RPA IN RETAIL: The Integral Role of Automation in the Retail Sector

Charles Dunstone once said: “The future of retail is the integration of internet and digital services with the retail network.”

The retail industry is growing and expanding globally at a rapid rate today. With increasing demand comes increased supply; and as a result, our online world is now brimming with retail websites for consumers across the world. One of the major aims of today’s retail industry is to attain global reach and satisfy the growing needs and demands of modern consumers. And like every other constantly expanding sector, the burden of monotonous and rule-based tasks also needs to be taken off the able shoulders of the retail industry. Enter, RPA.
You can check out our earlier blogs on the role of RPA in the related domains of supply chain and manufacturing. So, right now, we’re back with a blog; and today, let’s look at some of the processes that the retail sector can automate:

1. TOO MANY ‘RETURNS’ OF THE DAY?

All of us, at some point or the other, have been dissatisfied with the product purchased and returned it to the retail store with the demand for a refund. But have you wondered what processes take place on the other side? The lengthy process of processing returns can not only be extremely hectic, but also typically incur costs to the company. No, that doesn’t mean we stop returning products to the retail stores. It just means it’s time to bring in RPA! RPA not only registers all the returns effectively, but also enters the changes in the inventory database without any errors and in record time.

2. ENTERPRISE RESOURCE PLANNING HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER!

Without a doubt, ERP is one of the most important aspects of the retail sector. Consisting of a number of tasks ranging from billing and keeping track of price fluctuations to developing and organizing account payables and other reports, the employees working in this department have their plates full. So why not assign some of these processes to our champ bots? RPA can automate all of these monotonous processes, in order to pave way for increased efficiency and employee resource utilization.

3. WHICH PRODUCT GOES WHERE? REARRANGING THE ONLINE SHELVES…

Yes, you read right – ‘online shelves.’ When one opens an online retail website, it’s usually a list of broad categories we look for before we take our pick from a variety of related products. While this categorization makes life easier for consumers, it can be a tedious and time-consuming task at the backend. And installing a software bot ensures that this task is performed efficiently and quickly, relieving employees of monotonous manual work!

4. “YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE MY PRIMARY CONCERN,” SAYS YOUR PROCESS BOT

The customer is not only the ultimate goal of the entire retail process, but also a means of continuing successful business. And so, it follows that customer care is an extremely integral aspect of any such sector. While customer care requires a sensitive approach and cannot be totally governed by software bots, one can automate a number of rule-based processes even within this area – including enabling real-time product tracking, customized replies on online retail portals, and installing chatbots for answering basic customer queries.

5. IS THERE ANY DEMAND FOR THE PRODUCT I SUPPLY?

Demand is to supply as fuel to a car – one cannot function without the other. And so, it is extremely important that the demand and supply dynamics be carefully studied and analyzed in order to understand consumer preferences and then decide on the supply to be produced accordingly. However, this process also involves a number of tedious and time-consuming tasks, including gathering and organizing information, considering exceptions and carrying out simulations. All of these tasks can bog down an employee and impede growth. With RPA, all of these tasks can be automated in order to pave way to increased productivity and prevent stagnation.

A recent report by UiPath revealed the rising significance of RPA in the retail world. As per the report, automation is extremely beneficial to retailers at three different levels –
a) Back-office tasks, including bill-checking, payments and invoices;
b) Front-office tasks in areas including HR and legal, as well as chat-bot and other customer-care facilities; and
c) Shop-floor tasks such as trade promotions and optimization of the workforce.

While a number of veteran retailers are still skeptical about the constantly fluctuating nature of the digital revolution, it is important to embrace the world of RPA alongside the human workforce in order to ensure significant leaps in retail in terms of cost reduction, increased productivity and speeding up of processes.

 

Sources:
1. UiPath
2. Unlock Insights

RPA IN SUPPLY CHAIN: Is Automation the Next Big Thing in the Supply Chain Industry?

“Supply always comes on the heels of demand,” said Robert Collier.

It’s no secret that goods and services offered in the global market are what enable our day-to-day functioning in a bustling world. From grocery and furniture, to ultra-modern technical equipment and professional services, the interplay of demand and supply prevails at every level. While availing of the products and services offered, one seldom considers the tedious and lengthy supply process involved in ensuring a hassle-free fulfilment of customer demands. While the basic structure of the closely integrated supply chain remains the same, the process has also gone through a number of changes over the span of the past century, owing to large-scale technical advancements. Thus, it follows that it is extremely important for those involved in the supply chain to be up to date with the various developments in technology and communication. In such a scenario, should rule-based supply chain tasks such as payment processing, barcode verification and transportation, hold the supply industry back?
We’re back with a blog, and today, let’s look at some ways in which RPA can transform the face of the supply chain industry:

1.FROM SHIPS, TO AIRPLANES…AND MANUAL TRACKING TO AUTOMATION!
When the very process of shipping has become so much easier and more efficient, why should shipment tracking continue to be old-school? It’s not uncommon for customers to demand constant updates on the whereabouts of their shipped or to-be-shipped products. However, one seldom considers the monotony involved on the other side of the communication process. In order to track the shipping status of a product, the employee manually checks the request mails and enters each tracking code into the ERP software; and then reports back to the concerned customer with the shipping status. Enter, the age of RPA, where your process bot not only satisfies the customer by providing the accurate shipping status, but also relieves the overworked employee and paves way for more productive activities.

2.“YOUR ORDER IS BEING PROCESSED…” BY A HUMAN?
With the advent of online retail websites and virtual, efficient modes of transaction, placing orders has become extremely customer-friendly. However, it is also important to ensure that this ease of transaction holds good at both ends of the business. While a lot of leading retailers have managed to install relevant software to process and confirm orders, it is unfortunate that some of them continue to adhere to age-old manual transaction systems. With RPA, retailers can automate a host of extremely repetitive transaction-related processes, including processing orders, sending confirmation mails/messages, and back-office tasks such as data entry and certain customer-service processes.

3.COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY – BUT WHY SHOULD MONOTONY BE THE LOCK?
Communication, by itself, is a largely dynamic and an inseparable aspect of business. However, certain aspects of professional communication, such as sending automated emails and messages, can be repetitive and monotonous. And so, automating these processes can relieve the employees of manually sending out the same communication to a hundred different customers; and instead, focus on enhancing their communication skills in order to uplift their business.

4.NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION…BUT MONOTONY IS THE BARRIER TO INTERVENTION
Throughout history, innumerable inventions and discoveries have emerged owing to the ever-growing demands of the human race. As a result, we have been able to progress to unprecedented heights, and achieve seemingly impossible endeavours. With invention, it is also important to keep track of the manufacturing process in order to ensure that there is enough supply in proportion to the demand. RPA helps employees by alerting retailers when the stock for a particular product diminishes. In this way, RPA has made the inventory management domain extremely efficient and profitable.

5.THE ‘DEMAND-SUPPLY’ DYNAMICS…
Needless to say, supply of any product or service is directly proportional to its demand. Thus, it follows that for any retailer, it is of paramount importance to possess a thorough understanding of the market, along with the latest trends in consumer demands. The collection of data for this process can be tedious and time-consuming; and thus, tends to bog down retailers with monotonous tasks. Advancements in data science and machine learning have improved this situation to a great extent, by predicting consumption patterns of customers, and accordingly providing relevant recommendations pertaining to the same. Thus, retailers now typically spend much lesser time in deciphering consumer patterns and making predictions.

6.NOW, SUPPLY CAN BE DRIVEN BY SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES!
Last, but not the least, RPA can do wonders in product transportation. From transporting raw materials from one industry to another, to delivering the finished products to the market or directly to the customer, the transport system literally forms the backbone of the supply chain. However, the drivers of these vehicles are often subjected to long hours of travel, often without any respite. Self-driving vehicles can ensure efficient supply of the products, while also eliminating the hectic schedules of those involved in the process.
Besides the above listed processes, RPA and AI can also bring about a world of change in the supply chain in terms of automating a host of other business processes, including vendor management, supplier performance management, logistics operations, distribution and sourcing.

As long as there is demand, there will be supply. And this permanence of the supply industry makes it all the more a good candidate for RPA.

Sources:
1. UiPath
2. Maruti Tech

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