The intelligent automation market is set to explode, according to KPMG. Enterprise investment will soar from $12.4 billion to $231.9 billion by 2025. A key driver of this growth is predicted to be robotic process automation (RPA). Productivity and accuracy gains are immense, which is why RPA is already used to automate back-office business tasks in multiple industries. The retail sector is no exception, and smart retailers are already exploring how RPA can help accelerate automation and increase competitive advantage.
WHAT IS RPA?
RPA involves the use of technology to interpret existing application software to automatically process a transaction or complete a process. RPA can considerably reduce the requirement for people to perform high-volume IT support, workflow, remote infrastructure, and back-office processes. When aided with machine learning, RPA can mirror human capabilities of perception and reasoning.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is fastly becoming one of the most disruptive technological developments that are improving service delivery. RPA is receiving wide acceptance in many industries as it can be applied in many structured, repetitive, and rule-based tasks. For instance, the Retail companies can adopt RPA into their existing processes such as:
- Order processing and payments
- Procurement and inventory management processes: monitor inventory, generate notifications
- Regular communication between manufacturers, suppliers, transportation service providers, and customers.
- Gather information about business patterns to reveal potential supply chain disruptions.
HOW DOES RPA ADD VALUES TO BUSINESS?
RPA adds value to the firm by aiding the optimization and cost-effectiveness of business processes. With businesses focusing on improving efficiency, cost reduction, compliance, and deploying employees on high-value tasks RPA becomes highly valuable.
- Productivity and efficiency: robotic automation tools are faster than human FTEs and can function 24/7.
- Accuracy: automation phases out human intervention, thus reducing the possibility of human errors.
- Scalability and flexibility: the ability to replicate robotic tools across geographies/business units increases scalability and flexibility.
- Cost savings: robotic automation tools are up to 65% less expensive than offshore-based FTEs.
- Compliance: robotics allows data and processes to be retained on-site.
CUSTOMIZED BENEFITS OF RPA TO RETAIL INDUSTRY
1. Cost Savings
One of the biggest advantages of RPA is the immediate and significant reduction in expenditure it can deliver. When work is automated, not only is it completed faster, but it also can be performed round-the-clock at a much lower rate. So, you get greater output for less, which results in a better bottom line.
2. Quality, Accurate Work
Truth be told, even the most careful human can and will make a mistake. Multiply those errors by the number of people you have performing routine tasks for your company, and you could be looking at a pretty costly problem. However, with RPA, the work is performed error-free. Better quality means higher satisfaction rates, which – again – is good for your company’s profitability.
3. Employee Empowerment
Robotic process automation does not require any special technical skills. That’s why it’s an ideal application for the end-user. The ability to deploy robots to perform certain tasks without having to enlist the help of someone from IT empowers the end-user to get their jobs done more efficiently and effectively. Meanwhile, it frees up IT to focus on more important tasks and projects.
4. Simplicity and Flexibility
Automating tasks and workflows through RPA does not require coding or scriptwriting. That means even complex processes can be transferred from human to machine with little effort. The faster these tasks and workflows can be automated, the sooner your organization will begin reaping the benefits. In other words, RPA delivers quick returns.
5. Better Control
Many companies choose to outsource so-called busy work to external parties. This, of course, comes with inherent risk. Robotic process automation can provide a better solution and since the work remains in-house, the business maintains maximum possession, control, and visibility.
6. Insights and Analytics
Learning from the past can help your business leaders make better decisions for the future. RPA offers the ability to gather, organize, track, analyze, report on and store valuable data. That information can then be utilized to improve on current operations, address and correct issues in a timelier manner, accurately forecast, and develop best practices.
USE CASES OF RPA IN RETAIL
1. Returns Processing
The increasing use of customer-oriented retail practices especially in e-commerce adds up tasks like product returns to the various retail processes. Processing returns manually can be a really time-consuming task. Product returns are a cost to the company and if their processing is done manually, it may further increase the costs. RPA effectively manages the returns and does all the required changes needed in altering the inventory database and customers’ billing.
2. Workflow Management
Retail is essentially a human-driven industry and customer interaction is one thing that needs to be done manually. But with the use of RPA, managing the workflow and other HR processes can be facilitated more productively. Whether it is assigning shifts, measuring time and attendance, auditing sales, payroll and leave management, or assessing employee performance, everything becomes easier with Robotic Process Automation.
3. Customer Support Management
With the increasing focus on customer delight, customer support has become an integral part of the retail industry. Especially in e-commerce, providing 24×7 customer support and sending real-time updates to customers has become really important. With Robotic Process Automation, companies can make their customer support more quick and convenient.
From the moment an order is placed, the system keeps a track of it and sends real-time updates to the customer. This process doesn’t end even at the time of delivery; an efficient customer support system collects even the after-sale feedback from the customers. RPA thus facilitates savings of a lot of time, money, and efforts.
4. ERP Management
RPA based Enterprise Resource Planning is probably the next big thing after automated inventory management. From keeping a track of price changes, billing, employee vacancies to generating reports like accounts payable and receivables, an ERP managed with RPA automates everything and minimizes human efforts. With integrations of inventory at the warehouse and sales at the POS, an automated ERP makes sure that you are never out of resources for your organization.
5. Accounting and Finance
Over the years, the accounting and finance functions have largely been managed by qualified professionals, but over time, technological advancements have called for swiffer actions, error reductions, and smoother workflow. RPA does just that. In an age characterized by digital transformation, order and invoice processing, accounts payable and accounts receivable management, account reconciliation, procure to pay, order to cash, record to report cycles, consolidating account information amongst numerous other tasks can be managed using RPA.
For example, the financial closing involves a myriad of tasks ranging from closing out ledgers to creating financial filings and then sending them to various regulatory bodies. This involves working with distinct individuals, systems across various departments. The process is cumbersome and can be easily mitigated by RPA.
Transactions across various departments and divisions need to be recorded, maintained, updated, and consolidated. RPA can gather and consolidate the transactions and reconcile them in ERP. RPA can speed up all these processes, save time, and reduce costs.
6. Marketing and Consumer Behavior Analysis
Reliability and speed are crucial for retail when it comes to marketing and consumer behavior analysis. Speed in analysis and decision making would help provide advantage over other retailers in the industry and perceived reliability by customers would spread positive word of mouth. Adopting RPA would deliver both.
Campaign analysis is another area where RPA is applicable. It is an essential tool that helps marketers assess their current actions and decide on the future course of action. It brings clarity in determining campaign goals, ascertaining campaign budget, and identifies specific channels that require improvement.
The biggest benefit RPA provides here is that past actions can be repetitively performed in the future without manual effort. If the retailer tweaks strategies based on analysis, then RPA will help in measuring the effectiveness of new strategies.
Product categorization is also one of the most important but ignored functions in the retail industry. Customers fail to find numerous products online because of poor product categorization. With over a million products sold, the retailers have now integrated RPA to assign attributes and categorizing products for seamless customer experience.
Besides these, RPA when used in consumer behavior analysis that would drive effective trade promotions, store specific planning, new product introductions, customer on-boarding from websites, manage subscription renewals, claims processing and complaint handling, loyalty card management.
7. Demand and Supply Planning
In the past demand and supply planning was a cumbersome task that entailed seeking and gathering chunks of data, standardizing and formatting them, running simulations, finding out exceptions, and finally confirming and communicating the plan. These tasks can be automated and streamlined using RPA technologies.
Adopting RPA technologies would help retailers in increasing capacity and asset management and improving customer, supplier and employee satisfaction. RPA makes the life of retailers easier!
8. Logistics and Supply Chain Management
The efficient management of the logistics and supply chain enables global organizations to move their goods from suppliers to consumers, monitor inventory level,s and track the shipment so that materials are delivered on time. Supply chain is a popular target for RPA since these processes are highly dependent on the back office.
Since communication is essential for supply chain success, automation of emails would facilitate better communication between customers, suppliers and distributors. RPA would help in automating an email or text when an order is booked, shipped, delayed or delivered.
RPA is helpful in maintaining inventory levels to ensure retailers have enough products and services to meet demand. Notifications can be generated when products reach alarmingly low or threshold levels. After assessing past orders, RPA can help determine optimum order levels so as to improve procurement, reduce costs, and reduce wastage.
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