By Henna Hynynen, Chief Commercial Officer, Blockstore Group
Many industries have started adopting more and more automation in their operations and grocery stores are no different. Although this sector has not yet seen the full adoption of robotics, automating end-to-end grocery operations is expected to increase.
The need to apply efficiencies is more urgent now than ever and a wide variety of automation technology is ready to drive change and boost the bottom line.
Many of the existing smart stores in the market are faced with the challenge to achieve scale and value. Why? Due to the level of automation used across the end-to-end operations (read more about the difference between Autonomous Grocery Stores vs Cashier-less Grocery Stores).
The goal of an autonomous smart grocery store is to achieve unprecedented efficiency gains and create new value so let´s have a look at some of the business benefits that can be gained with autonomous smart grocery stores.
Efficient Inventory Management
Autonomous smart stores can help retailers to improve the efficiency of a store´s inventory management by keeping track of all of its products in real time with their best-before-dates. This creates substantial benefits:
A higher number of products sold at full price improving the sales.
Less need to apply discounts and make inventory markdowns lowering the costs.
Working capital can be kept low.
More efficient ordering volumes, when only needed items are ordered at correct time
RFID-technology makes it possible to identify all items reliably and automatically in real-time, throughout the operations. The technology also provides the ability to see the best-before-dates for each item. That is why we chose RFID technology to be one of the core technologies in the Blockstore solution (read more about RFID technology here).
Blockstore technology-enabled autonomous smart stores analyze themselves when products are running low and send orders independently to the warehouse for replenishment needs.
This way smart stores can keep their inventory management efficient as stores order products only for demand. Say goodbye to backroom product stocks and POS (point of sale) balance counting for inventory management, as well as endless manual checking of printed expiry dates from packages.
Automated replenishment system is a great example of how automation has led to autonomy and eliminated the need for manual entries in the ordering process.
Retailers only have to intervene in exceptional cases (e.g., new campaign launch) to check or fine-tune the offering. But it can be done easily through the remote access capability that allows retailers to easily customize the operations and manage the store network.
Improved Consumer Experience
Providing consumers, with a seamless shopping experience across the different channels (in-store and online complemented with different delivery methods) make autonomous smart stores appealing.
People come back to brands that can provide experiences and value exclusive to them. When a person can be connected to their shopping behavior across multiple channels they can easily move to a desired result. Building on previous interactions benefits the consumer and can help boost the sale of the stores.
Having the right products at the right time provides a superior shopping experience. No consumer wants to walk into the store just to find out that the products they are looking for are not available.
Having visibility for all products 24/7 and applying artificial intelligence Blockstore technology-enabled smart stores support retailers to meet the needs of a consumer.
AI capabilities also help on providing more personalized offerings, help to identify ideal products, and allow consumers to share their thoughts and request assistance. When a retailer can be attentive at each stage of the consumer journey - pre-purchasing, purchasing, post-purchasing – the greater value consumers enjoy.
Naturally, this should lead to better conversion rates and increased basket sizes.
Evolving Personnel Journey
Unlike traditional supermarkets, autonomous smart grocery stores can operate without the need for their employees to be on the shop floor. These smart stores use automation to provide various services and to improve the efficiency of the operations.
There is no single staffing requirement, as needs can vary depending on the size of the store, location, and geography. Especially in bigger autonomous smart stores having staff available to interact with customers during certain hours can bring additional value.
However, the basic idea of staffing needs in autonomous stores is simple: matching the employees´ working hours to the changing workload to ensure the right employees work at the right time.
In Blockstore solution, the staff is utilized for the replenishment when products are delivered to the smart stores. This is basically the only moment staff is required to be on the shop floor so that products find their way on display.
Any other task can be taken care of remotely. With in-store management automation, Blockstore technology-enabled autonomous smart stores help to boost the store´s profitability.
Supportive Security and Safety
The availability of innovative security technologies protects autonomous smart stores and supports its operations. In Blockstore solution camera and sensor network enables consumers to enter the autonomous smart store securely hence retailers can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without the need for staff.
This allows retailers to maximize sales and reduce costs while consumers can shop for their groceries at the right time for their needs.
Blockstore technology-enabled autonomous smart stores focus on providing the best possible security and safety for retailers and consumers. Through the use of camera and sensor system, suspicious activity will be identified and security alerts pushed to prevent any attempts of shoplifting or other criminal activity. This capability gives retailers a chance to take immediate action in any situation if needed.