Retailing and automation: Four reasons why do they need to work together

In the two years since the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the landscape of retail shopping has changed rather dramatically. As more retail businesses adapt to the changing market needs, the use of technology for retailing is becoming the need of the hour. 

This article highlights the automation trends that are taking over the retail industry and how to transform your retail business into a shopper-first organization. But first, let’s take a moment to understand what retail automation is. In a nutshell, retail automation refers to any technology that will help streamline repetitive tasks that are otherwise prone to human error and can be time consuming when undertaken manually. Retail automation solutions can improve efficiency and save on time, cost and resources which can be dedicated to more important tasks. More retail businesses are actively investing in virtual reality, augmented reality, data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions to enhance customer experience and improve business efficiency. Here are a few automation solutions that can help you grow your retail business. 

Automating returns

Returns are probably the least happy part of a shopping transaction for both the business and the customer. For the customer, they must go through the whole retail process again and fret over a failed shopping experience. For a retail business, return management is complicated and becomes an added expense especially as returns are perceived as a loss of time, resources and money. The average rate of returns in the industry is anywhere between 15% to 30% with the fashion and apparel industry being on the side of the higher trajectory. Essentially, a returns process involves authorizing a return, dispatching the order to collect the product, collecting the product, managing a refund on the transaction, gathering transaction data and history of previous returns, giving the order for restocking and completing the return process. These tasks are repetitive by nature and can easily be managed by an intelligent system. A return automation process will expedite such otherwise laborious tasks and streamline the process without requiring any human intervention. 

Automating data monetization

Data mining and data analytics is carving the path for new sales avenues including targeted marketing and hyper personalization. This means a retail business can use data on customer buying behaviour to predict and provide them with a better service. Targeted marketing involves a process wherein customers are shown ads as per their search behaviour and hyper personalized marketing includes the customer in the product creation process. This is possible through data monetization using artificial intelligence and data analytics software that can sift through and sort mountains of data. This data in turn can detect shopping patterns of customers - mass or individual and thereby offer the customer exactly what they need at the right place and the right time. Data monetization also allows businesses to improve efficiency in customer service, product returns and customer satisfaction. 

Automating a retail ecosystem

Omnichannel marketing has become a reality. Retail businesses are trying to offer as many avenues as possible in a bid to facilitate a seamless purchase experience. While this requires a retail business to expand their sales channels, they also need to ensure that the purchase experience does not differ between avenues. This means a business must create a shopper first retail ecosystem wherein the customer can have a seamless shopping experience. Be it curbside pick-up, door to door delivery, store pick up, mobile or web app purchases, a retail business needs to offer an intelligent design to guide the customer through their shopping experience. Omnichannel automation solutions can help a retail business ensure end to end offerings that maintain consistency and ensure customer satisfaction. 

Automating retail tax and compliance

One of the most important tasks while managing a retail business is keeping up with constantly changing tax and compliance requirements. While this function is often placed on the back burner, the cost of compliance violations can prove to be hefty and is capable of taking an arm and leg out of your profits. Retail tax and compliance automation solutions can calculate the correct tax rate based on the jurisdiction and help your business mitigate tax risk. Tax automation solutions can also comb through a plethora of dynamic tax content and notify the business of any upcoming changes so that the organization can act upon their tax strategy in time. Additionally, tax technology solutions can offload the manual process of registering, preparing and filing tax returns in various tax jurisdictions saving the business precious time and resources. Learn more about Avalara’s sales tax solutions for retailers and brands. 

Retail automation is not a fad. It is here to stay, and it will only improve the operations efficiency of a retail organization, to the point that it can even make or break a business in the near future.

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