The global pandemic sparked an evolution in the retail landscape that doesn’t show signs of stopping. Namely, there have been two obvious shifts among consumers: increased omnichannel shopping habits and decreased brand loyalty. Customers aren’t hesitating to find another retailer that gives them the shopping experience they desire, whether in-store or online.
To keep up with ever-changing customer preferences, retailers must get a better idea of what consumers want, and act on it. Traditionally, advancing operations would rely on additional manpower, but given that 74 percent of retailers are experiencing labor shortages in customer-facing positions this year, hiring additional talent isn’t a viable long-term solution.
A Solution for Improved Store Operations
Thankfully, there are an increasing number of technology-based solutions that, when integrated with human teams and coordinated with each other, have the potential to revolutionize how retailers operate. Forward-thinking retailers are more than ever looking at data as the gateway to better store operations and better customer experiences. By integrating data-driven solutions with human teams, retailers can gain real-time operational insights and reallocate labor accordingly — allowing stores to consistently increase efficiency.
Data Intelligence-Controlled Operations
While more retailers conclude that real-time intelligence is key to creating sustainable store operations, data acquisition technologies are seeing increasing deployment in retail environments with solutions able to consistently monitor and communicate a store’s operational status.
For example, different forms of sensory acquisition technologies are able to deliver real-time updates on inventory. Static cameras can survey shelves and notify managers when products require restocking. Dynamic robotic solutions combine mobility and computer vision technology to verify pricing accuracy, product location and planogram compliance by regularly scanning store environments. Grocery retailers can even leverage this technology to check stock levels, monitor expiration dates, and suggest pricing markdowns to mitigate food waste that accounts for billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Retailers are also harnessing data-driven technologies to accurately identify current consumer shopping behaviors and market trends — information that’s been experiencing seismic shifts during the pandemic. For example, the rise of point-of-sale tech, from self-checkouts to smart carts, not only increases shopping convenience, but is also used to gather critical data on shopping habits and popular product categories with customers.
Bottom line: The use of technology powering retail automation means a consistent flow of data. However, this data flow needs to be managed.
Adding Value to Data With a Centralized Brain
While the trend to unlock data is critical, it can also be quite overwhelming as streams of data pour in from multiple automated solutions.
This is where artificial intelligence (AI) is positioned to play an important role. AI-powered tools have the potential to provide a source for centralized intelligence — a store’s “brain” — where data can be funneled and translated into actions. Data from multiple automation partners can be synchronized, moving complex automated operations and corresponding data streams into a single, unified platform. The implications of this are significant.
A store with a “brain” could interpret data from point-of-sale systems and shelf-scanning solutions to determine accurate inventory levels, allowing the store to quickly stock shelves and send pickers to provide shoppers the items they actually want. Customer traffic to a store could be coordinated with weather data and automated cleaning robots, meaning at busy times with inclement weather, entrance ways are automatically cleaned more regularly to keep customers safe and stores in good condition. Applying a centralized, data-led intelligence brain has the potential to change not only how efficiently and effectively stores are able to operate, but how they’re able to create exceptional customer experiences, which directly impact sales and brand loyalty.
Data is retail’s secret weapon to reduce costs, improve labor reliability and consistency, and access operational insights. However, data is only helpful if it’s easy to digest and quickly translated into action. Retailers that fail to spot this changing tide will inevitably be in for a rough ride as the stormy seas of retail continue.