From automation to metaverse: what lies ahead for retail and B2B

Josh Fisher

In our rapidly changing digital economy, retailers and B2B e-commerce businesses face many challenges, including maintaining inventory, intense online competition, and concerns about market uncertainty and rising demand. inflation. Additionally, a major challenge that is rarely talked about is employee recruitment, staffing and retention.

Digital technologies and cloud-based business management solutions will help merchants evolve with the changing landscape.

Consider that 47 million people quit their jobs last year, leading to severe staffing shortages for businesses across all industries. Nearly 60% of job openings in wholesale and retail trade and durable goods manufacturing remained unfilled, according to data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Data showed that the wholesale and retail trade industry also saw a 3.3% “dropout rate” in 2022, while durable goods manufacturing recorded 2.1%.

The complexities of the job market have led business leaders to look for ways to maintain and improve their operations while dealing with fewer staff. After all, you can’t hire employees who don’t want to fill vacancies.

Luckily for traders, another option is available. Intelligent business management software and automated technologies are driving retail success, enabling more modern workflows and agile business operations.

How automation is helping merchants manage labor shortages

Businesses are leveraging automated technologies, such as cloud ERP solutions, to help them manage accounting, finance, and projects and meet today’s market challenges. A survey commissioned by software company UiPath found that nearly 80% of surveyed companies affected by labor shortages will invest in automation to compensate for the lack of manpower.

By automating processes, companies can do more with less. For example, implementing automated processes can allow B2B manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers to streamline tasks such as product data entry, customer order fulfillment, inventory synchronization, and returns management without additional hires. . Automating these workflows helps increase efficiency by eliminating error-prone manual methods.

In addition, enterprise management software and cloud ERP solutions improve collaboration within the organization. By implementing smart business management software, businesses can collect and sync data from every department into a centralized database that provides real-time data. As a result, the business can streamline workflows, automate business processes, and integrate disparate systems. Ultimately, companies can enable their existing talent to become more efficient.

Although automation requires fewer associates, it strengthens and enriches the experience of existing employees by equipping them with better tools and information. In other words, it’s an investment in your existing talent. Providing them with better tools enables employees to have satisfying interactions in the workplace and with customers, improving their work experience and boosting morale.

However, to be effective, business management software must engage frontline workers and be easy for employees to understand, especially given today’s high turnover rate. Simply put, you don’t want to spend too much time training employees to use complex automated technology if industry turnover indicates a limited tenure.

Adapt to the evolution of the industry with a business management platform

Not only do retail companies face a complex labor market, but they also face an ever-changing industry.

We regularly hear the word “disruption” when talking about the many industries that have been impacted by new technologies. But no industry has been hit harder than retail and B2B commerce.

What was once a brick and mortar industry is now an online industry. Shoppers scour the internet for the best deals and prices. Buying online and picking up in store has become so common that it has been given its own acronym: BOPIS. This new standard has moved away from the historical definition of “retail,” and is not unique to B2C retailers.

B2B companies are realizing that their buyers want the same online experiences when purchasing commercial goods. They want online resources and product information, self-service shopping tools, customer pricing, and personalized experiences. Not to mention the rapid adoption of B2B companies (especially manufacturers) selling direct to consumer (D2C).

Customers expect merchants to keep pace with these rapid changes. How is it possible that these merchants thrive in the face of so much chaos? The answer for traders is multiple, but simple:

  1. Create exceptional customer experiences across all forms of engagement
  2. Maximize the number of channels your products can be found in
  3. Build a community around your buyers and convert your customers into loyal fans
  4. Optimize and automate your back-office tasks (e.g. customer engagement, order fulfillment, returns, inventory management, and timely replenishments)
  5. Continue to recruit new buyers while attracting existing customers for recurring purchases

Digital natives have led the charge in adopting and using new tools like Shopify and BigCommerce to improve customer engagement and experiences. However, this new generation of commerce leaders has no experience with supply chain and inventory management. Rather, they are community builders who identify the products their audience desires, then use modern tools to connect the two.

Often, small traders begin by selling products from their garage or spare room; but as they grow their customer base, they see increased sales across a range of channels. Therefore, merchants must determine how to organize their business so that they can scale and handle larger volumes of orders, transactions, and customers.

Enter a business management platform.

With a business management platform, merchants can efficiently organize, automate, and manage their back-office operations. Specifically, these systems balance the management of back-office workflows (eg, inventory, accounting, order fulfillment, etc.) with front-office tasks such as customer experience. Merchants gain a better understanding of the supply chain and distribution process through data and analytics, enabling them to reach more customers.

Retail and B2B will continue to be redefined. In the years to come, we will see technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality alter the digital and physical shopping experiences. We’ll see AI guide shoppers through their appliance purchasing decisions and help them shop for replacement parts and supplies on their own. We’ll see the metaverse change what we think of as “retail stores.” With the new commoditization of online shopping, in-person stores will likely shift to more experience-focused locations and fulfillment centers littered with technology that knows who customers are and what they want to buy.

Digital technologies and cloud-based business management solutions will help merchants evolve with the changing landscape and empower employees with tools and insights that drive efficiency. Forward-thinking merchants who dare to implement these technologies will drive business success today and in the future.

About the Author:

Josh Fischer is director of product management, retail, at Acumatica, a provider of cloud-based enterprise resource planning technology. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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