Manual processes are so yesterday. Automation is the future and a game changer for retail, transforming an industry plagued by inefficiencies both in and outside its control. Dig in to explore retail automation software and its benefits for consumers and retailers alike.
Understanding retail automation software
Automation is “in” right now, from voice assistants to hospitality solutions to self-driving cars, and retail brings loads of potential applications. Retail automation is technology that streamlines manual, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks—lowering employee workloads to free them up for higher-value tasks.
But options such as order management, inventory management, and order fulfillment deliver 360-degree efficiencies for retailers and consumers. With time added back to their schedules, employees can deliver one-on-one service to customers, who will save both time and effort on in-store shopping.
Retail automation technology tools
You could go down a rabbit hole talking about how much is changing in retail, thanks to a combination of necessity (COVID-19) and tech evolution. But some tools stand out from the pack for their growing value. Let’s stick to the biggies.
Contactless in-store payments
Probably the most universally-recognized form of retail automation technology comes in the form of contactless payment. Customers love the increased autonomy it brings, and it speeds things up in your store. A few examples?
- Payment apps (e.g., ApplePay)
Contactless in-store payment methods help both sides. They not only reduce waiting times at checkout, but also decrease in-store operating costs.
Automated point-of-sale (POS) systems
It isn’t taking long for machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to reach the point of sale. Automated point-of-sale (POS) systems don’t just speed things up at the checkout lanes—they also enhance management capabilities for store administrators. This technology enables you to optimize your internal operations, including:
- Overall staffing to manage labor costs
- Employee schedules and performance
As a bonus, you can monitor transactions closely to collect insights such as marketing data from loyalty programs.
Inventory management software
How much product do you have remaining? Is customer demand rising, flat, or on the decline? Inventory management tools handle automated stock tracking and demand projections, so you always have an accurate picture of customer wants and your operation’s needs.
Inventory management software delivers real-time product data, regardless of the size of your operation. It synchronizes stock and location to ensure consistent order fulfillment, but is capable of much more, including:
- Barcode management
- Label printing
- Order management
- Tracking and reporting
Supply chain management software (SCMS)
You know better than most that the supply chain is long and complicated. You also know how much goes into delivering what consumers want and need. That’s where supply chain management software (SCMS) comes in. With AI and automation, retailers can reduce human error, get stock projections, and estimate staffing and distribution needs.
- Acquisition of raw materials
- Delivery to customer
The robots are coming. In reality, they’re already here, with a rising presence in retail. That’s because you can quickly deploy them to scan shelves and assess in-store inventory. Robots increase labor efficiency, supplementing—and sometimes replacing—employees who walk the aisles to locate misplaced items and spot issues with product availability. Robots shorten the process and deliver real-time data.
“When a robot runs through one of our stores, we take every item scanned and look for insights. For example, which products haven’t sold in a while? These items need to be reviewed. Or are there any bad tags on the shelves? Does the UPC not match the product? Is a product not selling in one store, but maybe selling in high volumes in others? Then maybe that one doesn’t need it and we could utilize that room for something else?” — Tyler Davis, Woodman’s Market
With robotics data in hand, you can quickly mobilize replenishment and order low-stock products employees might take a while to notice. But that’s not the only retail application. Stores worldwide are deploying robots for everything from cleaning and restocking to order fulfillment. The possibilities continue to grow, and it’s exciting to watch.
Benefits of retail automation software
So what do you get out of implementing automation for your store? You get a helping hand for your operation and your customers. Retail automation software provides benefits that are too good to ignore.
Reduced labor costs
With the rising costs of just about everything, your operation needs to save wherever possible. Retail automation software can deliver better results with fewer resources to execute repetitive tasks. Automation eases the strain on human capital while not necessarily cutting jobs.
In fact, retail automation is poised to redirect and create new jobs, and most retail workers believe the technology will do so. As with any other budding industry, automation will require new skill sets, making way for new opportunities.
Increased data security
Between customer payment cards, loyalty memberships, vendor orders, and recordkeeping, retail operations are handling more data than ever. As a result, the retail space is a frequent target of data breaches, counterfeit payments, and return fraud.
Luckily, retail automation software safeguards information and speeds up fraud detection. A few examples of this include:
- Firewalls to send off alerts when data is at risk.
- Automation tools that encrypt outgoing information.
When you can better control your inventory, you maintain control of your revenue potential. Retail automation software provides the tools to help you keep selling, such as:
- Low-stock alerts so you can reorder items
- Automatic purchasing processes for customers
Think about how staying on top of your inventory impacts your customers. The right insights and actions mean happy customers—and more sales for your business.
You need solutions that move with you. It doesn’t matter if you have one location or 100, two employees or 200, automation grows with your business, improving workflows along the way. As a result, you get business insights to:
- Optimize processes for growth
- Attract revenue
“They like me, they really like me!” According to LS Retail, retail automation software all but guarantees customer loyalty. Technology leads to customer satisfaction because it solves consumers’ biggest needs:
- Quick service
- Personalized marketing
The same report backs its claim up with staggering statistics, indicating that Accenture found that 75 percent of customers are more likely to purchase from a company that recommends products based on their past purchases, whereas Forrester discovered that 77 percent of customers prefer a personalized experience—and will even pay more for it.
Don’t rest on retail automation
Contactless payments, automated POS, robotics—retail automation software has already come so far, and there’s no telling where it’s headed next. What we do know is that continued investment in and evolution of these technologies brings real rewards, enabling retailers like you to boost revenue and earn customer loyalty.
Want to keep your finger on the pulse of technology? Keep up with Detroit Labs to get the inside scoop on technology advancements for your business.