Retailers are held to higher standards than ever before. The most successful brands are nimble, customer-first, culture-oriented, and efficient. That’s a tall order. And management staff are feeling the pressure. In fact, 72% of business managers are overwhelmed by their job.
Retail automation empowers brands with better data, increased efficiency, and overall cost savings. It reduces busy work and error-prone manual tasks, allowing staff to focus on impactful business decisions.
Consider this: With automation, you can run an entire brick and mortar grocery store with as much as 65% fewer hours than fully human-operated.
Let’s look at four ways you can automate your retail stores and increase profitability.
Inventory management is a critical, though tedious, component to every retail business. Managing stock across multiple channels, stores, and warehouses gets complicated. But if you have inaccurate or inefficient inventory management, you can make costly purchasing decisions, lose customers to stockouts, and waste money on dead stock.
McKinsey & Company predicts automation will continue to have a significant impact on inventory management in 2020.
There are tons of ways to automate retail inventory management:
- Inventory counts: A retail POS or inventory management software can automate this process. Physically speaking, robots can conduct inventory counts for retailers and send that information to your tech stack.
- Low stock alerts: Stockouts are costly and hurt the customer experience. Automated notifications mitigate this.
- Purchasing: Automated low stock alerts can also kick off automations for the purchasing process — everything from PO generation to submitting to suppliers and vendors.
- Order fulfillment: Amazon uses robots for order fulfillment, and retail robotics company Symbolic successfully lowered labor costs by 80% (in a space up to 40% smaller).
- Warehouse management: Also on the note of robots, Walmart has FAST Unloaders which optimize warehouse space, and Target has partnered with Swisslog to create warehouses that have automated case picking.
- Loss prevention: Automate corrective actions. Effectively manage incidents by assigning responsibility at the store level. Automic notifications and reminders. Track resolution in real-time from anywhere.
The retail audit, or inspection, process can be long and cumbersome when using manual process and paper. Infact, district managers can spends as much as half their week (20+ hours) on store inspections.
Despite the time commitment, it’s important to avoid taking shortcuts — worst case scenario, this can end your business. Chipotle, for example, ran into a major snafu recently when they were found to be in violation of child labor laws. This came with a hefty $1.3 million fine, not to mention negative press.
Automating retail auditing goes beyond gadgets, though. Compliant IA, for example, uses automation to streamline the entire audit/inspection process. Features like smart store checklists, task management, photo verification, collaborative calendars, and ticket tracking allow retailers to manage every stage of the store execution and communication process.
Also with Compliant IA, retailers can automate corrective actions and assign them on the spot with deadlines and photos to illustrate non-compliance. You can also add recommendations to enforce standard operating procedures.
Check out these Compliant IA resources to automate your audit/inspection process:
Marketers are tasked with creating a unified customer experience and communications and branding strategy across all touchpoints. There’s a lot that goes into that.
While marketing strategy can’t be executed by computers, tactics can.
Here are some ways to automate marketing for your retail brand:
- Email: Create automated campaigns and sequences based on different triggers. Some examples include email receipts, milestone emails (birthdays and anniversaries, for example), post-event attendance, and new customer/welcome, among others.
- Social media: Get notifications when your brand is mentioned. Automate responses to common queries.
- Content marketing: You can automate everything from the content creation process through distribution.
- SMS marketing: Similar to email, send text messages to your customers with product recommendations, store promotions, and event invitations.
- Personalization: Today’s consumers know retailers have data — and they demand they use it to create personalized retail experiences. This is next to impossible without machine learning and automation.
Modern retailers know the importance of data — good retail data. Retailers need to stay on top of everything from inventory to auditing, marketing and more.
But that requires a lot of data management, and manual data analyses require a lot of time and brain power.
Luckily, there are many ways you can automate reporting and data analysis, allowing people to get deeper, more meaningful insights in less time (not to mention more accurate).
Reporting automation can include generating and distributing reports, running analyses, and sending notifications when specific conditions have been met.
Many IoT devices are also making automated in-store reporting possible. Compliant IA store sensors, for example, monitor temperature and carbon monoxide for food safety as well as safety in warehouse and storage facilities. Conditions are tracked at regular intervals over time and Compliant IA sends a notification if something is amiss.
Streamlining your business with retail automation
Retail automation makes brands more efficient, knowledgeable, and in control of their day-to-day operations so they can dedicate more time to big picture and strategic goals.
There really are no limits to how much you want to automate in your business. For more ideas on how to optimize your retail operations, check out these articles:
- 8 Ways to Streamline Your Retail Store Operations
- 10 Retail Apps, Tools, and Platforms to Take Your Stores to the Next Level
About the author:
Alexandra Sheehan works with B2B companies in the retail, e-commerce, and travel sectors to create strategies and expert longform, website, and blog content. You can see her work on sites like Shopify, Vend, Stitch Labs, Money Under 30, and more. thealexsheehan.com.