Business Process Automation (BPA) in Retail Industry

Business Process Automation (BPA) in Retail Industry

Technology is impacting most industries, but the most impactful change which can be seen is in the retail sector, with customers shopping preferences, product availability, and customer expectations undergoing a sea change. The industry can only but keep up with these dynamic forces. What are the most popular scenarios which are most apt for process automation? Let’s explore.

Companies focused on consumer and retail industries are used to tackling unprecedented consumer behavior changes and expectant of the marketplace’s dynamic nature. Whether its automation on the assembly line or smart chatbots helps consumers surf their product websites, either case requires an organization to be agile and nimble in their approach to rising to the challenge. The retail industry is shifting to the online world. Online sales are expected to double by 2023 in the united states. 22% of global retail sales will be attributed to e-commerce by 2023.

While the industry gears up to meet the rising demand, it is continuously besieged by rising production costs, disruptions by new technology, and skilled labor availability. Business Process Automation (BPA) can help alleviate many process inefficiencies by automating quicker response, more accurate data entry, or simply more throughput. Many advantages come naturally due to the adoption of BPA in retail industry. Aspects like employing freed up human resources in other productive pursuits by automating most of the mundane tasks the same employee might have been executing.

Man on a computer with a credit card in hand
“The total market share of “non-store,” or online U.S. retail sales was higher than general merchandise sales for the first time in history, according to a report from the Commerce Department this week.” -CNBC

Impact of BPA in Retail Industry

The supply chain in the retail industry is pretty complicated. There are many stages at which additional costs keep adding up. If there are opportunities to avoid or reduce such costs, it readily adds to the overall margins and positively impacts its price. Among the many retail branches, the most promising automation areas are customer support, back-office operations, returns handling, inventory management, and behavioral analysis. These may seem to be the most popular automation candidates, but there are areas where automation opportunities are aplenty. One can look at compliance management, payroll, safety, and training.

Benefits of BPA in Retail

Complex tasks and activities can be automated with BPA; apart from the direct benefits of process efficiency, there are a host of other advantages. Listed below are some examples of the benefits of automation in retail:

  • Reduce Operations Costs – Have a direct impact on labor; your savings will reduce your operations’ cost and increase productivity.
  • Drive more comprehensive audits as you sieve through volumes of data programmatically instead of parsing the content manually.
  • Improved inventory management- Driven through automatic triggers, software-based bots ensure accuracy in every inventory run.
  • Reduced Delivery Risks – Automated integration with shipping and packaging providers enable reduced risks in shipping the right package and reducing risks associated with delivery.
  • More robust application integration – Your employees may not need to sift through mountains of data and cross lookup systems of records to find linkages. BPA will allow you to integrate through APIs and make things available on one click, dramatically enhancing user experience and efficiency.
  • Improved customer support – With automation in the full drive, your customer support can resolve more client issues and then worry about authentication, lookup, rebate checks, status updates of packages, delivery schedules, or extending hold times on clients while looking up details manually.

Use Cases of BPA in Retail

BPA is perfect in areas where people must perform high volume tasks, workflows, or involved in back-office tasks. The focus is to look for time-consuming tasks that might be critical for the organization but can be seamlessly automated. One can either take up commercially available BPA solutions or develop one custom-made for your scenario.

To understand more about BPA and the selection criteria of a BPA tool, visit here. While a tool selection is critical, it’s more important to focus on the right target area. The following are some of the areas which are top candidates for automation in retail.

Customer support

You can deflect calls away from the contact center with an intelligent bot and increase call containment rates. Appropriately designed AI and ML backed BPA agents can allow your customer service reps to focus on clients who have more complex queries or require extended support. Automated integrations will also enable you to drive cost savings and deliver more successful resolutions simultaneously. One can enable integrations with other systems, which will make the Bot more intelligent. When your Bot or customer rep can source information faster, average handling time automatically improves. 

Back office operations 

Back-office operations are cornerstones or foundations for any organization’s success. Therefore, high efficiency in the back office translates to the overall productivity of an organization. Whether it is finance, HR, billing, invoicing, or any other aspect that involves processing information or having low-end activities, all are candidates. Bots are capable of freeing up productive hours and allow employees to focus on more high-value innovative agendas.

Returns handling 

With the advent of online shopping and other retail practices, the degree of product returns is proportionately increasing, as is the convenience of purchase. This trend is particularly visible in the e-commerce industry. Manually handling the returns process is a cumbersome task. Returns are a cost to a company; to compound, the return cost is wasted manual labor, which does not add to increasing revenue.

A successful implementation of BPA in retail can make this value chain more effective by automating the inventory updates, executing refunds, customer communications, and other associated manual tasks. Since the return process adds to the overall cost, it’s an excellent candidate for automation.

Inventory management 

The product’s availability is a crucial metric that ensures either the buyers will return to you for repeat business. A product “not available” is a welcome sign one would like to avoid. The downside loss adds up owing to lower resell volumes.

BPA can be effectively used to manage inventory levels, preorder depleting stocks, estimate the right inventory levels required in multiple warehouses, and automate product shipment triggers to backfill. The applications are endless. 

Behavioral analysis

Lastly, it’s crucial to have speed in analysis and understanding consumer behavior. BPA can help automate and generate the right action triggers for marketers. This allows differentiated actions for consumers with a specific engagement pattern. BPA can help assess and launch which campaign goals are more effective. It can also help determine the campaign budget, and evaluate the campaign channels. Retailers modify their strategy and use BPA to deliver repeatability of actions. It also positively affects the trade promotions or store specific planning, renew subscriptions, and aid in the claim handling process.

Conclusion

BPA is changing the industry dynamics; companies are using automated methods to execute company strategies rather than use crowds of people to carry repeatable tasks. Supported by advanced technologies like AI and ML, organizations turn their operations into significant support centers, improve productivity, and highlight overall efficiency gains. The proposed software should work seamlessly with your existing investments in CRM, ERP, and customer support platforms to deliver an effective BPA implementation. It’s essential to assess whether your BPA initiatives need support from software written specifically for your use-case. Ensure your choice, whether custom or off the shelf, delivers the best results. 

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