5 benefits of automated workflows for physical stores

The retail industry worldwide is an ever-growing, ever-changing industry. Physical retail industry sales reached 19.86 trillion US dollars in 2021. With the amount of technological advancement that this industry is experiencing, retail stores now offer a seamless customer experience that transcends across physical and virtual channels. Just as ecommerce platforms have multiple automated workflows for approvals, task management, notifications, reminders and more, physical stores are now venturing into leveraging the same technology. Automated workflows can be set for a host of activities in physical stores, such as:

- Appointment management for service businesses

- Customer account setup after every purchase

- Return and exchange management

- Inventory management

- Sales management

- Customer grievance management

Each of these activities can link and automate multiple activities to build an automated workflow. For example, every time a customer books an appointment for a service using automated scheduling apps such as Appointo through the website, an automated workflow triggers notifications, reminders, service assignment to the right service provider, and more. For brands that have multi-channel presence across virtual and physical platforms, such integrated automated workflows ensure superior customer experience. Some of the major benefits of incorporating automated workflows in a physical store set up are:

1. Reduced manual errors: Let's take the same example as above where a customer books an appointment with the store using Appointo's appointment scheduling software via a Shopify website. In a generic scenario, the appointment would have been booked on a call or a store visit where it would be marked for reference by the receptionist or whoever would be responsible. It would then be the direct responsibility of this person to call and remind the client of the upcoming appointment, convey pre-requisites if any, and also maintain the customers' historical data. The workflow holds multiple vulnerabilities and dependencies on the directly responsible individual to perform time and again for all customers. An automated workflow on the other hand, would trigger notifications, emails, feedback links, calendar bookings, and more with a click of a button. This automation heavily reduces possible manual errors including forgetfulness, misunderstandings, and other errors.

2. Better visibility and insight: A workflow integrated with your technology's reporting capabilities is the easiest way to collect and analyze critical operational data. From the number of customers visiting the store to the product or service receiving the highest customer criticism, insight into store information is easier with automated workflows. Not only that, workflows can be set in place to trigger at certain milestones and timelines such as celebratory notification for employees for the 100th sale of the day to Thank you email to customers every anniversary. These data points can only be captured, analyzed and leveraged with the help of an automated workflow.

3. Improved customer experience: Every Shopify website has the capability to be extremely user-friendly, exhaustive, feature-rich and a breeze to browse. How do you replicate the same in a physical store? With technology that captures data across multiple spots throughout the store, incorporating an automated workflow that triggers action for every customer activity, the brand can build an elevated customer experience. Let's take a look at this smart mirror technology that many retailers are now adopting. These mirrors use Augmented Reality (AR) to enable virtual try-ons, call for varieties when trying on, capture customer's wishlists, likes, dislikes, and more. This is a technology that can capture customer preferences and build buyer personas for personalized suggestions. Personalization leads to better customer engagement and ultimately improved sales.

4. Improved operational efficiency: Another important benefit that automation - across any aspect of the business - brings is operational efficiency. Triggers, activities, approvals, data capture and more, automated workflows cover a multitude of tasks that otherwise would require constant human intervention, saving time and reducing errors. In the case of physical stores, capturing inventory data and matching them with sales while simultaneously placing orders for depleting stock is a lengthy and time-consuming process if not for automated workflows. Triggers that automatically place orders for stock that the store is low on, raise alarms when product hits expiry or accommodate waitlisted clients for services help build a seamlessly efficient business operation.

5. Lower costs: Cost-cutting has and will be one of the most important goals of most businesses. Companies invest large sums of money in technologies that help identify cost centers that have potential. Similarly, physical stores tend to streamline inventory, space, and overhead costs in order to keep overall costs under control. Bringing in efficiency in terms of automating menial tasks, reducing time, managing inventory, and improving customer satisfaction is the easiest way to cut down on unnecessary costs.

While these are just some of the benefits that we can highlight in this blog, we're sure there are many that brands and consumers across the world are enjoying thanks to workflow automation. It becomes necessary, thus, that your technology stack allows you to build and enable workflows with ease across integrated technologies.

Tarang Agarwal

Designer by degree and developer by profession, a front end wizard who likes to keep things neat and clean for the clients