Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and the Retail Industry

Robotic process automation (RPA) helps the retail sector streamline essential workflows. Let's examine how below.



As retail and consumer-goods leaders know, the act of delivering products to consumers comprises a variety of difficult processes involving inventory management, store planning, sales forecasting, enterprise resource planning (ERP) management and customer support. With the ever-increasing demand to meet customer expectations, supply chains must also evolve to meet these modern standards.



Capgemini believes that an estimated sum of $340 billion annually could be saved by the retail industry if important processes like customer returns, supply chain management, updating customer databases, maintaining inventory records and others are automated. One way to effectively achieve this objective and resolve supply chain problems would be through robotic process automation (RPA), a kind of automation that uses software bots to handle structured and repetitive tasks usually done by people.



What is robotic process automation (RPA) and how does it apply to the retail industry?



Robotic process automation (RPA) is a software technology that lets users easily manage software robots, including building, deploy and that emulate human actions interacting with digital systems and software.



When deploying robotic process automation, you set up the bots to recreate the steps that would be taken by a human to finish a task in a software environment. RPA has been widely adopted throughout the retail and e-commerce industries as it provides a means to automate and narrow down many interactions between humans, procedures or processes and apps that drive the retail industry's success in today's world.



Since the bots replicate human actions, they can function as universal points for consolidation, allowing the integration of software systems and apps lacking APIs. In the retail industry, robotic process automation (RPA) usually is used to handle collection of data, keep track of the status of inventories and process simple customer returns.



Key Features of Robotic Process Automation



Some Key features of RPA include:






● Computer-coded software


● Programs imitating human interaction with applications


● Cross-functional application


● Virtual workforce controlled by business operations


● Agile and non-invasive and works with existing IT architecture and governance



How Robotic Process Automation Works



In the retail industry, robotic process automation can be implemented to serve office-oriented and customer-focused functions. It can perform tasks that need defined, repeatable steps or the manipulation of structured data. Common applications of RPA include:






● Gathering employee data for back-office applications such as onboarding and payroll


● Creating and processing standard invoices


● Deploying chatbots to answer common customer questions


● Collecting and aggregating register reports


● Sending scheduled automated messages to suppliers and clients



Advantages of Robotic Process Automation in Retail Industries



RPA automates repeatable tasks that are usually performed by humans and can be applied in a variety of ways.



A couple of advantages RPA offers in the retail industry include:






● Enhanced customer experienced and interaction: Using RPA, customer-oriented issues such as processing returns, updating orders and support using chatbots can be carried out in real time and whenever the need be, enabling businesses to offer an enhanced and more engaging customer experience.


● Efficiently manage inventories: RPA can be used to keep track of inventory data and also notify the concerned team when inventory levels are low and manage the inventory to prevent undersupply and overstocking.


● Error reduction: Automation using RPA is often less error prone than human workers in data handling and preparation, undoubtedly resulting in accuracy, efficient record keeping and management.


● Increased income generation: Invariably, all the benefits offered by RPA when considered together help an organization or business make better decisions, track and keep records more efficiently and save costs and reduce losses, resulting in increased revenue.



RPA Use Cases in Retail Industry



RPA is highly efficient in the automation of tasks that are manual, repetitive, error prone and based on structured data, with little-to-no opportunity for human workers to add value.

Below are some typical use cases of RPA in retail:




Logistics and Supply Chain Management



Logistics and Supply Chain Management are at the heart of retail activities. Every retailer is expected to take the products from the suppliers and send them to the customer. But, there are a lot of processes involved, including monitoring inventory levels and customer support. Even order status tracking, shipping and reverse shipment can extensive. All these processes are dependent on human workers sitting in the office.



When you implement RPA in retail to automate logistics and supply chains, you can enhance collaboration between suppliers, customers and distributors. You can also improve the working conditions of your employees, directing their efforts towards more productive and rewarding roles.



Automation in the retail industry enables cost optimization by improving inventory usage and costs of wastage. With reduced costs, you can even minimize product costs for customers, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.



Most importantly, RPA can help you stay ahead of your competitors in the industry.




Automated inventory management



RPA bots can ensure that inventory databases are continuously updated. An unattended bot could be scheduled to run at the end of every day using sales data from each store to update records in inventory management systems. If equipped with AI-processing functionality, the bot could even determine when two slightly different names refer to the same product, thereby eliminating transcription errors.




Supply and demand planning



RPA bots can help retailers prepare the reports necessary for broader, more strategic levels of supply and demand planning. Teams can automatically compile data from multiple documents and sources in a single spreadsheet using attended bots for easy analysis. If the RPA solution can run multiple bots at once, such comprehensive reports can be generated at a moment's notice.




Invoice processing



Processing invoices doesn't only consume time but is very repetitive. Workers often have to handle loads of paperwork, wasting a lot of time on unproductive activities. This causes a reduction in profits.



Hence, automating this area in retail is crucial. Using RPA, data collection, segregation and processing bills are much quicker and devoid of human errors.





Introducing new products



In the retail industries, a variety of products are released regularly. With the coming of these new products, the old ones require updating. Features such as pricing and stock quantity change regularly as well.



Client and customer opinions are monitored in real-time to tweak product rates, manage inventory and adjust pricing and production using RPA.




ERP management



Enterprise Resource Planning (EPR) covers activities like billing, price changes, account payables, receivables and more. If such activities are automated, the workload on humans and errors is reduced greatly.



Furthermore, when this automated or RPA-powered ERP is integrated into the warehouse, inventory management becomes seamless, ensuring that you are never out of inventory.





Business and sales analytics



Sales analytics is very crucial in different retail marketing decisions such as trade promotions, churn rate and product introductions. Automation can offer real-time reports based on customer opinions and clicking patterns in respect to the available products.



Also, RPA analytics aids predictive analytics which supports stock optimization.




Customer support and Call Center processes



RPA bots can keep customers in the loop, from order payments to delivery, by sending them updates. The software bot can also be configured to address simple user queries and take feedback from the sales team. This can assist businesses in boosting customer satisfaction and sales.







Conclusion



The pandemic has changed the way industries meet consumer or customer demands. This accelerated growth alongside the increasing customer demands has imposed on industries to adjust accordingly. Automation, especially through RPA, seems to be the new normal for retail businesses. A lot of time-consuming, repetitive and unproductive tasks can now be automated to manage supply chains, inventories, billing and pricing, sales analysis and so much more. Errors resulting from human intervention can now be eliminated, resulting in cost reduction, efficiency, time management, minimal effort and more importantly, revenue generation.

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