TECHNOLOGY

IHL: Automated solutions can reduce retailers’ cash-handling costs

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Cash may be king, but it can also boost retailers operating expenses if it’s not handled correctly.

That’s according to a report from IHL Group and APG Cash Drawer, which found that cash transactions incurred costs from 4% to 15%, depending on the retail segment. Cash accounted for 41.2 billion transactions in 2017, or about one-third of all transactions.

According to the study, “Cash Multipliers: How Reducing Cash Handling Can Enable Retail Sales and Profit Growth,” up to 71% of cash-related costs are the result of front-of-the-store activities, such replenishing change at tills and closing out drawers at the end of a shift.

Retailers don’t know their true costs of managing cash because the process involves multiple components and operating units, making it difficult to keep track of all associated tasks, the report stated. Costs include tasks related to drawer starts, rebuilds and closings, transporting cash to banks, and bank fees.

The study recommends that retailers look into cutting their cash-handling costs to keep a lid on expenses and compete with more agile market leaders. The report urges merchants to consider automated solutions, including automated cash management systems, smart safes, cash recycling solutions at checkout lanes. Such options can reduce retailers’ cash-related expenses between 15% and 80%, according to the study.

“Today’s retailers are focused on improving the customer experience, but their efforts are hampered by time-consuming manual tasks, such as topping up cash drawers, delivering change to checkouts and doing back office cash counts,” said Greg Buzek, president, IHL Group. “Staff time that should be dedicated to the customer experience is instead spent on these tasks. That’s why it’s critical to bring down cash-handling costs.”

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The newest delivery service: a self-driving ‘bodega-on-wheels’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Grocery chains will soon have a new way to get fresh produce into the hands of its time-starved shoppers.

Startup Robomart introduced a self-driving, nearly fully autonomous grocery store on wheels. The rolling robot is designed to bring fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items from the supermarket aisle to customers’ doors, according to Business Insider.

The concept relies on a Sprinter van-sized delivery vehicle that is refrigerated, and features multiple shelves that will be used to display various types of produce, Business Insider revealed. (It can also be designed with a heating system.)

The rolling robot is outfitted with LiDAR — a detection system that uses radar, and light from a laser, cameras, a motion control system, and route planning and obstacle avoidance software. The vehicle can cover an estimated 80-mile range at 25 miles per hour. They are also equipped with the a wireless charging system, according to Engadget.

Here’s how it works: Shoppers use an app to “order” the vehicle — a concept similar to a ride sharing service. Once it arrives at their home, the shopper unlocks and opens the vehicle’s door, then makes their selection. A proprietary “grab and go” checkout system tracks which products are removed from the vehicle, then automatically bills the shopper’s account and generates an online receipt, Engadget explained.

The concept, which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, is expected to begin cruising neighborhoods in the Bay Area during a pilot program this summer, the report added.

Robomart founder Ali Ahmed, expects the concept to appeal to a collective of local stores that could use the vehicle to compete with big-box retailers. It also could appeal to wholesalers eager to directly connect with consumers, according to TechCrunch.

For now however, the vehicles could give on-demand delivery services, like those from Amazon, Instacart, and Postmates, a run for their money. Supermarket chains could license the platform and robots for a two-year lease — a much cheaper options than opening a new store, Business Insider added. Delivery fees also go into the retailer’s pocket, instead of sharing the revenue with an on-demand delivery partner.

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Interactive kiosks step up Rent the Runway’s in-store experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A fast-growing online apparel and accessories rental company is making it easier for customers to pick up and drop off their ensembles.

Rent the Runway manages more than 450,000 pieces of designer fashion for what it describes as its “closet in the cloud.” However, this is a massive logistical enterprise — one that relies on mobile technology to collect millions of data points about each user’s interaction with the brand. Through a new partnership with Alia Technologies, Rent the Runway now has a way to tie all of that incoming data into its digital in-store experience to make returns, exchanges and rentals seamlessly easy.

By installing Alia’s self-service interactive kiosks at store-level, customers will be able to quickly pick up and drop off orders, and easily exchange pieces right on the spot. The solution supports 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch iPads to create an interactive device that features digital signage based on images and full resolution videos, as well as scanning technology that can process QR codes and bar codes.

The technology is available in the retailer’s New York City flagship store, as well as locations in Chicago, San Francisco, Topanga, California, and Washington, D.C., according to the company.

“As we expand our ‘endless closet’ into local locations across the country, it is critical that we deliver the same seamless, luxury experience that our customers expect — especially now that we have some customers accessing the store several times a week,” said Hampton Catlin, senior director of engineering, Rent the Runway.

“Traditional scanning devices and systems were difficult and slow for our customers to use, plus they were all rather bulky and unappealing,” added Catlin. “Aila was the only solution that we found that could meet our needs — it lets our customers and associates quickly and efficiently scan the tiny labels on our products to ensure all of their interactions meet our brand standards. Aila’s scanning speed and accuracy is far beyond anything else we have seen.”

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