Retail store with clothes.

Automation: Where it can be used in the retail sector

In this guide, we’re looking at where and how automation can be used in large-scale project management in the retail sector to facilitate measurable impacts on your bottom line and provide a competitive advantage. Managing complex workflows across a multi-cloud? Automation can help with that. In the retail sector, it can enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver a seamless omnichannel experience for the end customer.

What is business process automation in retail?

Business process automation is the facilitation of replacing tasks that were previously performed or overseen manually with automated processes. In retail, this involves using technology to streamline and optimise various tasks. It reduces manual workloads by implementing software solutions to handle repetitive tasks.

Shifting the responsibility of performing tasks from humans to software, some common examples of business process automation in retail include generating reports for stock levels, inventory losses, and buying patterns of customers.

Why implement business process automation?

Siloed views
Technology in disparate environments risks the creation of silos. Fragmented, incomplete views of end-to-end automated business processes across platforms and vendors impact service delivery.

Unpredictable SLA management
Uneven business service levels across the enterprise result in lost revenue, fines, and unhappy customers.

No critical path visibility
Lack of visibility into critical jobs across business processes results in more time spent troubleshooting and less time innovating. How do we have visibility over where our assets are? Replication of data and assets could also be an issue.

Lack of historical insight
Many schedulers archive only the last seven days of data, hindering batch optimisation through modelling and predictions.

Increasing costs
Cost supersedes security as a priority for CIOs. How and where money is being spent is a vital consideration for businesses.

How is automation used in retail?

Enterprises need to automate a complex and diverse landscape of applications, platforms, and technologies to deliver services in a competitive digital business environment. Service orchestration and automation platforms are essential to scale your IT operations and derive greater value.

Here are just a few ways that automation can be used by retail businesses:

  • Enhance customer service
  • Streamline business operations/processes
  • Forecasting
  • Highlighting potential SLA breaches
  • Monitor and visualise automated business processes across vendors and platforms in one centralised view

How you manage your data and digital infrastructure is important. More and more businesses have opted for a multi-cloud process. It can be difficult to integrate between clouds. This involves using multiple public cloud providers at the same time.

Organisations have been able to leverage the benefits of different cloud providers for separate purposes, including app development or facilitating specialist services.

What about other areas of retail?

Retailers are adopting automation across various departments, including supply chain, stores, and back-office functions. This includes supply chain management, customer service, warehouse operations and back-office operations.

Retailers are integrating automation into their supply chains to handle the complexity of omnichannel operations effectively. In supply chain management, it’s used for demand forecasting, inventory optimisation, and logistics management.

Stores can leverage technologies like self-checkout systems, smart shelves, and personalised customer experiences through AI.

Streamline back-office processes such as accounting, payroll, and compliance, freeing up human resources for more strategic tasks.

In warehouses, benefits of using automation include increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved customer experience through faster order processing and accurate inventory tracking. Demand has reached a tipping point in omnichannel warehouses, driven by factors like labour shortages and rising demand for online shopping.

Key technologies include robotics, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence (AI) for inventory management and order fulfilment.

Connect all the cloud environments

A question that is often asked by CIOs is how to facilitate a single, central point of control. By using a system that connects all the hybrid clouds, CIOs can integrate information from disparate systems to gain enhanced visibility.

With a solution like Automation Analytics & Intelligence (AAI), you can connect all the silos in a hybrid cloud environment.

Security and due diligence are vital. A CIO will want to know how to automate protocols and how authorisation is going to work. With the right automation solutions, businesses still get control over the sensitivity of their data, ensuring GDPR compliance.

What is the difference between native cloud and enterprise cloud automation?

“Speaking to a lot of customers, we’re hearing a lot about them having their budgets cut because it’s being redirected to the cloud, because the cloud has cost more than the CIO expected…things are running out of control.”

Martin Hulbert, CTO at Ignite Technology.

Previously, companies adopted the ‘lift and shift’ approach. However, the problem was that there was no strategy, documents were just moved to the cloud.

Native clouds were readily available and easy to use. When many businesses needed to move to the cloud, they chose what was most accessible at the time. However, technology has now advanced. The con of a native cloud is that teams can’t spread beyond the scope of the cloud they’re in, meaning they’re not built for scalability.

As more and more information moves to the cloud, it’s becoming increasingly difficult, and operational teams have less visibility than before.

Reacting to a compliance change, there are more touchpoints and contacts that need to be involved. With this, companies lost the ability to be efficient.

You can leverage automation to curate practices in the cloud centre of operations. It can help businesses scale up their operations without spending too much money on managing their data. It’s a sign of maturity in an organisation’s progress.

What are the benefits of using automation in retail?

Enable the people who are doing the work, including analysts!
Analysts use data to inform decisions. If they can’t use that data, they will go around the centre of excellences to smash data sets to do what they need to do. This erodes the accuracy of the analytics and the trustworthiness of the decisions that are being made. There might be latency as well. With access to the right data, the CFO can easily report to businesses.

Make practitioners in all departments as efficient as they need to be
People want to be efficient. In the corporate world, it really is as simple as facilitating access to the right resources to the right people at the right time.

Facilitate high impact, high value decisions
Can the CIO confidently assess and pinpoint where that decision came from? What led to that decision? What assets or artefacts right across the value chain inputted to that business. A difficult thing to do without the right capability in the right clouds.

Use investments more efficiently
By not procuring multiple services across multiple clouds, you can become more efficient and make more informative decisions. Both of these could help to improve your bottom line and ensure your investments are being used more efficiently.

Get a competitive advantage
How much your business is innovating is crucial for gaining a competitive advantage. By monitoring the elapsed time between taking on new business opportunities and getting the outcome, you should see a positive difference when applying automation to your operational processes and data centre. In a competitive market, that’s how you can disrupt a market.

Automation can provide an opportunity for more innovation. If you can get a product out more quickly, how does that impact the business? With more visibility on where your capital investments are being spent and resource and capacity planning, productivity and output can be increased while streamlining your costs.

The result? Time-to-value improvements. Delivering more products or services to the end consumer and being able to measure that in a meaningful way.

Create a centralised view of data
With a centralised view of databases and applications, you can better understand your data and keep all business units working effectively.

Cost benefits that improve your bottom line
These changes, combined, will have a direct impact on the bottom line of your retail business.

Quick wins for decision makers

Address efficiency in the next year; start discussions with the data office and the consumers of the cloud to establish and focus on priorities.

Strategies should be well-thought-out. By creating a cloud centre of excellence, your business can see a lot more efficiencies.

“Free up time for people to do innovation. Free up people with automated tasks spread across the organisation. Free up time to run and build the business.”

Martin Hulbert, CTO at Ignite Technology.

Benefits of connecting your clouds

Having multiple systems across multiple environments makes real-time updates and communication difficult. However, by connecting them, you can benefit from the following:

  • Remove the complexity of data point systems that are used in different clouds
  • Makes security integrations less complex
  • Reduce latency and bandwidth challenges
  • Make information more accessible for decision makers and data analysts
  • Facilitate more efficient access to real-time information

It could take six-nine months to deploy a new process in an operation. With the right solution and integration partner, you can bring that down to hours, days, or even minutes.

This enables companies to react to new anomalies, trends, and economic fluctuations.

In conclusion

For retail to gain a competitive edge in a volatile economic climate, optimising the day-to-day allows for a more cohesive system with time savings. It is really imperative to get the practices and guidelines together. Work out a singular strategy across the whole organisation to reduce friction and silos, and reduce the risk of increasing costs.

With over 10 years’ experience as a leading integration partner for enterprises of all levels of maturity, speak to the experts at Ignite Technology about automation. We partner with the leading automation solution providers and tailor the software to suit your way of working.

Successful adoption of automation requires a clear strategy, investment in technology, and organisational readiness for change. Let us support your strategy.

By Austen Moore

Marketing Manager

Responsible for managing Ignite Technology’s marketing initiatives, Austen uses market research and analysis to direct marketing strategy and planning. He oversees the production of all promotional materials and marketing campaigns. With over 20 years of experience managing a range of companies, Austen’s expertise centres around commercial management, enterprise content management, marketing, sales, project management and team leadership.