On March 19, 2019, Teen retailer Clarie’s Stores filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Joining the above crisis, are many other retailers who are filing for bankruptcy or shutting down stores. Sears Holdings is the most recent to make the Chapter 11 list.
Brick and mortar retail companies face arduous competition from e-commerce players. Retailers, more than ever before, require an in-depth understanding of their customers and need to place strategies for customer engagement that allow them to thrive.
The Amazon Impact
Amazon has dramatically altered the way we shop since the business debuted in 1994. Notably, it has introduced consumers to an almost entirely frictionless shopping process with instant results (besides this relates to delivery, too).
The Amazon effect has also spilled over into more conventional locations. Shoppers now want the same experience, whether they’re in front of their workstations or inside a shopping mall.
The retail marketplace needs a boost. To meet consumers where they are and present the choice, ease, and customization they demand, retailers need to up their game, or risk obsolescence.
Enter Intelligent Automation in Retail & FMCG
Intelligent automation in Retail serves a significant technological breakthrough that has the potential not just to progress, but to reconstruct the way companies do business.
Within Intelligent Automation, artificial intelligence (AI) is injected into RPA, empowering machines to learn and develop suggestions and try to make independent decisions and self-remediate over time.
According to leading research, nearly 62 percent of retailers are investing in big data automation.
Also, why not? To drive sales growth, retailers need to refocus on innovating the customer experience.
Retailers have to be able to create new practices by delivering personalized shopping support. Trend-watchers are leaning towards RPA ( Robotic Process Automation) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help provide reach this goal. Anticipating consumer interest and personalized design are some of the uses of AI throughout the value chain.
Opportunities for Intelligent Automation in Retail & FMCG
The continuous convergence of the retail and consumer products industries devises some particularly compelling possibilities to leverage RPA, Intelligent Automation in Retail. Logistics, data analytics, and supply chain management systems have yielded mature capabilities. Vital process steps, however, remain that require continued dependence on cumbersome systems and manual effort.
Let’s look at some areas:
The ability to promptly and precisely track and analyze how competently the promotion is doing is essential and demands various systems to speak to each other.
What is the sweet spot of a discount? What’s enough to lure the retailer, but not too much to cut into the margins.
Despite meaningful investment in advanced technology, many firms still depend on spreadsheets and manual labor for much of the data collection and analysis involved in addressing these questions.
RPA can adequately and efficiently automate many of these manual exercises.
Why are the sales of a particular product faring excellently or poorly? RPA can be utilized to collect sales data, consolidate that data, and have complete reports ready. Subsequently, teams save the time of compiling data from disparate sources.
Based on existing databases, RPA or Intelligent Automation in Retail can be used to develop a fact-based analysis of merchandise preferences on a store-by-store basis. Retailers can tailor their storefront displays based on the demographic composition. For example, snacks and energy drinks are front and center for stores near colleges.
Designing & developing products:
In the social media era, brands have to come up with new trendsetting design concepts. To achieve this, brands can use intelligent automation. Clubs of data related to product use can be analyzed to generate precise, relevant insights and applied to design products.
Example: Nike Inc, an athletic footwear company, has developed a system where customers can design their shows and leave the store wearing them. It’s called ‘The Nike Maker Experience.’ The system uses augmented reality, object tracking, and projection systems to display the designed shoes for the customer.
Supply chain planning aims to match supply and demand- deliver products to the right place at the right time to marry customer needs. Understocking can mean lower sales, and overstocking can result in markdowns. In either scenario, there is an adverse consequence on the margins.
Supply-chain planning needs collaboration across functions, such as materials, distribution, and transportation. A lot of these processes are manual. Intelligent automation is suited for this kind of setup. RPA can be used to assimilate data from different planning functions and analyze them quickly. It can help process estimates, and retailers can make real-time resolutions when laying out plans, settling tradeoffs, and achieving consensus.
For instance, The Procter & Gamble Company, a multinational consumer goods company, deployed a demand planning solution to more accurately predict demand and lower forecast error.
Enhanced Customer Experience:
A direct relationship exists between improved customer experience and increased revenue growth. Anticipating a customer need at the right moment and delivering them the right offer gives the retailer a competitive edge.
For example, a retail apparel chain combines information across various touchpoints, in-store activities, and market trend analysis, to acquire and analyze what consumers need. Avenue Stores then incentivizes the customer while they are in the “shopping mode” to buy by sending them personalized offers through their real-time messaging service.
‘Trolley’ ing ahead:
While Intelligent automation offers retailers massive potential for transformational growth, there are several critical factors to obtaining its benefits. Fundamental among them are obtaining the right talents, culture, infrastructure, and technology.
Both online and offline retailers are aiming to win over customers with fresh ideas and new energies.
Look beyond reduced costs. Look for ways where Intelligent Automation can improve your brand experience through visualizing the customer journey and create a competitive advantage.
Assess supply-chain automation capabilities across multiple functions. When working beyond the silos, a new level of excellence emerges.
Imagine results- Be open to redesign processes using intelligent automation capabilities.
Educate, train, and prepare employees to adopt Intelligent Automation with the right attitude. Communicate effectively.
Partner with the right intelligent automation experts who would not just guide you, but host regular work sessions and hand-hold you across the entire journey.