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Retail Transformation Gains New Momentum

Forward-thinking retailers now have a bright future. In contrast, those that failed to enhance their business model via digital transformation have struggled, declined, and their assets were eventually liquidated. The key difference between these two business outcomes is applied strategic foresight.

Even as the world continues to emerge from a global pandemic, retail is growing at levels not seen in the last two decades. Retail sales grew by 7 percent in 2020 and by over 14 percent in 2021, which is in stark contrast to the 3.7 percent annual growth between 2010 and 2019.

The increased demand for retail has put a strain on supply chains and retail operations worldwide. As a result, retailers and stakeholders are turning to automation solutions such as mobile robotics for operational ease.

Retail Transformation Market Development

According to the latest market study by ABI Research, worldwide commercial robot revenue in retail stores will have a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 25 percent from 2022 to 2030 and exceed $8.4 billion by 2030.

"There is the continued adoption of diverse technologies in the retail space. We can see incoming retail solutions within various points of the retail value chain, such as order fulfillment, in-store inventory check, coordination between store associates, or last-mile delivery," said Adhish Luitel, senior analyst at ABI Research.

According to the ABI assessment, these business technology solutions can directly or indirectly impact the wider supply chain management of retailers for the better.

Technologies such as contactless checkout, in-store mobile robotics, wearables, and smart carts are getting a lot of traction, with major retailers adopting these incoming solutions to enhance operations and contribute to a more streamlined supply chain management.

Companies like Zebra Technologies, Simbe Robotics, and Seoul Robotics have been providing various automation solutions such as wearable computers, handheld devices, LiDAR devices, and in-store robots that can be used for inventory scanning, floor care, or security purposes.

While companies such as Mashgin and Cloudpick offer frictionless checkout in stores by combining proprietary computer vision, deep learning, sensor fusion, and edge computing technologies.

Given their obvious operational benefits of enhanced customer experience, streamlined task or employee management, price management, or automated item monitoring, the impact of these technologies on the wider supply chain management for retailers can't be understated.

Beyond enabling rapid fulfillment and restocking or automated inventory management, these technologies also provide additional data points for precise demand and procurement planning.

Outlook for Retail Transformation Applications Growth

"This can also lead to an enhanced omnichannel presence for retailers and stronger partnerships with suppliers, shippers, distribution center operators, and other supply chain stakeholders through enhanced communication and synergy," Luitel concludes.

That said, I also foresee the upside opportunities for the application of mobile devices and digital workspace apps to transform the frontline retail store employee experience. The most forward-thinking retailers have already deployed these solutions, but there are still many others that need to evolve.

In-store employees that utilize smartphones or tablets to complete routine tasks are enabled to streamline workflow, participate in short online learning sessions, and quickly assist customers. The strategic advantages of these automation solutions are proven to enhance employee engagement.

Progressive business process automation for frontline employees, across industries and geographies, is an area of the Global Networked Economy where I anticipate we'll see more innovation that will further disrupt the status quo of the market laggards.

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