In 2020, pressure upon the retail industry increased. Giants, such as Britain’s Arcadia group or the US retailer J.Crew, are in the process of administration, and it seems it is the end of an era for high-street shopping. But can the retail industry make a comeback? Yes! But sellers need to adapt and update. Adding automation in the retail industry is one way to do so.
Challenges for the retail industry
Retail in the post-COVID-19 world will not be as we knew it. Social distancing, online shopping, and an economic downturn have taken their toll. Automation is one of the technologies leading the way in its recovery. Here are some of the challenges it can address:
Many fear that technological innovations may mean an end to “all jobs in retail,” but this is far from the case. While there will be changes to jobs in the retail sector, it does not spell an end for employment, more so transitioning into new roles. To take UK statistics, while a job-loss of 800,000 occurred, 3.5 million new jobs were created. We primarily see an increase in demand for digital know-how, management skills, and lateral thinking capabilities.
Supply chain issues
When surveyed, 57% of businesses believed optimizing their supply chain would further develop their business. Logistics, transportation, data analysis, and security remain vital elements for development. But not all companies can afford to optimize, and this is where the problem lies. Issues in the supply chain contribute to lower profit margins and high costs, which impact the business’s sustainability.
Intense competition, the pressure to provide a ”living wage,” and the growth of online giants, such as Amazon, have put the retail industry under pressure. Many shops are having to sell at lower prices to compete. While this might be good news for customers, it could spell trouble for retailers as they are left with less margin to optimize their business or implement a store automation system.
Increases in online shopping
In 2021, the e-commerce industry’s value is predicted to hit $4,927 billion, growing from $1,336 billion in 2014. More people are shopping online, and this is a trend that is continuing to grow. But why is it a challenge for sellers? Essential, this trend spells. Store to the old way business was done, store automation and updates are now becoming a priority, not a nice-to-have.
There has not been a single industry that has not been affected by the coronavirus in some way or another. Retail is no exception. Aside from pharmacies and food retailers, many shops have had to shut their doors at some time or another under lockdown regulations. This has had a massive impact on sales. But the damage doesn’t stop there. Job losses, uncertainty, and others continue to affect retail. The success stories in this situation were large corporations able to adapt quickly and supply market demand.
5 Reasons to apply automation in retail
For many businesses faced with these challenges, it may at first seem insurmountable, but that’s not the case. While giants such as Amazon will continue to steam ahead, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for small competitors or even new innovators. In fact, with the right tools, the market can be your oyster. Here are some of the benefits of automation in retail.
1. Know your market better
Supply and demand are almost the first rules of business. By getting deeper insights into your customer base, you stand to gain a greater understanding of their needs and priorities, allowing you to adapt your business.
In the past, conversations and surveys helped to identify customer needs. However, in the modern era, that’s all changing. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to multinationals can implement business process automation in retail brands in the form of analytics and business intelligence to gain insights. Automating this section of business allows you to automatically gather mass amounts of data and know your customer better. This will underline everything else you do.
2. Provide first-class customer service
Every shopper has their pain-points, those elements of the shopping process that make it unpleasant. Whether it’s waiting in a long line or not being able to see a full description of a product (if you’re an online store), these are elements that take away from the shopping experience.
Adding a retail automation platform allows your business to smooth out those pain-points and deliver a smoother service than puts customer satisfaction first while not stretching your resources to breaking point.
3. Optimize your supply chain
As we previously said, issues in the supply chain are one of the challenges for retailers today. Knowing how to optimize is the key to keeping your business up to date. At the first stage, engaging in business intelligence can highlight the bottlenecks within the supply chain or areas that are not financially optimal. From here, you can take advantage of and implement the advantages of retail automation in supply chain management. But how?
Once you know where the issues lie, you can optimize the process. Whether this is through automatic price checks for the cheapest supplier, automated loading/unloading, product tracking, and more, optimizing the supply chain can save you time and money.
4. Business process automation
Every day, across every area of your business, processes are happening that make your business what it is. However, these processes are not always as effective as they can be. This can be something such as payroll time tracking to sales, processing orders, to something unique to your business.
Knowing how to optimize these business processes can help you get ahead. This can occur in many ways, from making an app for automatic order processing to storing customer data for future purchases to automatically tracking the working time of your staff, and more. Business process automation simply makes your business more effective and profitable.
5. Make in-store even better
Without a doubt, e-commerce is growing, but that doesn’t mean that the in-store experience is as dead as dust. Conversely, even e-commerce giant Amazon is heading into the brick and mortar area with its Amazon Go stores. Currently, the retailer has 3 stores in the US with plans to expand to over 3,000 branches by 2021.
But one size doesn’t fit all. What works for Amazon won’t work for every business. Each requires their own unique automation and optimization solution, whether this be self-checkouts, shelf-scanning robots to check product supply, electronic labeling, or something else, automation in the retail industry is vital to making the in-store experience better, leading more time for your staff to concentrate on customer satisfaction.
Automation in the retail industry: no longer a choice?
From the small local Mom and Pop store to a multinational company, automation in retail is no longer a choice upgrade. It’s a prerequisite. As COVID-19 has proven, those who can adapt and even plan ahead quickly will be the winners. Those unable to do so fall behind. Engaging retail store automation to some degree gives your business the best chance to weather the storm and adapt to industry changes.