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5 min read

The Future of Retail, e-commerce  and e-Tail

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The e-commerce industry is massive. Even though it grew significantly before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has given it extra momentum, and it's expected that the industry will grow substantially in the coming years.



For example, it's estimated that there will be approximately 2.14 billion online shoppers in 2021.


Likewise, e-commerce sales are expected to account for about 18.1% of all retail sales worldwide in 2021, and global retail e-commerce sales will total about $6.388 trillion in 2024.


As a result of e-commerce becoming increasingly popular, retailers are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes, become more efficient, and generate more revenue. This is where robotic process automation (RPA) comes in. It's been a truly disruptive force in the e-commerce industry and promises to improve customer interaction, data collection, and operations.



What is RPA?


Before looking at these trends, though, it's important to understand what RPA exactly is. In simple terms, RPA uses “software robots” that mimic the way a human interacts with a software application. These “software robots” are programmed to take specific actions based on certain triggers.


As a result, it's able to eliminate many manual and repetitive business processes. And automating these processes makes businesses more efficient and productive. Considering this, let's look at some of the places where RPA promises to take e-commerce to the next level.


How RPA Impacts e-Commerce


Customer Service


As the popularity of e-commerce increases, customer needs and expectations are evolving. It's simple, customers expect the same convenience and service they get from physical brick-and-mortar retail stores from an e-commerce platform. Also, when looking for information or if they have questions, they want to have it answered as soon as possible.


RPA makes this possible. Because it eliminates repetitive and manual tasks, it empowers customer service teams by providing them with customer information almost instantly. Likewise, an RPA system can automatically respond to customer reviews and emails with an appropriate response. As a result, customers’ queries are answered faster and the customer experience improves.


Another way in which RPA can improve customer service is by dealing with customers returning a product. It’s a fact, any e-commerce retailer will have to deal with product returns constantly, whether it’s due to defects or even something as simple as a customer changing their minds. Much like many other processes described above, product returns require a series of manual and repetitive steps.


The RPA system can simplify this process by logging the return, sending a confirmation message to customers, updating the product inventory, and handling the billing related to the return. This makes the entire returns process more efficient and ensures that customers stay satisfied.


Supply Chain and Inventory Management


Supply chain management is one of the most important processes for any e-commerce business. It’s easy to see why, considering that it not only determines how products get to customers, but also how products get from a supplier to a retailer. In between, there’s everything from inventory management to shipping and order tracking.


Unfortunately, it’s a time-consuming process that involves many manual and repetitive tasks. Here, RPA can be helpful in the entire process. So, it can keep customers updated in respect of their orders, help retailers manage their inventory, and simplify the shipping process. As a result, it’s capable of making the entire supply chain management process more efficient.


For example, an RPA system can constantly monitor inventory levels and update stock levels in real-time. When stock levels are low, it can then notify the relevant team members and automatically order new stock. Taking this one step further, Machine Learning added to RPA can also use historical data to predict demand and manage inventory levels accordingly.


Products and Pricing


Creating product catalogs requires many manual and repetitive processes which take a lot of time and effort. Think about it, for any product in a catalog, a product page would need to be created. This also often requires data from various sources. Now, for a relatively small product catalog, this can already get complicated, so for retailers with massive catalogs, it becomes a momentous task.


Another important aspect relating to products is proper product categorization. It often happens that a retailer stocks a particular product, but customers are simply not able to find it due to poor product categorization.


Fortunately, RPA has the ability to streamline both these processes. For example, given the right data, it can create product catalogs seamlessly. This, ultimately, means that retailers reduce their time-to-market time significantly and provide their customers with a seamless shopping experience.


It can also significantly improve product categorization processes. Here, the system can be programmed with customized mapping rules that will categorize the product properly as a catalog is created. This, in turn, then enables customers to find the products they’re looking for.


It’s no secret that product pricing plays a vital part in the success of an e-commerce retailer. Fortunately, RPA can also help here. Using it in combination with pricing analytics, retailers can evaluate and analyze their competitors’ pricing and discounting strategies. The RPA system can then update pricing in real-time. This, in turn, ensures that the retailer’s pricing is always optimized for more sales.


The Key to Unlocking The Benefits of RPA in Your e-Commerce Organization


Now, the question is how retailers can unlock all these benefits by using RPA. In other words, what can drive their efforts to become more efficient, productive, and profitable.


The simple answer is data.


Today, e-commerce retailers are capable of gathering more data across their business than ever before. So, for customers they gather data on shopping, online activity, and previous interactions. Likewise, they gather data on their products, inventory, supply chain, and other business processes.


The problem is that this data almost always comes from various platforms and disparate sources like CRM platforms, web analytics platforms, and the like. As a result, the data needs to be gathered in one place where it can be used by the RPA system to bring about an increase in efficiency and productivity.


This, in turn, typically requires a data warehousing solution where all the data can be stored and analyzed. In other words, it removes data silos and gives retailers a single source of data where their data is always available.


The implementation of this solution comes with two main challenges. The first is complexity. Setting up a data warehouse can be complicated and often requires significant amounts of custom code and an external team to manage it. The second challenge, costs, flows from the first. Because it can be complex, the cost of the infrastructure and the experts needed to maintain it can be complex.


The solution is then to use an automated data management platform. It helps retailers implement and operate data warehouses at a fraction of the cost and effort it would usually require. In simple terms, it saves retailers time and money and gives them the data they need to take their businesses to the next level.


The Bottom Line


With the e-commerce industry expected to grow significantly in the coming years, retailers will need to implement the necessary strategies and tools to ensure that they are as efficient and productive as ever before. And here, RPA may just be the tool they’re looking for.


By eliminating manual and repetitive processes, it can bring about substantial improvements in retailers’ customer service, supply chain management, inventory management, and other business processes. To achieve these improvements, retailers need to ensure that all their data is available in one central place, where it can be analyzed.


And this is where an automated data management platform and data warehouse automation comes in. To find out more about TimeXtender’s automated data management platform, visit our website or contact us for more details.


TimeXtender empowers the the world with data, mind, and heart. Because Time Matters. A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, TimeXtender serves its 3,200+ customers, from mid-sized companies to Fortune 500, through its global network of partners.




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