Automation, AI and convenience – retail of today

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Retail technology Automation, AI and convenience – retail of today

Published on 14.06.2022 by Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

For the first time since the coronavirus crisis, EuroCIS – the leading trade fair for retail technologies – was held again this year. It demonstrated that technology can optimize retail processes and offer customers more convenience.

Over 9,000 retail specialists came to see the latest technological achievements in the retail sector. And what does the new world of retail look like exactly?

You can’t get anywhere without digitization

The attendees and exhibitors were likely to have agreed on one aspect: in today’s retailing, you can’t get anywhere without digitization. Anyone looking to pursue a cross-channel concept, in other words combining a high street store with the online world, won’t get anywhere without using digital tools. The age of the little corner shop that could manage without digital technology (except for a checkout) is rapidly coming to a close. Even for smaller companies, it’s high time they started thinking about how to reach their customers online, and how to go about optimizing their own processes.

AI is taking on more and more tasks

SAP, Microsoft and a whole host of other specialists put forward solutions showcasing ways to use artificial intelligence in retail, for instance in inventory management. This has always been one of the biggest challenges in retail. In the age of social media and viral platforms such as TikTok or Instagram, even years of experience in sales and dispatch planning aren’t enough anymore. New patterns of customer behaviour are emerging daily. This isn’t something that can be managed with Excel alone, and won’t help you discover trends. AI can actually detect trends here before the retailer is swamped with demand. In turn, it can guarantee optimum deliverability in the online shop and in the store.

Only show data the customers want

Retail gathers enormous datasets. But only very few retailers make substantial use of these. Yet these datasets reflect consumers’ wishes and preferences. Information that can be drawn upon to identify new services, discover trends and develop new products. The “Fressnapf” retail chain has recognized this, and is currently developing a cloud-based 360° ecosystem in the pet sector. This is where all sorts of tools and data from different sources will be pooled so that customer information and employee experience can be used to optimize the customer experience.

Increased efficiency with IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) also played an important role at EuroCIS, and the companies attending showcased the excellent work they are doing on established solutions. Electronic shelf labels (ESL) have so far primarily been seen from a customer perspective. They save the retailer time labelling goods, and allow customers to display more information on products whilst saving on resources. They can, however, also increase efficiency when it comes to picking orders. Employees are guided through the shelves by an app and light signals when picking the goods. In times when many companies are switching to “ship from store” shipment, this really eases their workload.

In food retailing and the distribution of medicines, IoT sensors are used to monitor the temperature of each and every product on an ongoing basis. The data is then collected via the cloud, where it can, for instance, be used to fulfil hygiene reporting requirements. Thanks to WLAN and long-life batteries, installation and maintenance work is kept at a reasonable level.

Hybrid models for more convenience

One of the major themes at EuroCIS was cross-channel shopping. Retail has understood that today’s customers want to enjoy the benefits and convenience of online retail, but don’t want to completely do without their familiar stores. This is a complex task, especially for companies that use a franchise concept and independent retailers. The baby specialist chain BabyOne takes this into account with a new shop that uses the omnichannel concept, involves retail partners and is optimized for smartphones.

The customer’s smartphone can also take on other tasks. REWE Group uses Shopreme technology to allow customers to check in and out of automated stores. Take goods off the shelf, examine them and scan them – an impressive example of intelligent technology.

Digital technology will continue to shape retail. Time to get started.

Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

Stephan Lamprecht has been following e-commerce developments in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for two decades as a journalist and consultant.

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