Doing more with less is nothing new in the world of retail. The pressure to continually evolve and improve is a way of life to those who operate retail stores. But recent times have seen a step-change, with more retailers than ever looking at how they can automate and streamline their business – and they’re turning in their droves to cloud-based retail solution as an enabling platform.

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Automation is all about using retail technology and process innovation to create efficiency, lower costs and enhance customer experience. Sounds like a pretty tall order? It certainly can be, but the reality is that for most retail stores, it’s not an option, but a must-have. Automation has become a necessity if they are to continue to operate profitably.

Need for automation resulting from the great resignation

Recent events have seen a rapid acceleration of automation in retail. The ‘Great Resignation’ – a pandemic phenomenon first identified in April 2021 – has seen thousands of workers, particularly in retail stores, resign from their jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the figure was 687,000 in the US in September alone. Falling numbers of staff have forced retailers’ hands and are driving an immediacy in the need for automation.

Automation with a cloud-based retail solution

Cloud-based systems have long been recognised as a way, for smaller retail stores especially, to be flexible and to avoid the overheads of having fixed in-house infrastructure. But all retailers, including enterprises, now realise that the cloud is not solely about reducing cost, it is actually what underpins and enables much automation. This has led to rapid growth in the adoption of cloud retail solutions, with spending in the global retail industry forecast at 16.3% per year between 2021 and 2025.

Cloud-based retail solution enable retail stores to be agile and rapidly implement new capabilities. It helps them to collect data from multiple sources, simplify workflows, increase productivity and enhance the customer experience. Cloud-based retail solutions underpin some of the key automations we see in today’s market.

  • Globalisation of eCommerce – eCommerce solutions are a 24 hours/7 day operation, which needs to be fully optimised if they are to remain profitable. As eCommerce solutions grow, and brick and mortar retailers face increased competition from pure play online retail stores, automation is essential to create a viable operating model. For example, cloud-based automation can be used to capture data about customer browsing or abandoned carts, and using it to send automated follow ups and reminders to capture the sale.

  • Omnichannel – in the eyes of many shoppers, omnichannel IS retail. They expect to get the same products, same services, same loyalty program, regardless of channel. For retailers that means having a single view of customers and stock across their entire operation, which can realistically only be delivered with a high degree of automation, based on data captured and distribute via cloud-based POS solutions.

  • Growth of subscription retail modelssubscription retail is another growth phenomenon of the pandemic, with the Royal Mail’s recent UK Subscription Box Market report, stating that it will be worth £1.8 billion by 2025. Subscription retailing needs a high degree of customer knowledge and AI, along with streamlined, automated processes. Retailers need to capture and process data that helps them get to understand each customers’ preferences and to tailor purchase suggestions and offers to each individual

  • Contactless transactions – payment without contact is by definition an automated process, and one that relies on cloud-based systems. Whilst contactless payments are not new, demand has increased, as have the options for payment, including virtual wallets and wearable payment devices.

  • Centralised inventory visibility – one of the impacts of the massive rise in eCommerce solutions and the demand for shorter delivery times is that orders are being fulfilled not only from a central distribution centre, but from a multitude of stores and warehouses. Retailers need to be able to manage inventory in one place. Automated stock monitoring and tracking, using RFID and cloud retail solutions enables flawless inventory management.

  • Centralised loyalty program – not only does a retail store need a single view of its stock, but also of its customers. Cloud-based retail solutions help retailers to capture a wealth of data about customers – their online and in-store shopping habits, their payment preferences, their spending patterns – and use that to automate the process of reaching out to them with personalised contacts that increase loyalty.

  • Business process transformation – smooth, streamlined, optimised processes help drive customer satisfaction, employee morale and productivity. Cloud-based POS solutions help to automate customer facing processes such as returns, order tracking and complaints handling.

As retailers continue to strive to automate the processes in their business, cloud-based retail solutions provide the underpinning retail technology to drive success.

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