Retail Leaders Are Prioritizing Automation and Future-Proofing Their Workforce
Facing a new era of retail in a volatile market, many businesses have had to rapidly expand or strengthen their online presence. Retailers that are thriving are doing so with the help of intelligent automation (IA). In fact, in a recent Deloitte report, 82 percent of sector leaders said “automation wherever possible will be a high priority,” and 67 percent of all respondents cited e-commerce and online shopping as areas for top investment.
Amid a pandemic and changing market demands, different segments of the retail sector have varied in their performance, with those that are agile and innovative gaining the most ground. Intelligent automation and digital workforces have played a critical role in providing the agility and resilience necessary to prosper in an uncertain and changing market.
Transformation Driven by Digital Workers
While digital transformation has long been a strategic priority for retailers, with many beginning their transformation initiatives as long as 10 years ago, updating systems can involve large amounts of development resources and can become risky and expensive to achieve scale. Creating a new system's road map or even updating existing ones demands substantial planning and IT resources.
This is where digital labor can have a major impact. Instead of having to overhaul a myriad of legacy technologies and systems, businesses can utilize digital workers to serve as the integration of virtualization layer allowing legacy infrastructure to play its part in digital and online operations. A simple no-code approach to automation enables businesses to develop and put in place automated processes very quickly. Retailers effectively develop the architecture they need over top of their legacy technology instead of replacing it.
Reinvent Customer Experience
The customer contact center is another area that has been under immense pressure because of the pandemic. Initially, retailers had to transition their entire call-center staff to a remote working model in a matter of days. Many were also dealing with significant fluctuations in customer contacts due to the surge in online transactions. To compound this issue, moving into this year, 70 percent of retail executives reported that employee shortages are predicted to negatively impact growth.
Intelligent automation (IA) has not only enabled the transition to digital by easing the burden on contact center staff, but it has also helped retail organizations mitigate their employment gaps.
Critically, IA has allowed retail businesses to continue to deliver seamless customer experience, which 96 percent of consumers now expect. Digital workers enhance customer experience by dealing with standard, process-driven activities. This allows agents to spend more quality time with customers, giving them the support and attention they need. There's no doubt that digital workers have provided vital operational support as retailers have dealt with increased online demand.
Many of the changes that occurred within contact center operations as a result of the pandemic are unlikely to go away. Retailers will continue to deploy a more flexible customer service function — with teams working remotely and coming together for certain activities where it's helpful to be together, such as training, reviews and planning.
Intelligent Automation With Intention
Everyone agrees that the events of the last two years have led retailers to view digital labor as a strategic resource. Many retailers that were at the early stages of their automation journeys had previously seen digital workers as a tactical tool to address specific pain points in individual processes or provide a measure of operational efficiency in specific areas of the business. This type of automation, while delivering some valuable results, doesn't allow retailers to benefit from the true power of digital labor. It prevents automation at scale, restricting its impact to limited areas within the organization.
The pandemic has opened many retailers’ eyes to the transformational potential of IA. They're now recognizing its ability to empower organizations to reimagine their operating and resourcing models as well as the way they engage with customers. This new mindset is impacting all areas of retail businesses, from the board and executive levels right down through to call-center staff.
Retailers have become more resilient and agile in their operations over recent years. As businesses lean into the need to innovate quickly, the increase in the use of digital labor in retail will continue to accelerate.
Beth Homer is the general manager of the Americas, SS&C Blue Prism, a company that develops intelligent robotic process automation (RPA) software to provide businesses with a more secure, agile and smart digital workforce.
Beth Homer is a bold results-oriented leader known for building and leading high-performing teams. Beth excels in building sales strategy, setting objectives, creating goals, motivating sales teams, and executing complex transactions. Beth has held many direct sales and leadership positions focused on customer oriented innovative solutions.