Since January this year, twenty-one North American retailers have filed for bankruptcy. We have seen established retail brands struggle with pandemic pressures as well as an inability to implement innovation as a transforming force.
We live in uncertain times subject to certain change and as such there has never been a greater opportunity for executives to iterate and question their existing retail strategy and infrastructure.
By effectively reimagining retail customer service, renovating your brand to foster loyalty and engagement and harnessing automation and innovation as a key differentiator, retail businesses can more efficiently shield themselves from the looming threat, whilst moving towards the future and beyond.
Harnessing Automation and Innovation as a Key Differentiator
Machines comb mounds of data to personalize engagements. Robots streamline fulfilment operations in warehouses. Technology is more embedded in commerce than ever before and will continue to be further integrated. To this end, harnessing the power of modern innovation and automation sets your retail apart from competitors.
The pace of innovation is accelerating, with 67% of customers expecting companies to provide new products and services more frequently than before. Technological innovation underpins this sentiment, with 75% of customers expecting companies to use new technologies to improve their experiences, and 67% saying the way a company uses technology reflects how it operates in general.
AUTOMATION – Customer convenience has always been a priority across retail but now more than ever shoppers want to move quickly from selection through to transaction in brick-and-mortar stores. Industrializing the process is of mutual benefit to both staff and customer alike and this is where automation comes in.
Obviously, automating manual and mundane tasks helps free up staff time to focus on delivering an attentive, 1-1 service for customers but its applications are innumerable, we are only just beginning to see big business invest in its potential. For example, Ahold Delhaize and Albertsons have both announced a partnership with company Takeoff Technologies, to help build automated miniwarehouses for the robotic in-store fulfillment of digital orders.
Companies from Salesforce to McKinsey have all noted that If you aren’t already implementing automation, you are falling behind.
INNOVATION – We covered technological innovation whilst talking about experiential retail above but it cannot go understated how quickly a business might future-proof its operations if it invests in the disruptive tools to improve the end-user experience.
Perhaps the most important technology on the rise now however is AI. Artificial intelligence is poised to become a driving force within the retail sector, particularly in response to Covid-19. Whether it is the implementation of chatbot technology or utilizing AI to streamline process in warehouse or in store, the next technology for retail to conquer is Artificial Intelligence.
In 2022, KPMG estimates that US Retailers will invest $7.3 billion in the pursuit of greater AI integration across their operations, helping businesses with anything from their Sales and CRM Applications to Customer Recommendations, Manufacturing, Logistics and Delivery and Payments and Payment Services.
How does Harnessing Automation and Innovation Help Your Retail?
- Reduction of operating costs
- Improved staff retention, motivation and ease of recruitment
- Faster ROI
- Increased productivity and efficiency
- More added value
However, this is just one of the three key solutions mentioned above that a retailer might employ to quickly respond to the threat posed by the coronavirus whilst also future-proofing their business for years to come.