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Lhe automation is often associatede to the idea of making long or repetitive tasks easier to perform in order to gain efficiency and productivity. From faster order processing to personalized customer experience management through to tracking inventory trackingthe benefits of of automation are numerous for retailers. According to astudy byAllied Market Researchthe global market for automationin the retail sector is expected to reach 23,6 billion by 2026.

Is automation the way of the future?

The purpose of automation is to facilitate the implementation processes to run smoothly and independently without major human intervention. Today, thanks to artificial intelligence, it is possible to perform tasks, but also to obtain predictions.

According to a 2021 survey by RetailWire and BrainCorp, 64% of retailers, including 77% of large chains, believe it is important to have a clear, realistic and well-funded automation strategy in place. And nearly half of those surveyed said they will implement a store automation project in the next 18 months. Some projects are aimed at automating in-store tasks while others are focused on collecting data to improve the customer experience or decision making.

Focus on the connected store of tomorrow

Some devices are already making the shopping process smoother and more enjoyable, such as contactless payment. Self-service checkouts are also gaining in popularity. With these tools, queues can be reduced and the shopping experience optimized.

But automation suggests many other possibilities. In France, grocery giant Carrefour has taken inspiration from Amazon Go to launch Carrefour Flash, a fully automated supermarket that promises customers to shop "in a flash." The store's 60 cameras and 2,000 sensors automatically detect the products you want to buy without having to scan them: they appear directly on the checkout screen. Then you just pay and go.

This type of checkout automation significantly reduces labor costs, an advantage shared by robotic picking systems. With e-commerce, a customer can make a purchase at any time of the day and a robot will pick the order and deliver it much faster than waiting for an employee. In Quebec, the new distribution center of La Maison Simons and the Voilà order picking service of IGA are good examples.

These cameras, sensors and robots, which can be used in stores as well as in warehouses, are are also used to to locate inventory, detect stock-outs, deliver goods from the warehouse to the stores just-in-time, verify pricing accuracy, manage shifts and create unique workflows. They are indispensable tools for companies that want to exceed consumer expectations, but also realize significant cost savings.

The transformation of the customer experience

In addition to controlling objects, new technologies allow for the collection and analysis of a and analyze a wealth of data. For example, automationautomation allows for in-depth analysis of new purchasing behaviors à with a robust omnichannel strategy and powerful new technologies. By being present at each customer touch point, the retailer can better understand the customer's buying journey and then provide a more tailored offer.

Automation also has the advantage of reinforcing the feeling of belonging to a brand and increasing loyalty, particularly by maintaining a privileged contact with customers. Thanks to customer relationship management tools, it is possible to further personalize communication by offering targeted promotions and newsletters. The company can also also track the activities of each potential customer and then personalize each conversation.

Greater accuracy in decision making

When it comes to data analysis, mistakes can have significant financial consequences, especially when it comes to making decisions. Automation can help reduce human human error and increase data accuracy. Artificial intelligence can even provide accurate predictions based on real-time data, right on the shelves of branches.

When automating specific retail tasks, technologies can leverage information to build sustainable and profitable business models. It drives decisions, from optimizing assortment planning and tracking inventory to adjusting prices and making offers that match customers' expectations and willingness to pay.

These benefits have a significant impact on business performance. That's why automation in the retail sector has a bright future. And as technology becomes more accessible, even small retailers will be able to create memorable customer experiences and stand out from the competition.

However, as with any change, it requires solid planning and clear goal setting.

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