Highlights of retail automation

In 2019 Economist conducted a survey of more than 500 companies in eight countries. The purpose of the study was to find out how far organizations have progressed in automating their operations. The report included, among other things, other sectors of the economy business process automation in retail.

More than half of the respondents (51%) from different industries admitted that they actively use robotics in their work. The extent of deployment of such technologies varies by region and industry. For example, companies in the US, France and Germany are leaders in intensive automation. Which IT solutions are most popular in retail? What prevents their implementation? How soon will robots replace vendors? Read this article.

Tools Retail automation

Automation means the use of software that performs tasks independently and simulates human work. These tasks are usually repetitive structured functions. Currently, the most widely used technologies are software-based solutions such as IoT and RPA that use artificial intelligence. Physical robots also play an important role in, for example, logistics and inventory management.

Resellers actively use the above techniques to collect and process data and perform predictable physical functions. By McKinsey Global Institute, the total automation potential of these and other activities in the field is 53%.

What processes are automated

Today, resellers mostly, but not exclusively, automate repetitive documentation tasks. Organizations apply IT solutions in the following areas:

  • Invoicing and accounting

RPA tools allow the software to generate reports, reconciliation clauses and cover letters, and make payments. The software processes applications, builds IFRS data and analyzes it. In addition, the system keeps a record of all transactions, which helps companies pass financial audits.

In general, activities involving high levels of human interaction require a combination of standard RPA and artificial intelligence-based technology. Such systems do not just analyze data. They need to be flexible to provide the necessary solutions.

One of the tools used for customer support is electronic consultants. They use several techniques simultaneously, including natural language processing algorithms, neural networks, and deep learning. Such systems are capable of self-learning, and their effectiveness only increases over time.

  • Human Resources

The software successfully replaces people when performing HR tasks. Such systems analyze candidates ’resumes on the Internet and select the appropriate ones. Robots help to get new employees and complete their basic training. Such programs also produce work letters and reports, keeping records of sick leave and holidays.

RPA tools help companies manage purchase orders. The systems automatically send notifications to suppliers, register invoices, inventory, manage delivery terms and more. ML-guided programs plan routes using real-time data on traffic and weather conditions. This helps drivers take quick action to deliver cargo as quickly as possible.

Special platforms process customer orders, send them notifications and respond to complaints. Proactive analysis tools analyzes customer behavior on the company’s website and anticipates demand. This software then adjusts offers and adjusts prices, helping resellers increase sales.

RPA solutions help resellers manage a huge number of different documents. ML-based systems manage expiring events, create and send reports, register contracts, process emails, and more.

Software segments and analyzes data based on several factors. For example, it takes into account both historical and real-time data, data from foreign exchange markets, tax bases, government authorities, etc. Scott Likens, director of new services and new technologies at PwC, noted that their technology handled the burden of documentation so staff could focus on making expert assessments.

Edut business process automation

For many retailers, automation marks the beginning of digital change. According to Economist Intelligence, 73% of organizations are very satisfied with the results of their organization robotisation of business processes. The most commonly cited benefits of such solutions are increased productivity and reduced errors. Other benefits include improved operational consistency, increased revenue and a better customer experience.

Difficulties in adopting new technology

If automation of business processes in retail is so useful, what prevents organizations from adopting it? The most common reasons for companies are data protection problems, difficulties in adopting technology and human factors. The latter include the reluctance of employees to accept change and inadequate skills.

Organizations can partially remove the above barriers by training and retraining their staff in RPA solutions. More than half of respondents to the Economist Intelligence survey stated that automation requires the development of new skills in their employees. These abilities include problem solving, openness to change, and teamwork mindset.

The future of automation

Despite the competitive advantage that robotics offers to retail companies, much of the future of this technology is not yet known. How far is automation progressing in terms of supply chains, inventory management, order processing and interaction with customers? Does robotization limit, or vice versa, improve employee creativity and freedom of action? How can companies ensure data protection in the context of rapidly evolving technology?

Many retailers also ask themselves whether state-of-the-art solutions will completely replace human labor and how soon it will happen. The McKinsey Global Institute noted that while machines will play a significant role in all sectors of the economy in the near future, they will successfully perform only one-third of all tasks. This means that workers will soon have to learn to work alongside rapidly evolving robots.

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