The disruption to retail sales environments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has left many retailers playing catch-up. They are struggling to deliver a seamless customer experience across both eCommerce and stores, as this requires new fulfilment options, end-to-end visibility, and streamlined internal processes across merchandising, supply chain, stores, finance, and human resources.

Savvy retailers understand that embracing digital transformation can deliver the personalised omni-channel customer experiences required to remain competitive. But leveraging automation is challenging for retailers who still rely on paper-based systems like email and spreadsheets and those who store data in silos or have complex legacy systems.

Deloitte’s 2021 retail industry outlook: The New Rules of Retail found that only three in ten executives rated themselves as having mature capabilities within digital and are therefore planning “major” e-commerce, contactless capabilities, and store technology upgrade investments.

The advantages of a low-code retail solution

An automated low-code application development platform is one quick and easy way to digitise retail operations. It allows retailers to harness artificial intelligence, automation, and predictive analytics to consolidate siloed data, better understand the customer life cycle and create a personalised customer experience.

A low-code platform uses easy-to-configure connectors and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to unify and extend virtually any system or data source quickly. These include ERP, CRM, systems for warehouse, inventory, transportation, human capital, and other existing retail systems.

The platform automates processes and workflows across organisational silos and external business partners, with real-time action to improve communication, execution, and supplier validation.

Low-code incorporates lead-edge technology including AI, machine learning, robotic process automation, IoT, and blockchain, allowing retailers to create modern applications 20 times faster through drag-and-drop functionality, using fewer resources.

The Deloitte’s 2021 retail industry outlook: The New Rules of Retail report also noted that “AI is particularly important right now because of margin compression. By investing more in AI, it could create efficiencies while reacting to customers’ needs more quickly.”

A low-code platform facilitates swift collaboration between people, robots, machines, and multi-enterprise networks, and automated processes ensure the correct inventory is on shelves and orders are fulfilled to customers quickly.

Low-code helps retailers provide unique customer experiences

The foundation of any successful retail operation is happy customers. Low-code gives retailers the ability to create an enhanced, more personalised customer experience which, in turn, allows them to grow their customer base, improve retention rates and create greater brand loyalty.

Building apps has previously been expensive and required specialised technical knowledge. Low-code simplifies and accelerates the process, so existing non-technical retail teams can build completely new apps or quickly create apps that reuse existing components and templates. Drag-and-drop platforms deliver a speed-to-market capability that means retailers can capitalise on market trends as soon as they emerge.

Low-code app development can also assist with customer relationship management (CRM) by simplifying the execution of customer loyalty programs. This is achieved by the more efficient utilisation of databases and account management systems.

The global supply chain issues created by the pandemic is an ongoing challenge for retailers. Nothing can impact customer satisfaction as badly as long delivery times, but low-code can minimise customer frustration by setting realistic expectations based on inventory status and providing automated customer support.

Secure online payments are vital to any successful e-commerce operation. Low-code platforms usually accept online payments through a module that incorporates recognised third-party processors. Plug-and-play modules can also provide international currency conversions.

Customer engagement and retention can be further strengthened by the automation of digital marketing activity. A low-code platform allows retail brands to analyse real-time data, generate alerts, track behaviours and personalise content.

How low-code can improve store operations

The efficiency of bricks-and-mortar stores is being challenged by changing pandemic guidelines, new fulfilment offerings and employee shortages, not to mention increased competition from online operations.

Automation can increase efficiencies within and across stores in the following ways:

  • Inbound delivery visibility helps plan for shipments, schedule staff, properly process freight and complete stock-to-sales-floor task.
  • In-store task management streamlines in-store activities and associated tasks to ensure flawless execution.
  • Improves inventory auditing processes ensure accurate product levels and identifies shrinkage.
  • Improves direct store delivery (DSD) through better coordination and communication with DSD vendors about route changes, delivery times, inventory levels, and out-of-stocks.
  • Better manages projects like new store builds, remodels, and relocations.
  • Native, mobile-enabled apps enhance inventory quantities and location visibility for improved order fulfilment.
  • Increases transparency around how stores are implementing marketing and merchandising strategies.
  • Delivers an agile Covid-19 response that protects the health and safety of employees and customers.

Some of the low-code features that can improve store operations are Robotic Process Application (RPA) workflow automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), case management capabilities, and the tracking of key metrics around sales performance.

Low-code and retail store execution

Store level execution is imperative for sales and customer satisfaction, but often retailers are unaware of how individual outlets are implementing strategies for seasonal resets, promotional marketing, end caps and planograms.

Low-code facilitates better collaboration between corporate and field teams by streamlining end-to-end visibility and compliance, resulting in increased sales margins. An intuitive mobile experience is vital for optimising sales strategy and performance, as apps can be used for image verification, document and video management, and real-time communication between stores and corporate.

Prepare for the future

Effective planning and execution of retail strategies improve margins, business growth and increased brand impact.

It takes speed and power to transform the retail process, and a low-code development platform is a secure, reliable, and scalable cloud platform that provides both.

Luke Thomas is regional vice president for Asia Pacific at Appian.