Automated solutions in brick-and-mortar retail

Why automation can save retail right now, with digital natives and changing shopping behaviour



Reading time: 7 minutes

Familiar mainly from mechanical and electrical engineering automated solutions are used wherever technical processes in machines or systems can be replaced by artificial systems and facilitate human labour. These systems, follow a program independently, make decisions based on that program and, if necessary, regulate processes, signify most of all an increase of productivity and efficiency. Manual processes which are usually done by workers are no longer required due to the increased use of machines. This is speeding up processes and work steps whilst the amount of work is reduced. Automation systems are also already being used in the wholesale sector, for example for the inventory and checking the stock or for controlling price inconsistencies.

How can such an automation be used in brick-and-mortar where the human relationship between seller and customer is crucial for sales and therefore for the success of a company? How can a consultation on a personal and individual level take place when this automation defines independent processes of certain work? Doesn’t that mean losing exactly why we go to the shop around the corner? The shopping experience, advice from experts and contact with the product itself cannot be replaced by a machine or even a robot?

Automation as the response to a new shopping behaviour

In order to not only survive, but thrive despite all the difficulties in brick-and-mortar, which has already been declared as dead, retailers must actively adapt to the changed shopping behaviour of customers. Not online shopping itself has grown significantly, there is a general trend in consumer behaviour towards more online activity and digitization which is also affecting brick-and-mortar retail. The purchase decision shifted and is made already before customers enter a store: 87% of customers worldwide inform themselves extensively online about products and the stores themselves, read reviews, ask questions in advance regarding availability, functionality and alternatives. Brick-and-mortar has a decisive advantage over e-commerce though: the sensory experience.

However, the digital transformation should be taken as an opportunity by local retailers. Since consumers are increasingly able to shop anytime and anywhere the way to a store must be justified for a good reason – they expect a significant technological advance also there.

Critical for these expectations and constantly change needs of customers is a fast reaction. Accompany your customers’ journey all the way, from start to end. This might be through automated review requests, reminders about product availability and contract extensions or simply an automatically sent birthday email. In this way you will not only keep yourself and your business in your customers’ mind and build a long-term relationship with them, but you will also generate more visibility and gain prominence and popularity. But let’s not stop there: Todays’ customers, the so-called digital natives, want to be able to keep control at any time: Not only for researching online before entering the store, also in the store via mobile devices by scanning QR codes, paying directly at the sales clerk without long queues at the checkout and also when choosing the platform for reviews and feedback or for logging in to free guest WIFI’s.

Digitization and possible automation are shaping the customer journey today. Don’t miss the possibility of reinventing your classical stationary shop. Make it a place that enables a connected shopping experience. Digital technologies make it possible to automatically and individually customize offers according to the needs of your customers. With the help of a digital application, you can achieve a more effective and efficient approach towards your customer and create loyalty.

Automation enables efficient work processes

Have you ever been lost in a store and searched almost desperately for a free sales person because you did not find some product or had questions about it? Did you leave the store that day due to lack of time and were upset about the only and constantly occupied salesperson?

Both sides benefit from the advantages of an intelligent automation solution: A seamless, convenient, eventful and fast shopping experience for the customer on one hand and an optimization of the work flow for the retailer on the other. So, your employees can focus on relevant tasks such as consulting customer instead of being distracted by other tasks.

Exceptional service, including expert advice from competent sales people, is one of the best ways for retailers to connect with customers and deliver a first-class experience – your team is your ambassador. However, nowadays sales people are involved in many other jobs around the actual sale. In order to reduce repetitive and distracting tasks in sales to a minimum and support your team, an additional worker in the form of a “digital employee” is the solution. 

This already starts with collecting customer data – by logging in your shops guest WIFI, after their agreement basic customer data is automatically collected and can be assigned or completed by further (online) interactions. The time-consuming maintenance of a customer database is obsolete for you and your teammates. Product reservations, reminders about contract extensions or review requests can be noted quickly for a certain customer and are automatically sent at the right time or will be processed as a to-do. Specific customers and tasks can be assigned to free sales persons. Easier access to product and customer information or their purchase history during the consultation increases the quality and results in a better sales rate.

Speed, promising advice and problem solving, real-time answers, customization and additional services are a requirement for every company today. According to the 13th annual Global Shopper Study, 76% of consumers want to shop as fast as possible and are convinced that the use of technology can support a secure and pleasant shopping experience.

The concern of losing the personal relationship between retailer and customer or irritating the customer is unsubstantiated. By adapting these automated messages, reminders, etc. to the personal sales style of yours or by individualization to each customer, the feeling of exclusivity will be strengthened even more.

By moving to automation, brick-and-mortar retail can make staff available to offer shopping experiences that increase in-store frequency and growth. Use the possibility of automating certain processes through digitization within your team and in the interaction with your customers. You will have the potential to bring your customer focus and services to a completely new level.

Automation transforms omni-channel shopping into a seamless experience

Increasing networking is particularly evident for the touchpoints with the customer – the consumer 4.0 can be characterized by extended demands. In order to differentiate, brick-and-mortar has to adapt to these demands and provide attractive offers -especially in online-affine industries such as consumer electronics and fashion.

Not only formats or product portfolios which are tailored for a particular audience must be offered, but also the possibility of a seamless, cross-channel shopping experience and technologies that guarantee convenience. Your customer wants to be able to choose which channel to use to get in contact with you. In parallel the same services like in-store are expected on all other channels. Services with an added value such as Click & Collect, Click & Reserve and Self-Checkout as well as extraordinary digital features in the store itself, e.g., paperless receipts when paying with a mobile device or product information when scanning QR codes, are highly demanded. Further product recommendations after leaving the shop can convince also those customers who generally tend to shop online. The usage of in-store technologies makes your products more tangible and supply real-time offers for your customers. According to a worldwide study, 59% of all consumers would reconsider their choice within the local stores in favour of a retailer with automation technology.

Connecting of sales channels and integrating in-store technologies is essential for brick-and-mortar retail as well as designing them user-friendly and automating them as much as possible. Your focus should always be on your customers – they decide which channel they prefer and use, which promotes a holistic shopping experience and meets customer expectations. The omni-channel approach enables the intelligent linking of local stores and online channels and creates a decisive competitive advantage. The result is a seamless customer journey and consequently a stronger customer loyalty, a higher recommendation rate and better sales.

Customer engagement, which increases the level of popularity on one hand and involves consumers themselves as a source of ideas on the other, is playing an increasingly important role for brands and stores – no retailer should miss to get customers back to the stores with automation.

Not only customer relationship management, in-store and after-sales services as well as marketing are subject of significant change. Various processes also in purchasing, logistics and administration are important for the future competitiveness of local retail.

The future retail will perform data-based, intelligent customer relations – not just in stores, but across all channels, so customers can experience the products at any time and any place. With this combination, local retail has a clear advantage compared to e-commerce.

Automation solutions as a factor of success in brick-and-mortar have many facets: robots, mobile devices, processes using RFID, shelf cameras or intelligent data analysis.

We are glad to give you further details on our solution and demonstrate to you how only one application can automize your business. Digitized, automated, centralized – get ready for the future and growth in brick-and-mortar retail.

Jasmin Janson

Marketing & Communication Manager mPocket

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