It’s a well-known fact that the retail sector is going through a drastic and dramatic transformation, whether bricks and mortar or online. The retail business has witnessed some of the phenomenal changes because of technology disruptions. Subsequently, it has never been more imperative to take stock of business processes, evaluate where efficiencies can be made, and determine how to make use of the right technology to offer a convincing proposition of both superior client experience and operational improvement.
Amazon and Alibaba are some of the biggest disruptors in the retail industry who are tearing up the rule book along with companies from other sectors such as Uber and Netflix. These companies are playing a major role in pioneering new customer-centric services and building supply-chain models that are reshaping and lifting consumer expectations.
For some retailers, digital transformation appears to be a tricky and continually moving target. Their traditional legacy frameworks are so deeply woven into the core of their processes that any important changes are both uncertain and equally expensive. Fully adopting cutting-edge technology seems like attempting to change the wheels on a speeding vehicle. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way. Transformative technology as of now exists that doesn't disrupt old legacy frameworks and allows retailers to function within their existing enterprise ecosystem, while building the platform for longer-term advancement accomplished by artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA).
RPA in the Workplace
Whether it’s implementing AI bots, software replacements, or integrations, even the slightest change in a company's business model can be risky prohibitively expensive. Notwithstanding, disruptive technology exists that can work within an existing IT infrastructure to make a platform for long-term innovation and accomplishment. This is driven by AI and RPA. RPA leverages the abilities of fast and highly efficient software robots to imitate human workers’ actions within digital systems, so as to implement business operations. If executed viably, automation can generate huge productivity benefits over several areas in the retail sector, including retail supply chain, store planning, invoice processing, bill checking, payments, and practically any financial process, among others.
RPA is one of the fastest-growing enterprise technology: Gartner predicts that at least 85 percent of medium- and large-sized enterprises will have adopted some form of RPA by the end of 2022. This is because the technology not only offers productivity benefits but also increases efficiency and processing capability, thereby reducing error rates. Furthermore, it can increase employee satisfaction and wellbeing as well as increase engagement, improving worker happiness by enabling them to do more creative tasks.
With regard to the implementation of RPA, there are two main types of software robots: unattended robots and attended robots. Unattended robots automatically complete pre-set roles at scale and without the need of a human employee. The main role of these robots is to automate processes and redeploy staff somewhere else, driving up efficiency and delivering ROI. On the other hand, attended robots can be triggered by user events and require collaboration with human employees in real-time to execute processes with perfect accuracy.
While unattended robots have a significant role to play, especially in automating back-office operations, it is attended robots that can play an important and pivotal role in the future for organizations – not only finishing tasks to free man-hours up but also increasing the abilities of human managers.
Opportunities RPA Offers to Retail
RPA holds the utmost importance in the retail sector, given the degree of automation on which all the business processes and operations depend, as well as the need for vast data management. In the retail landscape, PRA can automate multiple standalone processes without the need for human intervention or multiple data analysis. Besides, software robots can automate crucial, reputable, standard, rule-based, and high-volume processes from inventory network directly through to post purchase.
In the supply chain, these robots can analyze and make activities dependent on patterns of data – for instance, activating alarms or processes. This is especially valuable for retailers working with short supply chains and particularly in today’s intensified customer experience scenario.
The role of RPA for back-office tasks with financial processes–including invoice processing, payments, and bill checking–and HR-related processes such as onboarding and offboarding workers, increases and often becomes a time-consuming process in a sector that completes its tasks heavily relying on seasonal employees.
Back-office undertakings ready for RPA incorporate money related procedures – receipt handling, charge checking, and installments and HR process-related capacities, e.g., onboarding and offboarding workers, a tedious procedure in a segment that depends vigorously on occasional representatives.
While in the front office, RPA is of particular relevance–for example, in call centers, data-driven behavioral analysis, and chatbot operation as well as in store planning, workforce management, and trade promotions. According to studies, automation can generate a precision rate of 98 percent in retail, while simultaneously reducing human intervention by 80 percent.
RPA and Consumer Loyalty
The concept of client experience as a differentiator isn't new, yet isn't being paid attention to enough in the current retail environment. Retailers from the UK at present lose £102 billion every year because of poor customer satisfaction, which can be improved by technologies such as AI and big data, thereby increasing repeat business and lowering the number of abandoned orders. This is where RPA comes into the picture–by automating time and resource-dependent customer-centric activities, such as handling complaints and loyalty scheme management. Furthermore, RPA can make sure that complaints are addressed rapidly and viably, turning displeased clients into brand advocates and improving client satisfaction.
RPA can address processes that are tedious and expensive for retailers and involving several steps in a number of locations (from warehousing to finance). If not addressed properly, the returns and exchange process can distance clients always–so it's an imperative element to get right. In this case, RPA can take sales orders for things that need replacement and process funds–additionally dealing with financial records and stock management. So, RPA can build customer loyalty and provides retailers with a competitive edge by transforming the returns process from a financial load into a streamlined and automated service.
The Future of Retail is RPA
To conclude, RPA offers retailers the opportunity to automate operations, processes, supply-chain management, and data management, whilst preparing them for the future. Early adopters are now receiving the rewards. Those retailers who still remain questionable of the opportunities that RPA can bring will be assured by the fact that RPA can provide immense opportunities than threats to the retail environment.