Intelligent Retail Automation in 20207 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
All successful retailers around the world have a common goal: low cost, great convenience, speedy response, and memorable experience. While this may seem simple, many large retailers have closed down after failing to implement this.
Automation Is The Centrepiece To The Retail Puzzle.
Automation not only simplifies work but it also lowers costs, improves scalability, minimizes errors and increases efficiency. Automation democratizes functions, thus reducing dependencies and delays in the pipeline while at the same time ensuring that a constantly improving process is in place. It benefits both the provider and customer and allows a lot more people to access what used to be an exclusive experience, bringing a lot more people into the economy.
Today, automation is about leveraging the power of data. The amount of data that needs to be processed from a plethora of data points makes automation a necessity, not a luxury. Especially in an industry like retail where each customer can have several touch points through multiple channels, automation is extremely important to keep up a high level of customer experience. Failure to automate can even lead to retailers missing out on capturing data completely. And in a data-driven economy, this can have dire consequences. There is a constant need to create, use, analyze and distribute data in a timely manner for instant contextual decision making and value creation. This can only be done with automated systems capturing data across different touchpoints and channels.
Retail Needs Automation!
Automation can transform retail and help both retailers and customers reimagine beautiful retail experiences. It can help retailers evolve from fulfilling the basic needs of customers to creating memorable experiences which shoppers keep coming back for across every single touchpoint in each and every channel. Physical stores still account for the majority of the sales today. However, brick and mortar stores all over the world are evolving their traditional one-size-fits-all stores into immersive experiential stores that focus on personalizing each shopper’s experience. Stores are evolving to be environments that entertain, educate and rediscover rather than just being a transactional entity.
Today’s customers no longer seek products, but experiences.
There has been a big change in the behaviour of next-generation shoppers. They have gone from viewing shopping as an “activity” to a holistic, entertaining experience that is comparable to other valuable experiences of their lives. With the advent of the experience economy, omnichannel marketing and innovative retail concepts, we know one thing.
The Future of Retail Is Entertainment.
Being able to provide experiences that are customised, thoughtful and memorable must be prioritized over anything else to retain shoppers. Retail experts are now talking about different types of store formats and experiences that shoppers want. They are broadly divided into two aspects. The first is that shoppers value convenience over anything. A transaction that is hassle-free, low on effort and time and provides ease of access to purchase is an ideal transaction. There are several reasons for customers opting for these types of efficient visits. It ranges from mindset, ability to save time, the overwhelming nature and interaction with the support staff at physical stores.
The other type of store is an experience store which is a space that is designed as an escape for shoppers to feel like they are in a whole new environment. These stores are concepts that transport customers into spaces they never imagined.
Retailers have understood that as much as online ecommerce is gaining momentum, offline stores have the advantage of offering a unique in-store experience. Stores today specialising in immersive retail have themed areas where people shopping for different occasions such as work wear, beach/vacation wear etc, can experience their attire in the respective setting offering them a unique perspective on how their outfits go with their surroundings. Apparel and beauty stores are bringing in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technology which helps customers to virtually try on clothes, style it with accessories, check how a particular shade of lipstick complements their outfit.
But how can brands create these seamless customer experiences both online and offline, and do it successfully at scale? If experiential retail is the jet that will propel retailers to new heights, data is the fuel powering this jet!
The Power of Data
Data is well on its way to becoming its own currency, and that is why retailers need to be front and centre in its creation, its management and its deployment. Data also forms the foundation of inventory management. From the moment inventory lands at the warehouse to when buyers place orders for the season to come, data is the crucial link that connects the inventory management cycle and leads the decision making process. Data accuracy is necessary from the start of this process to ensure that subsequent decisions are taken in an appropriate and timely manner.
Did you know that 2.5 million quintillion bytes of data are generated every single day?
Data needs to be both precise and accurate to aid in every step of the retail process. But a team creating and managing this data makes it susceptible to human error and inconsistencies. This where AI comes into the picture.
Intelligent Retail Automation
AI and Automation can help retail teams across the globe improve efficiencies across their workflows. Automation processes help brands with accurate data creation and help provide context around shopper’s needs and behaviours. By getting access to this accurate data and using it across personalization, styling and customised-marketing, brands can leverage this information to curate experiences that are meaningful and valuable to the shopper.
AI-powered Retail Automation ensures data creation, in the form of automated product tagging as well as collating individual customers preferences. Using AI in Retail additionally ensures the creation of an accurate database that is completely unique to the retailer’s business and customers. This database, when distributed across the retailer’s decision makers, is a proverbial goldmine. Not only does it provide cues for visual merchandising, but it also facilitates styling decisions and impacts buyers decisions for buying inventory for the season to come. Most significantly, this unique database is the key to cracking the most difficult piece of the retail puzzle, the customer.
If one were to look at the customer journey along a retail chain, then automation can lead-in right from product discovery which can be boosted through automated catalog management, leading to enhanced product visualization, be it in terms of on-model imagery and an AI stylist, both of which can truly help customers visualize product in context.
Leveraging this context and adding to this the power to be able to provide each shopper a bespoke, custom experience where they are capable of making choices on a shopper journey that is shaped entirely on the basis of their unique preferences. This now gives retailers the ability to understand shopper intent in real-time, thus leading to increased engagement and conversion.
From a merchandising point-of-view, most retail teams spend a lot of time and resource in presenting their products on-site and in-store in a way that product discovery as well as associated products as discovered quicker by the relevant demography. Brands and companies worldwide are utilizing automation to generate on model images of their products, circumventing the need for traditional fashion photography and while controlling the custom needs of audience segments in accordance to their respective dress sizes, gender, styling preferences and need for accessorization.
With the power of data, AI can completely transform how retail teams function. Automation not only simplifies work but it also lowers costs, improves scalability, minimizes errors and increases efficiency. Automation democratizes functions, thus reducing dependencies and delays in the pipeline while at the same time ensuring that a constantly improving process is in place. It benefits both the provider and customer and allows a lot more people to access what used to be an exclusive experience, bringing a lot more people into the economy.