In a world where robots can flip burgers, sweep floors and even manage a warehouse, retail automation has come a long way. As the industry enters a new phase of growth, retail automation becomes even more essential for success. Besides offering a myriad of benefits like a boost in productivity and low labour cost, automation in retail industry also empowers you to respond to changes in your business like a spike in demand for a particular product or service or a festive sale.
What is retail automation?
Retail automation is the process of using technology to automate or semi-automate your retail business. Some most common examples are vending machines, self-check kiosks and cashier-less stores that are increasingly being used by retailers to cut cost, drive sales, enhance customer experience and streamline business operations. In fact, automation is poised to rewrite retail business models by creating organisations with fewer, better trained and efficient workforce, empowered by real-time data insights.
Though retail giants like Amazon and Walmart are reaping the benefits of automation on a massive scale, small retailers are also opting to automate individual aspects of their business. In fact, the future of automation is very bright. The global retail automation market value is expected to reach $18.99 billion by 2023, says a study by Research and Markets.
Benefits of retail automation :
Better time management : Every retailer yearns to nurture their business to a point where they no longer need to be a part of daily operations. Retail automation will enable you to devise a system where routine tasks get taken care of by themselves, giving you the freedom and the time to strategise, plan and take your business to the next level.
Reduces human error : Old school retailers are still using pen and paper to track their processes and hence face inconvenience with human errors. However, with automation there is no scope of human error. Moving to automated processes gives you a cleaner and more accurate data. Accurate data insights can help you to grow your business and streamline your retail operations. For example, robots inside a convenience store can scan the aisles and send notifications in case of discrepancies.
Enhances customer experience : Automation in retail industry can enhance customer experiences by improving self-help functions that involve minimum involvement from employees. At the same time, it also assures a seamless shopping experience. For example, a faster checkout process with the help of a smartphone or in-store robot that chats with customers and helps them locate items can elevate customer experience.
More sales, more profit : Happy customers means more sales. Hence, retail automation helps in engaging customers and driving sales. For example, imagine you are a cosmetic brand and your range of organic cosmetics is a hit among a section of your loyal customers. You can set up an automated email sequence for these customers to send personalised emails about a new product launch or any deal or discounts on their preferred type of cosmetics. These personalised offers are likely to give you better results than a generic one sent to your entire list. With a streamlined business powered by automation, you are free to tend to the critical business of growing your company and leave the regular mundane work to machines.
Safeguards your business : Now, protect your business from fraud with the help of automation. You can also categorise orders as high-risk orders on the basis of order value, shipping destination, customer history, etc. In an age where so many businesses fall prey to fraudsters, retailers should invest in smart automated solutions that use AI and Machine Learning (ML) to detect and respond quickly against any fraud.
Some examples of retail automation :
Retail giant Amazon is at the forefront of incorporating the latest technology and automation in their operations. Their Amazon Go stores are the finest examples of retail automation that enables customers to walk into these stores and complete their shopping without having to stand in checkout queues as items are charged to the Amazon Prime account. This has been possible by adopting in-store technologies like sensors, cameras, computer vision, etc, to automate the purchase process by allowing shoppers to have a cashier-free shopping experience.
Other good example arethe McDonalds kiosks which enable foodies to order and pay using a screen and pick up their burgers when it’s ready. Similarly, Kroger has replaced traditional shelves with digital shelves that display price, nutritional benefits of a product and the display advertisements.
Types of retail automation :
Behind-the-scenes : Here, automation is internal and used for streamlining retail operations, and doesn’t directly apply to the customer. Like Walmart and Amazon, you can use robots to maximise warehouse space by accessing new places and organising your goods in a way that may seem very difficult for humans. Automation can also help in inventory management by determining top sellers or alerting you on product demand and low stocks. It can also help in multi-channel management by automatically updating stocks on all your channels. You can also use automation for marketing, as well as billing and payment processing.
In-store retail automation : The simplest way to explain in-store retail automation is when it is used to serve your customers directly. Chatbot on your websites or electronic vending machines are common examples. A noteworthy example is Carvana’s car vending machine, which is designed to enable fast and convenient pickup option for those who purchase a vehicle on its platform.
With retail automation, you can enhance both productivity and the quality of your work, and gain insights to help you make smart decisions. For any more information on how automation can make you future-ready and help you scale your business, please request for a free demo of iRetail software from our retail specialists.