Smart Retail Gets ‘Phygital’: How Digital Technologies Enable the Store of the Future


What does it really mean to act as an intelligent company? An intelligent company is the result of a successful digital transformation. The smart enterprise uses technology to help people become more productive and valuable, rather than as a substitute for human labor and human intellect. Technology allows the retail company and its customer-centric employees to focus on delivering the convenient, personalized experiences that today’s customers have come to expect. This creates long-term customer loyalty and increases sales.

“Intelligent automation” is about the work of people and technology together To drive success. “Together” is the catchphrase here, because the switch to automation is not about increasing efficiency and reducing costs, but rather about identifying ways of maximizing customer benefits and increasing sales.

research carried out by HFS Research in collaboration with KPMG, confirms this claim. When asked about the key operational goals and objectives of their smart automation strategies, 34% of corporate respondents named improvements in the quality of their customer service and interactions, while 24% said “streamlining the customer service delivery model” for “front office.” the researchers concluded, “are looking for intelligent automation to drive sales growth and delight customers”.

With the investments made for this, the provision of funds for intelligent assistants that improve the customer experience should have a high priority. AI-enabled intelligent assistants can guide consumers through the entire customer journey, answer questions about specific products and product availability, and provide recommendations. The Kroger app has a smart assistant component that allows consumers to access recipes that they can prepare using in-store ingredients. In the Lidl branches, a chatbot shares suggestions for combining food and wine with shoppers. Other bots and virtual assistants provide critical product data, such as the presence of allergens.

A smarter approach to automation should also include leveraging data analytics, AI, and automation to improve the employee experience through better decision-making and streamlining processes. The better that experience, and the easier it is for frontline workers to get their jobs done, the more productive they will be. This in turn leads to satisfied customers.

The role of the front-line retailers is changing as they no longer just drive sales, but rather act as advisors to provide the level of customer service that shoppers expect. The “must-haves” include tools that not only provide employees with product information and inventory availability data in real time, but also use AI to create individualized customer profiles and formulate recommendations that can be shared with customers on site.

AI-based task management solutions make it easy to orchestrate tasks, allow employees to track and prioritize tasks, resulting in higher productivity and employee satisfaction. Prescriptive analytics built into these systems streamline the process, but store workers use a combination of analytics and human logic – not just analytics – to get their jobs done.

Retailers would also do well to invest in smart planning systems that rely on AI and advanced analytics to identify and analyze time and attendance trends, as well as trends in retail traffic, and to ensure stores are adequately staffed. These systems take employee preferences into account as part of their planning “criteria” and generate employee-friendly schedules.

In addition, the intelligent automation extends to inventory / warehouse management and the supply chain. Analytics, drones, computer vision and intelligent shelves with weight sensors enable inventory to be tracked in real time, so that shelves can be replenished in good time and bottlenecks can be avoided or minimized. Trucks with an IoT connection and information from sensors attached to shipping containers enable retailers to be informed about the arrival or departure of products in distribution centers and about the time of delivery to the branches. This gives enough time to correct delays and typically saves costs; Savings can then be applied to other technology and growth initiatives.

In addition, information gleaned through intelligent automation – for example from sensors and other connected devices – can be used to feed digital models (twins) of warehouses, “back rooms” and / or other points along the supply chain. Retailers can then apply analytics to these digital twins to anticipate or identify supply chain and operational bottlenecks and evaluate or experiment different approaches to handling them to improve efficiency and minimize supply chain issues. This is especially important at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt retail business.

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