Retail players — particularly e-commerce innovators like Amazon — have led the way on many aspects of digital transformation in the past decade. Driven by customer demand, retail brands from digitally native startups to legacy department stores have poured time and resources into developing streamlined digital customer experiences.
However, well-designed websites and apps sometimes disguise behind-the-scenes processes that aren’t as efficient as they could be. 2020’s surge in e-commerce demand revealed areas for improvement across the retail industry. By digitizing and automating their back offices, companies can avoid shipping delays and maximize revenue when online orders suddenly flood in. To rapidly adapt to sudden shifts in customer demand, companies should fully digitize supplier onboarding processes, too, ensuring they’ll always be able to keep popular items in stock.
All of this disruption points to the need for retailers to embrace digital transformation internally as well as externally. As we enter the process automation decade, retailers have a major opportunity to increase efficiency, accuracy, and flexibility by digitizing and automating more of their backend processes. Organizations that accomplish these changes will transform themselves from the inside out, dramatically improving the retail experience by 2030.
3 ways process automation will drive retail success
Over the next 10 years, process automation adoption will have ripple effects across the retail industry. Inefficient practices will be streamlined, and operations will become more agile, flexible, and responsive to customer demand. Here are a few ways the transformation will change retail for the better.
Today, retail requires an agile workforce. Seasonal spikes in demand create a need to hire temporary or short-term contract workers quickly and on short notice. Ideally, the entire process from advertising for the job to a new worker’s first day takes place as quickly as possible. However, manual HR processes make it difficult to onboard new hires efficiently. Digitizing processes — for example, by using e-signatures instead of ink signatures for employment contracts — would accelerate hiring significantly.
By 2030, retailers will use e-signatures to digitally onboard new employees quickly and coordinate hiring more efficiently across multiple offices. They’ll be able to adjust staffing levels based on real-time demand, avoiding wasted or limited resources. In addition, the codification of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other vital information in centralized repositories will accelerate onboarding and training.
A more agile supply chain
Today, onboarding new suppliers or distributors is a time-consuming and error-prone process. Employees manually create and manage complex, multi-document contracts that may not follow a standard template. Manual data entry processes leave much room for errors that delay the onboarding process further. And the stakes are high: When a chain is disrupted, a company must onboard a new supplier or distributor quickly to fill the gap or face damaging shortages and delays.
By 2030, manual document creation will be a thing of the past. Automated contract generation tools will pull relevant information from databases to autofill templates and create accurate contracts in seconds. Thanks to e-signatures and other digital tools, the onboarding process will be entirely digitized, reducing room for error and accelerating time to completion. These agile, flexible processes greatly limit the impact of any supply chain disruption, ensuring that brands can deliver on customer expectations even during a crisis.
More efficient inventory management
Today, maintaining accurate inventory data is a constant battle for retailers and suppliers alike. Product descriptions, specifications, price, and other attributes may fluctuate day by day or even hour by hour. Up-to-date information is vital for accurate e-commerce listings and an efficient supply chain, but cumbersome manual processes make updates time-consuming and difficult.
By 2030, retailers and manufacturers will use robotic process automation (RPA) to create and manage large inventory databases with minimal burden on human employees. By avoiding time-wasting manual processes, they’ll make their operations more efficient and free up staff hours to focus on higher-level tasks. They’ll also avoid shortages and delays by tracking inventory fluctuations in real-time.
Transformation behind the scenes
The past decade has been a transformative one for retail. As e-commerce innovators continually raised the bar, customers demanded ever more streamlined experiences from retailers both in-person and online. With the rise of social media, brands have learned to market and sell their products in new ways as well.
The changes of the next decade may be less visible to the end consumer, but they’ll be no less transformative. By digitizing and automating their backend processes, suppliers and retailers will unlock efficiency, build a more agile workforce and enable more flexible, resilient supply chains. Customers may not see these changes directly, but they will enjoy the benefits, including lower costs, better-staffed stores, and fewer delays — all thanks to the advances of the process automation decade.
To experience the ease and power of the Nintex Process Platform to help you manage your processes, request a personalized demo here.