From groceries and consumer electronics to apparel and pharmaceuticals, all retail sectors are hyper-competitive today. As customers in the present era seek innovation and convenience, retail providers are faced with a new challenge, to keep up with the evolving trends or fall behind. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers were under pressure to keep up with rapidly evolving supply chains and customer habits. Not only have the payment methods and support services changed, but inventory and logistics functions are also shifting.
These developments are encouraging both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce companies to look to artificial intelligence and robotics in retail in order to achieve greater levels of efficiency and customer satisfaction. This is the true nirvana of the retail industry, which can help retailers stay relevant, effective, and optimized.
One interesting area combining robotics and AI is RPA – Robotics Process Automation. RPA comes with a plethora of options, focused specifically on retailers that can give them a boost in many areas and overcome bottlenecks. Intelligent Process Automation helps Reduce work, create new types of work in the form of RPA programming, Enables new workflows, process automation, Update number-crunching sheets such as the sales reports, marketing, and sales analytics report, and balance sheets, and makes you capable of handling critical organizational tasks that are time-consuming.
During the pandemic, several progressive retailers experimented with many use cases.
RPA Use-Cases in Retail:
1. RPA can prove beneficial in areas like supply chain, customer service, market analysis, inventory management, and much more. For instance, using RPA in customer service helps:
- Enable 24x7 support
- Faster resolution of queries
- Gathering customers feedback,
These being key factors contributing to a faster market reach.
2. Product categorization is one of the most important functions of the retail industry. There have been instances where a particular product is available on an e-commerce website, but the customer fails to find it owing to poor product categorization done by the retailer. Proper taxonomy is essential to deliver a seamless customer experience. Retailers are now realizing the scope of improving the process and are integrating RPA to assign attributes and categorize products based on the customized product mapping rules.
3. RPA in the supply chain covers inventory management and order fulfillment which are laborious processes and generally time-consuming. For instance, invoice processing is a huge bottleneck that involves processing the invoice; feeding the data into the ERP, document extraction, etc. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a tailor-made solution for paper-intensive tasks like invoice processing. The software scans the invoice regardless of the format and then converts the same into an image or a text-searchable document. RPA can also capture different ranges on an invoice so that it captures the right data and keys it into the ERP system.
4. An extensive analysis of huge chunks of sales data is instrumental in marketing and customer behavior analysis. For any retailer, sales analytics is a prerequisite for a wide range of retail decisions such as trade promotions, new product innovations, and churn rate minimization. Automating business and sales analytics helps you with faster access to exhaustive reports comprising real-time insights of consumer behavior and the relevant preferences. The software bots also provide forecasting and predictive analysis, which supports stock optimization.
Other areas of interest for retail to expand on the use of robotic usage can be:
POS EMV Testing – One of the biggest challenges in automating test cases for POS systems is the need for simulating physical card transactions on pin pad devices. Current automation can be taken from roughly 70% to 90% coverage with the use of proper robotic operations cutting down regression cycles by substantial days. It’s a good investment.
Application Monitoring – Lot of retailers are on legacy systems or their landscape continues to be a mix of legacy and modern applications. This essentially makes application support by the operations team a stretch with a mix of activities. RPA is a great usage when it comes to monitoring applications and takes standard corrective actions with minimal human intervention (restart a batch for predefined standard errors, shooting off summary reports, email alerts, etc.)
So far, 2020 has proved to be rather challenging for all but a handful of retail players. However, the global pandemic has also shown most companies how advanced technological solutions can help ensure employee/customer safety, prevent drastic operational disruptions, and attain much-needed cost-savings.
To reiterate: investment in new technology and lean processes is the key to surviving and thriving during and after the turbulent times.Many progressive retailers are embracing this futuristic technology to raise their game. What’s your plan?