TECHNOLOGY

Manual intervention is hindering the customer experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

By failing to automate pricing and replenishment processes, brick-and-mortar retailers are failing to improve the customer experience.

This was according to data from Blue Yonder, a JDA company, which pointed out that 96% of retailers rely on manual processes for their pricing and replenishment strategies, despite near universal recognition of the benefits that greater automation could bring.

Relying solely on manual intervention to execute critical processes, such as pricing and replenishment, retailers subject themselves to inaccuracies, like not having the right products available or priced at a sub-optimal level, resulting in lost sales. The good news is retailers are ready for a change.

A majority (90%) of companies plan to increase or maintain their physical store presence, as well as innovation. On average, retailers plan to invest 36% of their IT budgets in new technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) to meet the demands of customers and prepare for the future of retail.

Half of companies (53%) openly admit that there is room for improvement in their replenishment process, while 54% said the same for their pricing strategy. For example, 58% of retailers reported that automated replenishment would generate a better customer experience, and 56% said that automated pricing would result in improved profits.

Intelligent technologies, such as automation and AI, can not only provide insight on pricing and forecast stock levels, they can deliver better replenishment and pricing decisions to retailers. AI solutions can also analyze vast quantities of data to completely automate these processes and eliminate the burden of manual intervention, enabling retailers to devote more of their resources to improving the customer experience, according to the report.

“It is clear that retailers recognize the benefits that automation can bring to their businesses, but perhaps most significant is the agility it gives them to compete with their e-commerce rivals,” said Uwe Weiss, CEO of Blue Yonder.

“Online retailers have been able to make small and regular adjustments to their pricing for years, instantly reacting to consumer demand and trends to keep their prices optimized and maximize sales, while brick-and-mortar retailers have been trying to manage with manually-operated, outdated and static pricing strategies,” Weiss added. “However, with automated pricing solutions, retailers finally have the flexibility and agility to optimize their prices in their physical estate, delivering a better experience for customers and enabling them to compete more effectively with their online rivals.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Amazon wants members to choose their ideal ‘Amazon Day’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon Prime members are getting yet another perk, one that complements the membership’s signature free, speedy shipping.

Amazon is slowly rolling out a new delivery option in the United States, called Amazon Day, according to CNet.

The invite-only program lets members set a specific day of the week for their shipments to arrive. Customers choose their preferred “Amazon Day” date during checkout, and that’s when orders will arrive, the report said.

Most items that are available for two-day deliveries will have the new Amazon Day option, CNet reported. Prime members will still be able to select their regular one-day, two-day and no-rush shipping options, when available.

To read more, click here.

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TECHNOLOGY

Starbucks makes huge delivery move in key market

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Less than two months after launching delivery in China, Starbucks Corp. is expanding in a big way.

Through its partnership with Alibaba, the coffee giant now offers delivery service in more than 1,100 stores in 17 Chinese cities, with full-service coverage in Beijing and Shanghai. The program, called Starbucks Delivers, originally launched in 150 stores in Beijing and Shanghai in September.

The service is integrated within Alibaba’s on-demand platform, ele.me. The intelligent order-and-delivery system automatically chooses the nearest Starbucks location to fulfill an order to ensure timely and efficient delivery. The platform includes delivery riders, precise delivery time, and custom carriers. All orders are served in specially-designed spill-proof lids, for hot and cold beverages, and tamper-proof packaging seals. Unique Ele.me delivery containers also ensure the right temperature and standards to uphold beverage and food quality and safety.

To support the operation, Starbucks launched its first “Star Kitchens” in two Hema supermarkets in Shanghai and Hangzhou. Each Star Kitchen will utilize Hema’s fulfillment and delivery capabilities, within a 30-minute delivery time-frame, to further expand the scale and reach of Starbucks delivery services. Starbucks plans to expand the presence of the kitchens to other Chinese cities over time.

“Our market-leading scale and the positive customer trial and adoption we have seen in the first two months of operations have given us even greater confidence that we will successfully bring this exceptional delivery experience to more than 2,000 stores across 30 cities by the end of year,” said Belinda Wong, CEO, Starbucks China.

The coffee giant aims to leverage the delivery practices it’s learning in China, and “apply them to other parts of the world, including the U.S.,” Kevin Johnson, the company’s president and chief executive, said in a report from CNBC.

These enhancements coincide with Starbucks’ aggressive Chinese expansion plan, which is already underway. In May, the coffee giant announced plans to build 3,000 stores — 600 net new stores annually — during the next five years in Mainland China, which will double the market’s store count from its current 3,300 locations. Starbucks said it expects to more than triple revenue and more than double operating income in China by the end of fiscal year 2022 from fiscal year 2017.

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