According to a research by National Retail Federation, today 40% of retail and consumer product companies use Intelligent Automation. And this figure is expected to double by 2021.
There is a lot that goes behind bringing a product from the production stage to the retail shelf for selling. From supply chain management to sales analytics, a retail chain includes numerous processes that were being performed manually until a few years ago. With the introduction of innovative technologies, companies are now looking beyond human capabilities to manage these processes more accurately and productively.
Customer satisfaction, ever-evolving user demands, faster delivery, after-sales support, and the shift towards a smooth e-commerce experience have become the norm in the retail industry over the last few years. And to remain sustainable in this highly competitive industry, retailers need to think of ways to efficiently manage back-end processes. Whether it is brick and mortar or e-commerce, there are several processes involved in the retail industry where time consumption and the scope of human errors are serious concerns. Therefore, many retailers are turning towards Intelligent Automation.
Intelligent Automation represents an evolved version of automation in which machines mimic human actions and possess cognitive capabilities, including natural language processing, speech recognition, computer vision technology, and machine learning. Intelligent Automation technology differs from normal IT automation, given the added layer of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence capabilities integrated with it. The concept of automation in the digital world is evolving, and the technology is progressing adding more capabilities of human brains into machines day by day.
Looking beyond the obvious benefits of automation, retailers are increasingly implementing this technology to help with several mundane and repetitive tasks with superior speed, accuracy, and consistency. In this blog, we have listed a few automation ideas that retail companies are using to stand out from their competition.
Traditional methods of inventory management typically involved a human worker manually accessing weekly spreadsheets to keep a track of the inventory. Automation can help in several ways in the inventory management process. When the inventory process is automated, the brand can setup automated replenishment of stock, automated delivery, as well as synchronize all the sales channels into one system. And since its system managed, there are very less probability of human error.
Retailers, of course, must plan out their stores, according to what will serve their customers the best. With automation, retailers can determine what products the customers are drawn to and how the store layout can positively benefit customer experience and sales. Some organizations have implemented sensors, which detect and report which aisles, customers are spending the most time in and which products they look at the most. With the data collected, retailers can use this information to determine the best suitable store layout for their customers.
Carrefour a French multinational retail organizations uses this technology to decide on their store placements. Not just this Carrefour also became the first retailer to leverage robots in the Middle East by deploying the “Tally” autonomous shelf-scanning robots at select Carrefour stores.
These robots are equipped with cameras and sensors that make them capable of scanning up to 15,000 products, checking for stock errors such as out-of-stock items, price mismatch, wrong barcodes, or stock misplacement. The robot assists with stock audits which reduces the workload for store team members.
The increasing use of customer-focused retail practices, especially in e-commerce adds up the tasks such as product returns to the various retail processes. Processing returns manually can be a time-consuming task. Product returns are a cost to the company and if their processing is done manually, it may further increase the costs. Automation effectively manages the returns and does all the required changes needed in altering the inventory database and customer’s billing.
Customer support management
With the increasing focus on customer delight, customer support has become an integral part of the retail industry. Especially in e-commerce, providing 24×7 customer support and sending real-time updates to customers has become really important. With Automation, companies can make their customer support quicker and more convenient.
From the moment an order is placed, the system tracks it and sends real-time updates to the customer. This process doesn’t end even at the time of delivery. An efficient customer support system collects the after-sale feedback from the customers. Automation, thus facilitates saving of a lot of time, money, and efforts.
Bots can be deployed to quickly analyze factors that influence sales, the number of sales in various locations, user-preferences based on gender, location, age, etc. Automation can provide real-time insights to help retailers make business decisions, which eventually increases product sales.
Retail will increasingly rely on automation in the future. . Intelligent automation using AI and RPA tools will drive these new business models. It will also increase efficiencies across the retail lifecycle. This will ultimately deliver a highly personal and enhanced experience for the end customer.