentions: rather than treating e-commerce and brick-and-mortar as enemies, explore how the two venues can be mutually supportive to drive sell through.

Prioritizing Omni-Channel Integration

The third platform is defined by an exploding network of mobile technology, all used by consumers who own on average three devices each. The global sphere of constant connectivity that has so far been built on the cloud infrastructure generates not only the real-time insights from Big Data analytics, but also the multiplicity of touch-points that retailers must now somehow wrangle.

The key to managing all those different streams of engagement is to channel them together into platforms that can blend many types of data into a coherent display of interactive information on a single dashboard. According to IDC, the coming year will see many more CIOs investing in omni-channel integration technologies as a top priority.

Taking POS Payment Mobile

It goes both ways, of course. Retailers need ready access to the insights that third platform technology affords, but they won’t be able to get it if they aren’t offering similar ease-of-use to their customers through well-designed mobile advantages.

One of the best tools for accomplishing both of those aims is mobile point-of-sales (mPOS). “By 2018, 60% of omni-channel retailers will have launched customer mobile payment initiatives,” predicts IDC. Apple and Home Depot are leaders in the mPOS space, and Nordstrom saw a 15% increase in sales in the year they introduced mPOS.

There are many other examples of retailers embarking on fresh mPOS initiatives. Recently the grocery chain Sainsburys announced the launch of a shopping app that will allow customers to scan and pay for products right at the shelf.

By embracing mobile and all other Cloud-enabled technologies on the Third Platform, retailers can make significant leaps in achieving the kind of ROI that Big Data-powered analytics advertises. The key to leveraging these new technologies to improve merchandising and sell through is letting retailer and customer ambitions coincide. Where do they meet? Exactly where retail is most fluid.

In a future blog post, we will explore how these same Third Platform dimensions of cloud, big data and mobile will in 2015 continue to fundamentally change the way that retailers and their product suppliers engage and interact, which in turn enables the improved sell through and customer experiences described above.