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How has automation impacted the retail industry?

“Automation is key to any retail organisation.” Those are the words of Troy Hiltbrand, CIO of Amare Global.

When researching information about artificial intelligence (AI) in the retail industry, there is a lot of information about how AI could overtake jobs. However, there are a lot of positive outcomes that are being overlooked.

As more retail organisations implement machine learning, automation and AI technology, the impact on efficiency, productivity and the ability to acquire a more confident bottom line and investments are all able to benefit the sector rather than hinder its potential. It can also enhance the experience of the workforce, the customer base, executives on the board, and, crucially, CIOs.

Making sure your customer base is happy is the key goal of a CIO. With more and more retail CIOs taking a place at the executive board to inform CFOs and directors about matters relating to profitability and scalability, this guide is showcasing the impact that automation can make in these areas.

Where automation can have one of the most significant impacts is in the way data is handled. In this article, we’re exploring the positive impact that automation can have on retail business operations.

How can automation impact scalability in the retail industry?

One of the things that businesses are currently leveraging from an automation standpoint is scalability. With resources increasingly being added to a cloud-based environment, retail businesses could be working with thousands of servers. Even if they’re small servers, they each do a small piece of the automation flow.

“Where we utilise automation is that we don’t just have one instance of each of those processes. We have multiple instances, and they can work in parallel. What automation allows us to do is scale up and scale down on an as-needed basis. If we have a sale in one region of the world or a holiday in another region of the world, it allows us to scale up and down without ever having to touch the system.” Troy Hiltbrand, CIO of Amare Global.

Server response can be automated for seasonal surges and declines. When implemented in this way, automation can handle any size or flow of demand without needing manual input. It can react dynamically to changes and sync with expectations during peaks and troughs in demand. This means your systems can be more responsive and efficient.

Flexibility of processes

Instances and processes can be established based on code. This provides flexibility where we can have multiple instances of the processes we’re running.

“We can store and have a backup, but then we take that code and spin off new instances. It gives us the scalability that we need, as well as the backup and configuration. So, if we lose processes or servers, it’s as easy as just spinning up a new one and shutting down the old one.” Troy Hiltbrand, CIO of Amare Global.

Improve data analytics

The lifeblood of a successful retail organisation is understanding data and predicting the future so that your business can prepare for what’s to come and boost revenue. It’s all about ensuring you have the right data sets.

“With artificial intelligence and machine learning, we’ve leveraged them to look at some of the behaviours. Trying to anticipate what is going to happen in the future and looking at patterns, cycles and trends of the past to anticipate the future. For instance, looking at inventory and identifying where we see lulls, where we see peaks in our inventory consumption, and how do we plan accordingly.” Troy Hiltbrand, CIO of Amare Global.

Predicting revenue and sales for the coming months can be achieved by pairing machine learning with analytics data. The outcome could be more accurate predictions and less time spent writing reports.

“What’s important is looking at sparse data and trying to figure out do we need to generate any synthetic data and then how we generate synthetic data. What does that mean in the creation and filling in the gaps of sparse data, but also what is the impact on our models? Does it make our models less accurate?” Troy Hiltbrand, CIO of Amare Global.

The operational metrics, objectives and key results represent what success is for a company. The CIO needs to understand what the business is trying to do and how IT contributes to the effectiveness of OKRs and business success.

Monitor success of resellers

Where there is a business-to-business-to-consumer model, CIOs and stakeholders will want to know who is successful in reselling products and who is not. It’s a crucial piece of retail data analysis to feed back to the board.

Trying to identify who those successful resellers are and being able to share those secrets with other resellers. That’s part of our overall data and analytics strategy.

Find the best time for downtime

Another critical consideration is your customer base and when they like to shop on your site. For many larger corporations, their customer base doesn’t sleep. This means being able to take down time on your site is limited. By intuitively pinpointing when your site has the lowest amount of traffic, you can save time and get the downtime your web developers require without inconveniencing your customers or losing out on too many sales.

Automation is a great way to monitor and maintain this data.

Collect and store data

Data is the heartbeat of any e-commerce or retail site. These two separate types of data need to be stored in different ways.

There are two main things you will be trying to accomplish with the data:

Business decision-making

You want to have the right data to power decision-makers. So you want the right data at the right time in the right format. Make decisions based on quantifiable, logical facts instead of just intuition. Decision-making needs to be highly accessible and real-time.

Predictive data needs a certain level of accuracy, but with abstract vision, accuracy doesn’t have to be as high as compliance-based data.

Compliance rules and regulations

Compliance requires that you store data for years. You might have to go back and recall some of that data so that you can answer discovery questions and any type of compliance concern that comes from your customer base or regulators.

Compliance, on the other hand, is about long-term storage. If you need to recall information, you should be able to do so without too much hassle. Automation can help improve data security, reducing the risk of compliance-based issues by protecting customer and company data. It can also simplify data processes, significantly reducing the time it takes to manage information and create reports. You should be able to locate accurate information for regulators as and when required.

For a data professional, they need to know the nature of the data usage and how to apply the correct level of accuracy. They also need to be able to balance cost against value. Does the cost of the automation technology and the efficiency and scalability it provides warrant the investment?

Data needs to be transferable between different partners. There needs to be an agreement between what is sent and what is received. There should also be agreement in terms of data frequency. To avoid data loss or delays in the process, this will need to be agreed upon with stakeholders. There will also need to be agreement on how you do updates and deletes.

However, once all this is agreed upon and processes are established, automation can be applied to ensure that these processes and the safe storage and visibility of data run as smoothly as possible.

Exceed customer expectations

Customers have high expectations when it comes to triggers of activity. When they place an order, they often want an email receipt within seconds. That’s magnified when you have different types of triggers.

Updating inventory on your website is crucial. It’s critical that your stock gets updated in near real-time so you don’t sell items that can’t be fulfilled.

Today’s consumers want to go beyond the ability to log in to the delivery provider portal to see where their package is. That’s where automated triggering of outbound messages and micro-events can help manage customer expectations.

Not only will this reduce the amount of communication your company’s customer service team has to respond to, it will also create a more seamless experience for your customers.

“When a delivery provider is in your area, you can get a text with an update. This is the sort of thing consumers are expecting. They don’t want stale information. They want actionable information.” Troy Hiltbrand, CIO of Amare Global.

Reporting for CIOs

When it comes to ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes, automation can help your systems become more self-healing and respond accordingly to the data so that they don’t break. System effectiveness is about identifying what’s slowing down or stopping.

Reporting on the effectiveness of your systems will also be a critical part of the customer experience. Are customers getting a complete and robust experience? If not, automation can be used to identify where your systems are lagging and can be prioritised to improve the service.


For CIOs and retail businesses, the impact that automation can bring is monumental for compliance, customer experience, identifying data trends with regard to inventory, and the performance of your systems.

If you’re interested in learning more about the available automation solutions for retail and how they can help your business, book a demonstration with our specialists. Some of the solutions we provide include Automic Automation Intelligence and more.

Martin Hulbert Ignite Technology

By Martin Hulbert

CTO at Ignite Technology

Martin is a seasoned Chief Technology Officer with over 20 years of diverse industry experience spanning consulting, professional services, oil and gas, finance, aviation, telecoms, and the public sector. Skilled in leading technological strategies, he drives business transformation through innovative solutions, exceeding client expectations and empowering organisations. Currently serving as CTO at Ignite Technology, Martin specialises in consulting, project leadership, technical architecture, and digital transformation, with expertise in areas like automation, database management, infrastructure design, and software development.