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How Retail Technology Can Step Up in the Pandemic and Bring Customers back

How much online shopping did you do while “working from home”? Why did you choose Amazon over your favorite clothing store? The year 2020 was a hard year for retail companies. From small stores to global chains, everyone encountered the consequences of pandemic restrictions. Along with reduced sales and revenue (e.g., in clothes, cosmetics, furniture), companies must cope with this new customer behavior – shifting toward online orders and home delivery. As some French and U.K. news outlets have noted, the coronavirus brought about “a revenge of the small grocers against big retailers.”

Data from PR Newswire showed that retail suffered a $2.1 trillion dollar loss globally due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. In order to survive today’s new reality, retailers and big stores should embrace different IT solutions to reshape their business processes: sales, supply chain, delivery, marketing, etc. The goal for undertaking such digital transformation (e-commerce) is to provide their operations teams, mobile workforce, and marketing personnel with essential information to help them make intelligent decisions in real-time.

We at Plexteq are highly skilled at developing solutions to improve retail operations on a daily basis. Our solutions aim to automate Supply Chain Models, offer a competitive edge, smarter economic flowcharts, and contemporaneous products cost-effectively. Our solutions work in different ways – from automating EDI documents processing, moving away from proprietary ERP systems, building smart demand forecasting solutions to building large-scale processing systems with thousands of transactions per second.

Learn more on how we helped one of our customers to move off proprietary ERP and implement fast, reliable & high loaded invoice processing software here

Establish E-Commerce Capabilities

Retailers manipulate a broad range of food and non-food items and sell them directly in stores or deliver them to a customer location. They can manage the whole online sales process in-house – from taking a customer’s order to the delivery of items to a customer’s location. Delivering products to different locations involves engaging external couriers, field workforce, and facilities in order to make each delivery a success.

Amid the crisis situation, many retailers decided that e-commerce systems would enable them to sell online, which would likely fare no worse than selling in physical stores. Our team has a history of developing solutions for smaller stores to fully integrated POS and e-commerce solutions for different retail purposes.

E-commerce modules can include procurement, routing, order processing, inventory management, and payment modules that run in an ERP system that stores a large amount of diverse data coming in from multiple sources like a customer’s mobile app, backend processes, product/items information systems, etc. Some retailers, unfortunately, have no means by which to consistently explore this valuable data and improve their operations.

To be flexible, retailers with multiple sales channels, i.e., both brick-and-mortar and online stores, should sync both online and offline transactions, inventory, and promotions. Thus, e-commerce and POS integration would be an optimal solution both during and after the pandemic.

Improve In-Store Experience amid COVID-19

Customer relationships can be improved in-store as well as online. Companies (stores) now trend toward utilizing new and engaging communication channels, such as email, robot chat, and phone.

To improve in-store operations and reduce the need for physical contact, retailers can consider using robots. Robots are a great option for meeting social distancing requirements, making them a viable solution during the pandemic. They will reduce the efforts of in-store employees and can also gather data about customers.

For the safety of both customers and employees, robots like LoweBot and Pepper can communicate and respond to clients, help find goods, assist movement within the store, and even gather data for a better understanding of customer preferences. Cleaning and hazard robots, like Millie, can detect and clean up spills and possibly send an alert when a safety threat is presented. Other robots, such as SmartSight, that are equipped with computer vision and machine-learning capabilities can discover and report information like location and impact regarding inventory issues.

To build a long-lasting relationship with a client, there are even more handy solutions, the most popular of which are augmented reality apps. IKEA and Zara (my favorite) have introduced ARKit-based apps to help customers visualize what their product will look like by using their cell phone cameras. With ARKit-based apps, customers not only get notifications about sales but also when their favorite item (in their size) is available or discounted.

Apple has launched a scanner called LIDAR, with capabilities for augmented shopping and AR in general. Buyers are now able to place virtual items on physical surfaces with a high level of precision, cover real objects with virtual ones, recognize physical objects, and provide realistic interactions between real and virtual goods.

Social distancing is a new reality when it comes to preventing coronavirus spread, so cashier-less and staff-free stores are expected to reshape their interiors. Recent customer surveys (in different countries) identified shifts in shopper habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The surveys showed that 87% of customers would likely choose stores with contactless or self-checkout options. Tools that would allow this digital transformation include RFID tags, computer vision systems, machine learning, IoT devices, and facial recognition.

A couple of years ago, we witnessed Amazon’s cashier-less Just Walk Out system. The system is equipped with computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, which allows customers to come into the store using a credit card.

The technology applied in the Just Walk Out system is based on Amazon’s Go Grocery model. It uses RFIDs and Bluetooth, so it can perform checkout-free shopping experiences. Now, this technology has taken it one step further by enabling the development of a touch-free shopping system. By scanning bar codes and QR codes, customers can get information about chosen products via smartphone, thus reducing direct contact when in the store.

The entire system doesn’t require the installation of any account or app either. Customers can put items into a physical shopping cart while an IoT-based system tracks them in a virtual cart. When shopping is completed, all purchases will be automatically paid for once the customer leaves the store.

Employ Data Analytics

In order to improve revenue, retailers could inquire about a data analytics solution that would assist them in running their sales and marketing operations efficiently. A well-designed and well-developed data analytics solution would cover all processes “smartly” and provide a better customer experience that would:

  • Cultivate intelligent decision-making by utilizing the power of intuitive graphics and reports generated through analyzing a large number of customers, products, and workforce data.

  • Enable a consolidated view of the data retrieved from multiple sources in the form of an interactive dashboard.

  • Create effective marketing and sales and delivery operations with real-time insights regarding sales, employee performance, and customer behavior, thus maximizing operational efficiency.

  • Enable the management of thousands of products through a unified dashboard view that would display the damages and losses incurred each month.

  • Present important views of different employee activities in order to determine areas of improvement and boost employee efficiency.

  • Offer data about the delivery process that would help determine customer satisfaction and ensure a minimal risk of items being returned.

Data analytics can process huge sets of data in route planning and resource management by acquiring access to all relevant databases and datasets. With the analytics tool, different data formats can easily be loaded and combined. Also, different machine-learning algorithms (e.g., cluster analysis, linear regression, decision trees, neural networks) can be applied for big data analysis.

Retailers can also increase the productivity of their daily operations by including the company’s internal data in the analyses. The analytics tool can create a comprehensive and flexible mapping of their internal processes, like transport, storage, and logistics. This will enable retailers to react quickly to daily changes. Also, they can import an external data set (public or commercial) that can assist them in discovering new areas for planning and management, effectively putting them in a position to successfully achieve their goals. Overall, with data analytics, retailers can allocate the right resources for their tasks, learn efficiently, benefit from team experience, save time, and lower operational costs.

Embrace this Opportunity with a Trusted Partner

In today’s uncertain conditions, many retailers wonder if they should make the investment of changing and improving their current processes. Digital transformation can definitely enable them to cut expenses and improve their daily processes. Furthermore, this newly developed solution would provide detailed analyses of store performance. We at Plexteq are highly dedicated to our clients. Before starting a project, we provide a free analysis and an estimation of your company’s current state, and we’ll suggest the most optimal and pain-free digital transition possible. Once we begin implementation, our team provides comprehensive support for all your questions and comments.

With our scalable architecture, retailers will experience huge potential benefits that will improve their operations team when it comes to intelligent decision-making and efficient management of their supply chain, sales, and marketing.

Plexteq teams possess technical know-how and the commitment to providing a solution that would best fit a retailer’s needs. Overall, the shift toward digital transformation will enable higher accuracy, efficiency, and improved customer service.


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