Retail automation may be a big trend in 2014.
With each passing day, the retail landscape grows in ways that many industry pundits would have deemed inconceivable just a year ago. With Amazon testing airborne drones that can deliver packages straight to consumers, all bets are off as to what retailers can expect in the future.
Automating retail functions
So what does 2014 have in store for omnichannel retailing? Multichannel Merchant contributor Jonathan Levitt suggested one of the bigger trends of 2014 may be the rise of retail automation
. New technology can greatly bolster retail operations by automating several tasks that may previously have required some sort of manual effort to accomplish. This can include everything from picking and packing orders to creating notifications about inventory level changes.
The goal with retail automation is to eliminate some of the stress of menial tasks that retailers would have devoted their resources to in the past. This allows employees to focus on more mission-critical activities that only people can accomplish. As technology continues to improve, automation may be extended to an increasingly greater number of tasks, which can go a long way in terms of streamlining efficiency.
"Stores will roll out in-store tablet ordering kiosks to allow customers to purchase products for immediate pickup at a special self-checkout desk," Levitt predicted in his blog. "While a real person may still be necessary to locate the item in the stockroom, that process could soon be automated with a robot and a conveyor belt.
"What's more, there's no reason a store couldn't use GPS tracking to 'recognize' a shopper as soon as he pulls into the store parking lot, and then have his online order waiting at a special checkout desk the moment he arrives," he added.
As Levitt noted, retail automation can be used for both consumer-facing and back-end functions. For example, tablets can function as automated store associates, helping customers compare prices and locate items. From the back end, automation can aid with inventory management through alerts.