If Fabrizio Biscotti, vice president at US research and consultancy firm Gartner, is correct that hyperautomation is no longer optional but a ‘condition of survival’ for businesses, then we are indeed entering a new era of retail.
It’s a theme we’ve discussed throughout our blog series on hyperautomation – but what does it mean for retail?
Like every other sector, retail has undergone significant changes recently, with digitisation driving new consumer behaviours and business models. The current economic climate adds to retailers’ woes as they grapple with high energy bills and wages, tightening purse strings, and rising supply chain costs.
Customer-centricity is at the heart of successful retail businesses. Everyone from buyers and marketers to store and customer service teams must clearly understand shoppers’ current behaviours to forecast their future actions. This has become a challenge in the omnichannel world, where the path to purchase can be complex and loyalty hard-won.
But the availability of digital tools has also given retailers a wealth of data from multiple touchpoints in the customer journey (website visits, customer service enquiries, store visits and much more).
This data, combined with powerful analytics, helps you better grasp who your customers are and predict what they want. These analytics can inform decision-making across the business, from demand planning to merchandise – so customers have a positive shopping experience, and retailers don’t bear the high costs of returns and mark-downs.
While many retailers have embraced automation in some form, there are limits to what you can achieve with relatively simple techniques such as robotic process automation (RPA). They need to be able to manage increasingly complex operations, including customer experiences (CX), at scale and in real-time.
One solution is hyperautomation – which combines digital operating systems, workflow, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) in the cloud – and allows you to automate high-value decisioning, vastly improving efficiency, productivity and innovation.
Five ways hyperautomation can support your CX strategies:
1. Hyper-personalisation at scale
If there’s one thing that encourages brand loyalty and continued shopper spending in an era when customers have so many options, it’s the ability to provide relevant offers and deals at the right time via the right channel.
Retailers today have no shortage of customer data captured from customer interactions with the business. The problem is that it’s often siloed in different systems. Hence, gaining a comprehensive real-time view of customers and how their needs could change (as they have recently done, first during Covid and now the cost-of-living crisis) is challenging.
Hyperautomation enables teams to bring together data from a range of sources. This allows a deep real-time understanding of their customers so they can deliver hyper-personalised experiences at scale.
Data captured from digital interactions, videos, conversations, images, and documents instantly and processed using AI, computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) can uncover deep insights in real-time. Understanding customers at an individual level, rather than simply as broad segments, allows you to tailor your offers and deals in line with their needs, behaviour, and next-best action.
2. Can provide seamless payments
Abandoned carts are costly and frustrating for retailers – undoing all the effort involved in getting customers to the checkout.
Poor payment experiences are one reason someone might be unable or unwilling to complete their purchase. Worse still, it may mean they never return to the brand again. Retailers need to offer various suitable payment options, each being fast and seamless.
An always-on, always-connected cloud platform makes integrating new third-party applications easier and offers more payment options, including buy now, pay later (BNPL). Customers need to have a frictionless experience, which helps to incentivise purchases and repeat visits. A suitable cloud platform can always support hyperautomation, enabling you to rapidly combine payment data (such as transaction amount and type of payment) with other data to understand demand and optimise marketing tactics.
3. Easier to understand and manage risk and fraud
Hyperautomation makes it easier to understand and manage credit risk in real time since you can easily combine data from credit agencies, payment partners and social platforms to make better decisions. Customers benefit from a fairer service, while retailers can reduce credit risk and protect vulnerable customers.
Integrating credit risk, fraud and returns data in real-time also allows you to identify any possible red flags that might have been missed if data remained siloed.
4. Emphasises customer service
No consumer-facing business can afford to neglect customer service, especially in the competitive world of retail. Hyperautomation enables you to deliver highly personalised customer service in real-time, directing people to the right place, whether FAQ pages or a contact centre agent. Since data flows through the ecosystem, CX is consistent throughout the journey.
5. Aligns supply with demand
Managing your supply chain well means that you can fulfil the most fundamental roles of a retailer – making sure products are on the shelves or available for purchase online when customers are ready to buy, without holding surplus stock. Since Covid, retailers have had to contend with more disruption than usual, with shortages and inflation leading to shortages of some products and higher prices.
While there will always be factors outside your control, using hyperautomation to streamline complex supply and demand planning processes helps mitigate any disruption and ensure products are available while protecting your margins.