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RPA: The Post-Pandemic Cure to the Retail Labor Shortage

RPA: The Post-Pandemic Cure to the Retail Labor Shortage

The occasional help-wanted sign at a local fast-food joint or clothing store is nothing new, but with the current state of the labor market, they seem to be a permanent fixture.

Companies across the country are bemoaning their inability to hire and retain workers. What’s worse for those businesses is that customers are experiencing diminished service and long wait times as an add-on impact of the current labor shortage.

However, with any dark cloud, there is a silver lining; in the case of the retail labor shortage, that silver lining could be the potential for Robotic Process Automation’s (RPA’s) big moment in the retail industry. This blog will examine the benefits of retail automation and what skills you need to use it effectively.

Five Processes to Automate for Post-Pandemic Retail Businesses

Here are five of the most common use cases of robotic process automation in the retail industry:

Product Return Operations:

In particular, items acquired online can effortlessly be returned with RPA. One need only submit their application and warranty card electronically. Software bots will quickly analyze these requests and choose the most convenient time and location for the products to be delivered.

Document Management:

RPA enables organizations to automate the generation and distribution of invoices, the completion of tax forms, the management of service provider contracts and applications, and the routing of documents among organizational departments per specific criteria. All document transactions can be gathered using RPA, joined, and organized in an ERP.

Demand and Supply Management:

Bots can reconcile and manage the delivery of items by analyzing data from retail stores and warehouses. Bots can organize pick-ups for non-liquid commodities from retail establishments and orders for shipping things to the locations where they are required, if necessary.

Logistics and Supply Chain Management:

RPA automates communication between customers, suppliers, and distributors. This includes email or text notifications when an order is booked, shipped, delayed, or delivered. Software robots can also assign products to a specific warehouse depending on their capacity and availability and manage the necessary shipping documents and accounting.

Benefits of Retail Automation

Eliminating Burnout

Understaffed companies are piling more work on their existing employees, which can quickly lead to staff fatigue, reduced concentration, lower efficacy, and risk of quitting. According to McKinsey, many U.S. workers who left their jobs in 2021 cited burnout as a top reason for their departure.

Employee burnout rose steeply during COVID-19, with an Indeed report from March revealing that out of 1,500 surveyed respondents, 67% said that they were feeling burned out and that this feeling had worsened over the pandemic.

Luckily, RPA can help lighten the load. Bots can handle large volumes of work and can quickly ramp up their workload capacity to accommodate volume increases, delivering high-quality work with faster process completion times.

Automation offers a significant opportunity to relieve overburdened workers of repetitive, mundane admin tasks.

RPA bots can work 24/7 without interruption and don’t get tired, distracted, or take sick days. Workers in patient-facing roles like physicians and nursing staff can offload the manual drudgery that causes burnout to their robotic counterparts, enabling them to spend more time on knowledge work and patient care.

Making More Time for Meaningful Work


Employees who spend hours of the workday on routine tasks may feel that there needs to be more opportunity to advance in their careers. A 2021 Adobe report cites repetitive and tedious tasks as a leading reason for younger employees feeling dissatisfied and resigning, leading companies to seek new ways to make their employees feel fulfilled on both a professional and personal level.

RPA offers a solution: creating a workplace where simple, routine functions are automated allows your staff to feel like their knowledge and skills are being put to good use. By switching their focus to more challenging and creative projects, employees are more likely to stay as they feel their work adds value to the company’s bottom line.

Businesses can take it a step further by fostering a citizen developer culture in which employees are given the training to create simple automation workflows for themselves and their departments. By normalizing humans and robots working side by side, employees are empowered to work at the top of their skill sets. They know they can offload smaller, routine tasks to their robotic counterparts, leading to greater employee satisfaction and productivity at the organizational level.

It is safe to assume that the great resignation isn’t over yet and that the trend will continue for years. Now is a prime time to explore automation and how it can improve your human workforce.

Talk to our experts to learn more about how your company can engage employees with automation.

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