Retailers face many challenges with in-store environments, retail associate behaviors, product supply chains, delivery requirements, and customer expectations all going through continuous changes. As one example, today’s retail customers expect to easily find what they want to purchase. And they don’t want to waste time looking around in the store or online.
Most shoppers also prefer to not engage with anyone to find products, including retail associates. They feel they can find the information they need more efficiently on their smartphones rather than asking in-store staff.
Keeping tabs on inventory to ensure transactions complete
However, shoppers wanting to fend for themselves doesn’t work out in the retail store’s best interest. 71% of shoppers claim to leave without the items they came to buy. And among those, 49% say the item they desired was out-of-stock. In response to this reality—and to keep shelves stocked—retail decision-makers (84%) and associates (73%) agree their companies need better inventory management tools. (1)
Sometimes purchases don’t work out and returns are necessary. Most shoppers prefer to blend in-store and online shopping and expect an easy return process in either place, regardless of where they purchased the item. But at the same time, accepting and managing returns of online orders is a significant challenge. (2)
Most importantly, perhaps, customers want and even expect or demand good shopping experiences coupled with great customer service—before, during, and after their purchase. If you take technology out of the picture, achieving these expectations relies on retail associates being in a good mood and setting them up with the information and tools to succeed.
To this end, retail associate satisfaction seems to be tied to the use of technology and the data that drives it. 70% of retail associates feel more positive about their employers when provided with useful technology. In response, 8 in 10 retail decision-makers plan to increase spending on IT, omnichannel, and store staffing within the next year. (3)
The proof is in the results
Retail decision-makers are seeing a positive return on the investments they make in self-checkout technologies. The idea that retailers can extract more value from technology investments is a good one; a scenario they would like to replicate. And it’s likely the reason why retailers look to fulfill the requests of their associates by providing even more infrastructure and application innovations—such as those listed below—aimed at creating better customer experiences and generating more revenue: (4)
- Real-Time Inventory Visibility
- Workforce Scheduling Software
- Task Management Software
- Social Distancing and Contact Tracing Applications
- Artificial Intelligence
- Cobots, Robots, and Intelligent Automation
One example of these technologies coming together to deliver a low-friction and positive retail experience can be seen in the multi-faceted digital cart program implemented by Kroger, the grocery giant. In response to shopping behavior trends, the retailer piloted a smart cart program that uses computer vision technology to add items to customer bills as they place items in their cart. (5)
The role of the cloud in a modern, scalable, profitable retail business
The above example included, many innovations require a high-speed, high-performing, and highly-scalable digital infrastructure built on the cloud. The modern retailer infrastructure also needs to leverage real-time data analysis using artificial intelligence.
According to an IBM study, 64% of organizations shifted to more cloud-based business activities, with 97% employing the cloud and 78% implementing an AI pilot in some fashion. (6) And results from an IBM CIO study found that since 2019, there have been monumental increases in the number of CIOs whose organizations have advanced hybrid cloud operations (700%) and intelligent workflows (560%). (7)
Growth and transition bring challenges in many areas, especially cybersecurity
While cloud technologies create innovation opportunities, they also introduce infrastructure threats. The majority of organizations fail to secure data that moves across cloud and on-premises environments, (8) and most cyber-related incidents originate in cloud environments.
The vulnerability of the cloud is borne from an inability to adapt security practices to an open environment. Organizations tend to lack the ability to securely enable and extend cloud-native capabilities to their internal and external partners. (9)
The benefits of digital transformation
Utilizing cloud technologies enables retailers to go through a digital transformation that delivers multiple business benefits. Many retailers have turned to Taos for help in automating processes to handle the onslaught of online orders and returns. Digital transformation also helps organizations grow their businesses by capitalizing on the scalability, enhanced security, and modern economics that the cloud offers.
Our Advisory Services, Professional Services, and Managed IT and Security Services combine to deliver a wide range of benefits to our retail customers:
- Boosts employee effectiveness by using workforce scheduling and task management tools that give employees real-time visibility into operational aspects of the business, such as inventory.
- Increases morale and improves employee health by providing applications such as contact tracing that make it easier to maintain social distancing among staff and customers.
- Eliminates or reduces repetitive, low-value manual processes by deploying cobots, bots, and intelligent automation.
- Lowers IT overhead and reduces operating costs by using a SaaS consumption model and eliminating CapEx investments.
- Helps managers understand consumer behavior and make informed decisions that improve customer experiences by leveraging AI and machine learning analytics.
- Enhances supply chain management with blockchain and AI to optimize operations and improve compliance.
Taos works specifically with retailers of all shapes and sizes. We develop unique solutions that best fit your retail needs and optimize your ROI. To learn more about how we enable the best outcomes with continuous compliance and 24/7 up-to-date security, explore Taos Managed IT and Security Services.
1, 2, 3, 4 – “14th Annual Zebra Global Shopper Study The Next Wave of Retail Fulfillment,” Zebra, 2021
5 – “Smart grocery carts are coming to change the way we shop,” CNET, January, 2021
6 – “Research Insights: Extending digital acceleration,” IBM, October 2021
7 – “The CIO Revolution: Breaking barriers, creating value,” IBM, November 2021
8, 9 – “Benchmark Insights: Getting started with zero trust security,” IBM, July 2021