Due to rapid technology advancement, e-commerce is undergoing a major transformation and is steadily becoming more efficient and customer-centric than ever.
Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Augmented Reality are already widely used in e-commerce, bringing benefits to both retailers and customers. One more technology that contributes to e-commerce development is RPA or Robotic Process Automation.
By deploying RPA, the e-commerce retailers will be able to manage their business in a more efficient and organized manner.
Let us look at the different applications of RPA in an e-commerce landscape:
1) Automating Merchandising Inventory Updates
Displaying merchandisers’ product portfolio in an e-commerce site is a manual process. Imagine repeating the same process of manually uploading product images in various product categories followed by entering the product attributes for 100s, 1000s, or 100,000 images! It is quite a tedious and perfunctory task to perform. RPA proves to be invaluable in such cases.
For one of the digital commerce customers, we had helped them automate the whole process of reading the product catalogue images, making the necessary modifications and uploading the same to the respective product folders in the platform using UiPath (industry-leading RPA tool with the highest market share of 13.6% in 2018 as per Gartner).
This workflow automates the process of image uploading while detecting multiple image features – like the product category, gender, color, pattern, and more – using an AI based deep learning image detection model to improve the process using computer vision technology. Therefore, leveraging Cognitive Automation (augmenting RPA with AI capabilities) increases the automation scope manifold. It makes the system smarter and intelligent rather than just being robotic.
2) E-commerce content creation
E-commerce content creation for brands and marketplace includes quite a few repetitive tasks, often in multiple iterations. This is especially true for product catalogues. For a website to offer information that a buyer needs, you would need content specialists to create a product page. These content specialists source data from multiple locations and aggregate them in a template file defined by the CMS. This process is repeated each day, and each step has a set number of guidelines to follow.
Also, the product that you sell or manufacture needs to be added and shown on each platform, stored and then kept updated. Isn’t it a hectic and a complex task? One way business owners can maintain efficiency and ensure Time-to-Market cycles are not affected is Robot Process Automation (or RPA).
3) Product Categorization
Product categorization is one of the most important and the most ignored functions of the retail industry. There have been instances where a particular product is available on an e-commerce website, but the customer fails to find it owing to poor product categorization done by the retailer. Proper taxonomy is essential for seamless customer experience. However, with millions of products sold in e-commerce, the scope for human error also increases. RPA can assign attributes and categorize products based on customized product mapping rules.
4) RPA in supply chain management
Supply Chain Management is one of the processes that demand the most attention since it deals with products and their safe transfer from supplier to the consumer. From inventory management to shipping and order monitoring, RPA is priceless as it adds security and speed to the logistics process.
RPA is able to take care of the whole process, send notifications on the order status, and keep you alert about the inventory and all other tasks that are involved in product shipping.
For instance, RPA can simplify the inventory management process by keeping a tab on inventory levels by taking into account the historical data and sketching out patterns in demand, notifying managers when product stock levels are low and automatically reordering products that go below a certain threshold level.
5) Returns Processing
The increasing use of customer-oriented retail practices especially in e-commerce adds up the tasks like product returns to the various retail processes. Processing returns manually can be a really time-consuming task and being a cost to the company manual processing further increases the costs. RPA can handle the return, which includes a series of repetitive steps: sending a message confirming receipt of the return, updating the inventory system, making the payment adjustment to the customer, ensuring that the internal billing system is updated, and so on.
6) RPA for Customer Service
According to IBM’s report, “In a 6-minute customer service call, 75% of that time is devoted to agents doing manual research, with valued customer interaction at a dismal 25%.” Repetitive tasks take a long time, including seeking customer details, sorting & connecting. RPA bots are fast and can help by quickly tracking customer information through several systems. This helps employees to reduce lead times, ensuring a better support experience.
Chatbots are a popular choice with most of the retailers today. They come with the capability to fulfill customer requests instantly rather than passing it to the service representative.
RPA bots filter junk requests as well. They defend against spammers and ensure that low-priority and unimportant customer service requests don’t eat up times. And employees can genuinely focus on real customer issues.
A recent study conducted by Zebra Technologies on the anticipated future trends in the retail sector revealed that around 60% of the retailers are expected to adopt automation across all the key functions by 2021. Thus, adopting Robotic Process Automation can increase staff productivity, reduce costs and attrition by taking over the performance of tedious tasks over longer durations. This will not only save money, but it will also save valuable time. Any retailer researching and investing in this direction will surely have some advantages over its competitors.