Business process automation in Retail: Can you do without it?
Updated: May 7, 2020
By Siddharth Wadehra, QuickReach Head of Research
The retail industry, over the last decade, has been under immense pressure. Wafer-thin margins are making business continuity an immense challenge. Managing e-commerce supply chains are more expensive than ever, the rising labor costs, capital-intensive operations and relentless pressure from suppliers to pass on the raw material cost inflation have all painted a gloomy picture for the retail giants. Couple this with the steadily rising customer expectation as digital natives continually look to provide personalized experiences to end customers.
Retail companies are struggling to survive and adapt in this new world which they suddenly find themselves in. Understandably, they are increasingly turning to automation to optimize various aspects of their business which would help them not just improve their wafer-thin margins but also cater to the evolving consumer preferences.
In our previous article, we discussed the overarching benefits of process automation in retail in boosting customer satisfaction and the fact that it helps streamline and simplify chaotic retail operations. Retailers have specifically used process automation to optimize workflows, automatically update inventory, meticulously collect data to drive business decisions, effectively use staff, improve quality control and compliance, ensure a greater customer satisfaction among other benefits. Eventually all of these have resulted in driving down costs and improving profit margins.
While almost every department in the retail organization can potentially gain from the benefits of business process automation, this article attempts to highlight some of the key retail functions which could be enhanced using automation initiatives.
1. Sales analytics
There is a massive amount of data which is churned out by retail transactions. Using process automation, this data could be used to churn out promotional offers and deals and minimize customer churn. Real time sales analytics would allow the retail company to study the consumer purchase pattern and not just offer the consumer an unprecedented level of personalization, but also promos to entice additional purchase and build loyalty. Sales data would also enable forecasting and optimizing inventory and stock.
2. Demand and supply planning
One of the key functions which process automation would help with includes efficient demand and supply planning scenarios. By running simulations and identifying possible exemptions, this streamlined data could help devise a strategy to accurately predict consumer demand and prepare the team for handling the suggested demand.
3. Logistics and supply chain management
As a retailer, you would possibly agree to the fact that one of the most critical processes is the logistics and supply chain management. Transporting products from partners in the value chain, tracking real time shipments and maintaining stock are just some of the key processes which make up the retailers supply chain operations. Process automation would ensure seamless communication and collaboration that guarantee that the retailer would be able to avoid any bottlenecks which threaten to disrupt his business.
4. Marketing and consumer behavior analysis
Successful digital marketing campaigns are aptly enabled by data and the insights which the team can use. Process automation enables quicker decision making and complete visibility over all the channels. Data-driven budgeting, channel management and approvals on campaigns and promotions could all be seamlessly managed by process automation. Analyzing consumer behavior to improve marketing efforts could result in improving customer experience and driving retention and loyalty.
5. Returns processing
Imagine being a retailer processing each and every return manually. The amount of time taken and the potential for manual errors is sure to leave your customer disappointed. Not only would it be labor intensive but would also prove to be expensive for the organization. Payment and returns processing are among the simplest and the most obvious business processes which the retailer should look to automate.
6. Customer support management
The millennial customers are looking for an unprecedented level of customer support. Automation would empower your frontline staff and the customer service agents over hotline get instant approvals for pressing issues which the customers would want an immediate resolution to. These automated processes could easily be integrated with CRM systems to help collate data to paint an accurate representation of the needs of the customer. Loyalty programs, customer onboarding, support and issue resolution could all be automated which would ensure that these processes could well run in the background while your team focuses on tasks which create value or improve the customer experience.
The list of processes above is obviously not exhaustive. Almost all key processes in retail operations could be completely automated. It could extend well beyond retail operations into various other departments in the organization. Handling events, new product launches, or offering something special to your premium customers—all of these could be effectively managed by process automation. The automation suite integrating with your internal IT infrastructure and third-party applications would enable you to own the complicated retail flow and make educated decisions around the bottlenecks and how best the organization could look to resolve them.
While cost pressures for traditional retail companies is not new at all, most have already exhausted their traditional cost reduction levers. Now unable to pass on this additional cost to the customer in a cut-throat competitive setting, retailers are now turning to automation to bolster margins. Understandably, as a retailer, if you aren’t working on automation already, you are probably falling behind. In an era where Amazon has introduced the disruptive Amazon-Go concept, automation is fast becoming a necessity to curtail costs while credibly improving efficiency and bolstering profit margins.
Implementing Seamless Retail Process Automation- The QuickReach Way
QuickReach can help you automate your retail processes seamlessly in a matter of minutes. The intuitive design coupled with pre-built templates and a drag-and-drop form builder, retail teams can now implement process automation without any technical expertise. QuickReach integrates easily with existing applications in use by the retail team to provide valuable data on processes which could be used to make educated decisions.
Real-time analytics empowers teams with greater visibility and insight. Cloud-based data storage and role-based access control keeps your data secure. QuickReach facilitates automated communication and easy collaboration to help retail processes function efficiently.
Sign up here for a demo with one of our customer success team members to ensure that you are ahead in the process automation game to take your retail business to the next level.