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6 Examples of Business Process Automation in Retail

Business process automation in retail has been growing in popularity, not least because of the pressures that modern retailers frequently find themselves under—rising labor costs; difficulty managing e-commerce supply chains; and increasing expectations from customers in terms of their experience with vendors.

Factors like these are necessitating the implementation of business process automation in retail on a large scale—as many as 85% of retail and 79% of consumer products companies plan to be using intelligent automation for supply chain planning by 2021.

Today, we’re going to be looking at six use cases for business process automation in retail—how are commercial businesses implementing automation? What can automation do for you and what technology should you be looking to implement to achieve it?

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What Business Process Automation in Retail Can Do for You

1. Returns

Processing returns has become a more important aspect of commerce over the years, in large part because of the increasing number of orders that take place online.

When customers make a return, they want the process to be as simple as possible on their end—and their expectations are driven by the service they receive from Amazon and other retailers.

Processing those returns manually can be an extremely cumbersome and time-consuming task.

Automation can be put in place that manages every return with little or even no input from human workers—from database entry to reversing the customer billing.

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2. Workflow

Retail business process flows for stores are an important aspect in the functioning of a modern business.

Retailers rely on human activity as much as any industry out there, and human interaction with customers is crucial.

So, when staff are getting bogged down with manual, back-office tasks, it might be worth asking whether some of those processes could be streamlined.

Automation can be introduced into a virtually any HR or management process, whether it’s automating work schedules, payroll, employee performance, invoices—you name it.

Common automation use cases for retail business workflows are automated reports for stock levels, inventory losses, buying patterns of repeat customers, automated reminders to staff who haven’t submitted timesheets on time, alerts for short shelf-life products that are nearing expiration.

Hundreds of these day-to-day processes in your workflow can be automated, saving you and your staff time.

Introducing automation into your retail business process flows drastically reduces the time spent performing traditional manual jobs, while at the same time freeing up staff to focus on other tasks that need them.

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3. Customer Support

It should come as little surprise that in today’s retail environment, customer satisfaction is more important than ever.

Customers want to feel looked after and don’t take kindly to businesses that don’t demonstrate an understanding of how to deal with them in a positive way.

62% of consumers cite brand trust as an important factor in their purchasing decisions

Consider how brands are already using automation—regularly updating customers on their order in real-time; offering 24/7 support on your site with a bot; getting priorities through to someone quickly when they have a complaint.

These are all things that companies are already achieving through their use of business process automation in retail.

This is done through tracking customers through their journeys from start to finish—by understanding customers across all of their digital touch points in the buyer’s journey, retailers can more effectively cater to them in a way that provides more satisfaction and a better customer experience.

A typical example of this would be to have a structure for specific email or social outreach campaigns to customers depending on where they are in the sales funnel, allowing for a more personal feel to your communication—a crucial aspect of retail today.

Over three-quarters (76%) of customers expect companies to have an understanding of what they want and to tailor their service accordingly.

4. Store Planning

Retailers, of course, have to plan out their stores according to what will service their customers best.

But what if they’re flying blind and basing product placement off of guesswork?

Thanks to automation, that no longer needs to be the case. Retailers can implement automation to determine what products customers are drawn to and how store layout can positively benefit customer experience and sales.

Some organizations have implemented sensors, which detect and report which aisles customers are spending the most time in and which products they look at the most.

With the data reported, retailers can use this information to determine the absolute best store layout for their customers.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be this advanced, either—most retailers are unlikely to want to install sensors in their shops at the drop of a hat.

Instead, analytics platforms can be used to assess on an extremely granular level. For example, on a store-to-store basis, buyer trends can be broken down to the product level, as well as other analytics on behavior, demography, and locale.

All of this data can be used to better plan stores to ensure that the most sought-after products by customers are given preference in a particular store, at a particular time to maximize revenue.

5. Inventory Management

Traditional methods of inventory management typically involve a human worker manually accessing weekly spreadsheets to determine how to manage it.

Retail store automation can help in a number of ways:

More visibility: When you stick to using spreadsheets, you the ability to see inventory data within your business in real-time. When you automate your inventory system with tracking, you can setup automated replenishment of stock, automated delivery, as well as syncing all of your sales channels into one system.

Decrease human error: One of the biggest benefits with automation will always be how useful it is in terms of reducing error by staff. With business process automation in inventory management, this means reducing the number of people performing manual tasks with regards to inventory, and your business no longer making mistakes as a result.

6. Behavior Analysis

As we briefly mentioned above, behavioral analysis can be used by retailers to better understand their customers and accommodate them.

Retail businesses have to be quick to respond in their market and able to correctly access trends and take advantage of them.

With automation, businesses are able to expedite a lot of processes that have traditionally been expensive jobs.

79% of retail and consumer products companies expect to be using intelligent automation for customer intelligence by 2021

In marketing for example, it helps for organizations to know what their customers are interested in so that they can then promote products that will resonate.

But data gathering and analysis are expensive; unless you implement a system that does it for you.

With automation, you can access each campaign and take insights from the data you receive, allowing you to modify your future campaigns in order to appeal better to customers based on how they’ve previously interacted with your products, services, and campaigns.

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Bottom Line


Business process automation in retail has a prominent role to play as we enter the new decade. Automation can be used for a variety of purposes, and automation technologies and solutions are as affordable now as they’ve ever been in the past.

Whether it’s improving the customer experience, automating back-office processes, your inventory management, or determining what you customers like best through their behavior, there’s a place for BPA in every retail business and retail store automation should be strongly considered to get an advantage over competitors.

Impact Networking has been helping small and midsize organizations achieve their business goals for over 20 years. Having gone through many successful digitizing projects ourselves, we believe we are the best-placed organization in the country to help SMBs. Take a look at our approach to digital initiatives and how we can help you here.