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With eCommerce sales volumes (and eCommerce returns) at an all time high, there are more moving parts than ever for retail businesses that sell online. So many, in fact, that humans could never hope to manually track the data that countless logistical processes create. And while industry leaders have made great strides in efficiency in the last decades, their eyes are always set on the horizon.
New technologies like AI, machine learning and robotics hold great promise for everyone from megastores to upstart retail chains. These solutions don’t always come easy or cheap, though. Because of this, it’s up to retailers to both strategize for long-term large-scale tech initiatives while scoring quick wins where they can.
Read on to learn more about the role that new tech is playing in every stage of retail—and about one particular area that many businesses don’t realize could use a dose of this fresh tech.
Large retailers have been employing AIs to supply customers with the goods they need during the current period of inflation. With rapid access to customer behaviors and high-powered algorithms at play, stores can adjust prices of staples on the fly to levels that keep customers engaged. As Revionic’s Matt Pavich tells TechTarget, they can then adjust prices on other items accordingly to ensure that they still make a profit while retaining market share.
Further, AIs empower retailers to plug in variables to prepare for different scenarios. Perhaps a store is curious what would happen if a supplier raised costs on a particular item. Maybe they want to know how they would fare if a certain item went out of production. Or what if they lost the loyalty of a certain demographic? With data on every sale and survey at the fingertips of a human or AI analyst, real and hypothetical problems become more transparent. It’s this ability to process countless what-if scenarios that make AIs truly next-level tools.
The advantages go beyond just speed and computing muscle, however. The secret weapon of top-tier retail intelligence solutions is their Machine Learning (ML) capabilities. Every forecast, even if it misses the mark, feeds and teaches algorithms for the future.
As eCommerce reaches new heights, returns rates are climbing in kind. In fact, 20% or more of merchandise purchased online is returned to the retailer. With Americans projected to spend over $500 billion on eCommerce in 2022, this rate should be concerning to anyone with an online return policy. Given this daunting figure, the importance of reverse logistics automation and optimization has come into focus.
While there are any number of solutions that transport, house, and sort returns, one thing is certain. Machines do simple, repetitive grunt work faster—4,000 to 5,000 items per hour faster, as SDI Systems’ Krish Nathan told Modern Materials Handling. It’s numbers like these that make the case for smarter eCommerce returns management clear.
Whether these solutions take the form of radio-enabled tracking tags, networks of tubes or pouches, or self-driving forklifts, the endgame is the same, says Honeywell Integrated’s Chris Rowland. Data generation and tracking is absolutely key. Every piece of merchandise coming back to the retailer will be tracked in a fully integrated site-wide inventory management system. The company will know exactly where it’s been, where it’s going, when and how fast. From information like this humans and computers alike can draw their insights. Increasingly, however, today’s top tech solutions refuse to relegate robots to the role of number-cruncher.
Automated solutions and humans have very different skill sets, and currently split the duties of reverse logistics processes. But as we look to the future, tasks that yesterday’s robots simply couldn’t handle are coming into reach. For instance cameras and powerful new visual algorithms promise to help machines inspect incoming returns to ensure they’re not damaged.
While data and logistics have a role to play in successful businesses, they’re not enough on their own. Humans too must play to their strengths. This means that your time is best spent crafting your mission and message, forging new relationships with employees and customers, and developing or curating the types of goods that consumers want to buy. It’s a business leader’s responsibility to begin looking into next-gen solutions as soon as possible.
Still, you can’t implement AI, automation, machine learning tech overnight. For a growing company, a fully automated returns process can sponge up nearly half of total revenue. So where can you begin?
Perhaps you’re already sold on the new tech and are looking to update your sales and returns processes. After all, sales are what make you money, and returns are what keep your customers satisfied. But even if you’re able to take in your automated returns faster and more efficiently, you still need to decide what to do with them. This is where liquidation comes in, and many organizations don’t realize what a drain it can be on profits.
If you’re finding that returned or unsold inventory is in no condition to hit shelves, or that it’s not worth reshelving, you still have to handle these goods somehow. And there’s no reason to liquidate like you’re living in the last century.
Transitioning your liquidation process to an online auction solution is a good start for those hoping to update their operations. In fact, it’s far and away the best way to move out unsold, returned, and damaged merchandise—and fast. This is the case for several reasons.
Traditional liquidators have a habit of offering non-negotiable rock-bottom prices—if they’re not actively trying to talk you down even further, that is. Instead, the auction format drives prices up.
By their nature, auctions create competition that ensures the price you get is the highest amount that your approved buyers are willing to pay. While you can get this benefit in a traditional auction house, taking this format to the web adds even more value. Online, you gain the advantage of live bidding—real-time engagement—with buyers. They know when the clock starts running, the pressure is on—and if they don’t act quickly and decisively, they’ll lose out. This is the reason that our partners tend to recover 30% or more beyond their current methods.
Speaking of buyers, an online auction solution is the best way to secure a large, reliable buyer pool. With traditional methods, you’ll likely deal with a small handful of liquidators. This seems easy enough to manage, but what if your most trusted partners pass on your wares or perhaps even closes up shop? You’ll be left in a bind, selling for pennies or, even worse, trashing inventory.
B-Stock ensures that when one buyer goes, there are always more merch-hungry entrepreneurs and small businesses to take their place. In fact, with the largest global buyer network of any liquidation solution, B-Stock gives access to over 500,000 buyers and counting. With such a large buyer pool in one place, you can bank on a reliable liquidation schedule.
As discussed, data and automation are key for running a successful, and scalable business in the 21st century. With traditional methods, you might find yourself sending information on your lots via emails or spreadsheets. Worst case, you may find yourself haggling over the phone with an old-school liquidator.
Even if you have a paper trail, disparate, manually generated records aren’t too useful. They simply don’t lend themselves well to quick reference and analytics. You’ll likely need to have a human entering the data into a program to draw any insights. And achieving any sort of automation is another step beyond that.
By transitioning liquidation to B-Stock’s all-in-one solution, your records are captured automatically and stored in a single place. You have total visibility into clean, normalized data. Between the auction know-how of our account management staff and your own expertise, you’ll be able to identify patterns that help you push your recovery to new heights. Examine what sold and when, as well as how variables like condition, shipping, lot size, etc. affect your numbers.
Further, B-Stock enables you to schedule recurring auctions ahead of time and automatically launches and closes them according to your needs. Once the auction concludes, invoicing and payments are handled automatically as well.
Believe it or not, these are only a few of the benefits that B-Stock can provide. Whether you represent an enterprise that deals in the hundreds of millions or a small growing business, B-Stock is here to help revolutionize your liquidation and drive business forward. Contact us today.