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Beyond the supply chain: How retail CIOs can carry on competing

Tech in retail

Recently, more than half of global CEOs claimed that digital improvements have helped increase the profitability of their organisation. Not only has this sparked the interest of business leaders worldwide, it’s encouraged them to incorporate automation into more of their own processes.

The retail industry in particular has been hugely receptive to this trend, with automation playing a key role in the supply chain, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency. However, while new technologies are being implemented across other areas of the company, the back office is still relying heavily on human labour, slowing down operations and using valuable employee resource.

For retailers to remain agile in a highly competitive market, CIOs need to keep it robotic and look beyond just the supply chain.

Streamlined back office = profitable front business

In retail, fast, efficient supply chains directly impact the bottom line, driving revenue and pushing margins. However, while augmenting human labour in the supply chain with robotics enables improved outputs, it’s rendered ineffective when the back office continues to use dated technologies and processes.

The growing sophistication of robotics is entering new areas of every business, and for retail, the next frontier lies in the back office. CIOs are continuously aware that it is vital to streamline operations, whether it helps to improve product outcome, or meet customer demands at scale. For the retail CIO, this innovation has often stopped with enterprise robotic processes (ERP) to maintain a rational supply chain.

By automating and customising the millions of processes that make up a retail operation, from financial to HR and IT, retailers can set the stage for a new era of growth. Robotising the countless repetitive tasks across these areas of the business will enable a much leaner operation overall. Not only will it benefit the wider organisation, but employees will be able to better use their skills for other tasks.

Keeping customers close

One of those tasks is maintaining and promoting a seamless, tailored customer experience. In retail it’s no secret that customer experience is the be all and end all of a successful operation, and through automating menial activities and tasks, staff can devote more energy and time to ensuring that the entire business is working towards a better customer offering.

Robots are great for rules-based tasks and ensuring the same level of quality to predictive jobs, however customers still want to deal with humans, and that’s something automation can’t bring. Take online shopping for example, customers can now very easily browse and purchase the products of their choice, but many still choose to visit a retailer’s physical store. Why? Because they value the experience and prefer the human interaction that it brings.

For a truly stand-out retail operation, CIOs should capitalise on both robotic and employee strengths. Don’t ask a member of staff to spend hours performing repetitive jobs, get them engaging with your customer base and adding an element of personalisation to your offering.

What does the future hold?

The future of success lies in the CIOs hands. Driven by IT advancements, the workplace of the future will be comprised of highly-skilled, highly productive workers, both robotic and human.

In order to compete with the Amazon’s of the world, retailers need to take the tired concept of robotising the supply chain, and bring it to other areas of the business, namely the back office. Not only will this allow them to remain strategic in a consistently changing industry, it also strengthens employee retention and satisfaction.

This new dimension of automation in the back office will have a profound impact on how retailers do business. Siloed, fragmented or inefficient processed have a major effect on a business’s innovate to stay competitive and with back office activity now very much front and centre of operations, there’s nowhere to hide.

By Devin Gharibian-Saki, Chief Solution Officer, Redwood Software

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