How Automation is Transforming the Retail Industry

Automation in stores, distribution warehouses, and back-office operations provides retailers with the flexibility to identify and adjust for changes in customer traffic and buying patterns, both in-store and online.
How Automation is Transforming the Retail Industry

Businesses in every sector have seen irreversible changes this year, perhaps none more so than in retail. For several years, online shopping has been a critical component of the retail industry, and the pandemic has only accelerated the shift towards e-commerce. 

Brick-and-mortar stores have been severely impacted, but even companies whose business models are built around online retail have seen numerous challenges. Customers continue to expect prompt, high-quality service from retail brands both online and offline, while demand has seen huge swings. 

Automation in stores, distribution warehouses, and back-office operations provides retailers with the flexibility to identify and adjust for changes in customer traffic and buying patterns, both in-store and online. COVID-19 has accelerated trends and pressures that have been building for many years – moving away from tedious manual processes that are holding brands back from achieving their potential, and the fastest and most efficient way to do that is by investing in automation solutions. 

How Automation Impacts the Retail Industry

Easing Up the Back-End - With orders flooding in online every day, retail teams are likely to get overwhelmed with all of the processing, recording, and expediting. This is precisely the kind of task that automation can help with. Bots can streamline the inflow of customer data and give packing, delivery, and support agents all the relevant data required to process orders rapidly. It also makes processes like form filling or order status checking much easier, helping teams to focus on more creative and strategic tasks. Moreover, automation eliminates the risk of oversights or errors, allowing the brand to deliver top-notch customer service.

Leveraging Actionable Insights - The millions of website interactions and orders placed every day contain valuable insights about customer preferences that retailers can leverage. With automation in place, retailers can pick up promptly information about new product varieties that customers want or multiple complaints about a specific issue, thus allowing for quick resolution before the customers move elsewhere to shop. Data insights also allow retailers to launch new products in anticipation of future demand and thus be first-movers in the market, in addition to providing personalized recommendations. Given the fluctuating nature of the retail landscape, automated processes can give retailers the agility and real-time data they need to keep pace with the trends rather than fall behind. 

Operating Efficiently - With automated processes, routine tasks can be handled more efficiently while human effort can be redistributed to where it is required the most. Real-time automated task distribution, allocation, and tracking solutions can eliminate time wasted on dependencies and inefficient scheduling. Reactive workflows to handle deviations can prevent further escalations. Data-driven employee re-distribution across various sites can allow the most efficient resource utilization based on predicted demand. Advanced rostering algorithms can enable hiring the right kind of full-time or part-time employees based on required skill-sets and time-driven needs, ensuring an optimal headcount for each division. This not only brings down employee costs but also enhances overall operational performance.

Better Planning - By introducing automation into the supply chain and distribution network, retailers can gather crucial insights about inventory requirements at different locations and different times of the month or year. This helps them plan their inventories in advance and source only what they need, thereby reducing wastage. Moreover, retailers can use geographical and seasonal data on sales to plan new store openings and seasonal campaigns or product launches. Automation, in short, enables efficient investment of resources into avenues that have been demonstrated, by data, to have a high likelihood of success.

Better Collaboration with Vendors and Partners - Technology can today provide visibility across the network at a level that was previously not possible. Different vendor partner/ supplier systems can be connected via APIs to exchange relevant information in real-time. Self-help vendors and partner portals can give access to key data from ERP systems to relevant stakeholders and significantly reduce the volume of support requests and time spent on mundane data updates and ad-hoc communication. Vendors can update milestones and communicate delays in real-time, enabling better planning down the supply chain.

Better Customer Experience - The pressure on physical stores to attract and retain customers is greater than ever. Delighting customers with novel shopping experiences driven by innovative campaigns, great planograms and the utmost attention to hygiene and safety is a priority. Regular audits, enforcing daily checklists, and adhering to standard operating procedures can help identify problems before they affect customer satisfaction.

Streamlining the Organisation, While Creating New Jobs - According to a recent McKinsey study, about half of the current processes in retail can be automated. However, this does not mean human jobs will go away. By automating routine operations, the retail industry can redistribute its workforce across more strategic roles where the human touch is crucial. There will also be a need for more process designers, who will lay out the blueprint for the functions that will be automated. As automation becomes more commonplace, we can expect workforces to invest in reskilling in order to be prepared for the new jobs that automation will create. 

Over time, automation can reshape the value chain in the retail industry, leading to agile organizations with fewer layers and better-trained workforces who count on real-time data and analytics to power every task. Businesses that quickly embrace automation will see these organizational benefits sooner, thus enabling them to stand out in the competition. 

How No-Code Solutions are Simplifying Business Process Automation for the Retail Industry

With the rapid and frequent change in business processes, waiting weeks or months for automation solutions is no longer an option. Businesses need immediate solutions, and the only way to deliver is to build applications with today’s state-of-the-art no-code platforms. There is an increasing shift in preference towards using citizen developers to create the necessary apps or processes in an organization. These developers are in-house experts in business process management, finance, marketing, data analytics, and other domains, but do not necessarily have extensive knowledge of coding. In this regard, no-code/low-code platforms like Zvolv are the ideal choice for citizen developers looking to rapidly set up new applications and accelerate last-mile digital transformation.

A no-code intelligent automation platform gives retail brands the flexibility they need to set up the solutions they need, quickly and efficiently. Each brand has its own way of launching products, running campaigns, and managing customer relations, which off-the-shelf tools cannot always accommodate. With platforms like Zvolv, brands can benefit from a unique blend of extensive do-it-yourself capabilities, a vast array of features, deep intelligence capabilities, and unrivaled customization capabilities, at a total cost of ownership that is easy to justify based on the value delivered. Retailers can thus create their own customized, feature-rich processes without any developer involvement. From data collection and order processing to store planning and customer service, automation can streamline the retail experience for both customers and the retail team and enable the brand to accelerate its growth, and improve its bottom line.

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