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Using Automation to Solve The Labor Shortage

artificial intelligence
AI-enabled automation can solve retail labor and product development issues.

In the wake of the pandemic, the health of the retail sector has quickly recovered.

Retailers are seeing significant growth as consumers are spending both online and in-store. However, due to a shortage of workers, businesses are finding it challenging to keep up with the growing consumer demand throughout the retail supply chain such as stores, warehouses and distribution centers.

This was reflected nationwide as almost 4.3 million employees voluntarily resigned from their jobs in summer 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Enhanced customer satisfaction, increased sales, and employee well-being is clearly correlated. On the other hand, overwhelmed or disgruntled employees might have the reverse effect. How can this retail talent management dilemma be resolved?

A market shift in streamlining retail processes
Challenges within the supply chain and logistics, as well as increasing demand for more virtual, touchless experiences, and 3D and augmented reality (AR) technology adoptions, are set to continue their growth as a critical tool in a retailer’s arsenal.

One of the pillars of retail technology that aims to streamline operations in retail establishments, warehouses, or distribution centers is automation. The value of the worldwide retail automation market reached $11.3 billion in 2020.

By 2030, the market is anticipated to increase to $33 billion, according to projections made by Next Move Strategy ConsultingStreamlining labelling can significantly increase the speed and flexibility needed to get apparel items to the store. Retailers operating without leveraging 3D and AR modeling within the design operation processes will continue to suffer.

Retailers realize the design process has a tedious nature, consisting of time-consuming alteration rounds, endless physical samples, and wasted fabric that have both cost and environmental repercussions. The industry is evolving with major brands already converting their collections to be designed entirely in 3D.

Digitizing operations
Brands were suddenly in a dilemma when thousands of traditional businesses closed due to the pandemic: should they embrace e-commerce or wait it out? Naturally, a lot of companies caught the survival bug, and e-commerce exploded globally. According to research from the Economist Intelligence Unit, this transition to e-commerce caused online retail sales in the top 60 nations to increase by over 30% in 2020.

As the use of e-commerce grows amongst consumers, so does their desire for technology-driven experiences. Immersive technologies, such as AR, can enhance the customer experience, boost sales and reduce fashion retail’s staggering return rate. Only 1%of merchants are now enhancing the consumer experience with immersive technologies.

Leading retailers are using AR online shopping tools to address pain points in the customer journey, despite the fact that return rates are predicted to rise as more consumers opt to make purchases online.

Virtual apparel, however, shows the most potential in the fashion industry. By converting product catalogues into captivating virtual experiences, implementing AR in fashion retail offers buyers a fun, fresh, and informative way to explore a brand's product line. Soon enough, adopting AR in retail won't be about staying ahead of competitors, but rather about surviving in the rapidly evolving industry.

There is no doubt that implementing automation technology presents hurdles for retailers, despite the fact that this technology has several advantages for any brand. A recent IDC survey of retailers found that a staggering 60% had not yet implemented automation. There are possible reasons why the adoption rate is so low.

For example, financial investments pose a block as every retailer has a budget and a return on investment to consider. After all, adopting automation software will consume a significant amount of time and resources for any business. The cultural influence of "automation will kill jobs," or limited human interaction also hinders many traditional retailers from adopting new technologies.

The role of automation
The role of automation within retail is becoming increasingly apparent in all areas of the industry, from offering a true omnichannel experience online to the physical catwalk. One widespread use of AR is enabling consumers to virtually try on outfits. This gives greater accuracy,  thanks to customized measurement functionality, and also utilizes virtual reality technology.

Fashion brands are investigating how 3D printing can enable them to produce items on demand and open up new customization options. A more comprehensive and integrated solution will be required as environmentally conscious apparel consumers emphasize end-to-end transparency more.

The future of automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology have significantly altered every stage of the retail journey, from stock management to customer satisfaction. Additionally, retailers use data analytics for many aspects of their operations, such as sales estimates, store optimization, and product recommendations as well as to better understand consumer buying habits.

Customers' expectations increase as they grow acclimated to how emerging technology affects how they shop and as they become more familiar with emerging tech trends.

The adoption of automation and AI in retail has received a lot of attention in discussions about the future of employment in the retail industry. However, supply-chain, value-chain, and administrative tasks (including merchandising) would also be significantly impacted.

Advanced planning tools can automate historical insights and produce forecast scenarios, dramatically reducing the time needed to plan merchandise and enabling retailers to act more rapidly. Similarly, pricing and promotions might be automated by dynamic systems that use web scraping and predictive effect analytics. By automating these and other time-consuming tasks, businesses can free up time for more strategic tasks that add value to the overall operation.

The complex landscape of remote workforces, challenges within the supply chain and logistics, and the increasing demand for more virtual and touchless experiences have caused the accelerated adoption of 3D and AR technology. The retail sector is evolving rapidly and major brands have adapted to the market shift of increased digitization in support of efficiency, lower cost, and more sustainable operations.


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