AP Automation for Retailers - How to Support the Busiest Season of the Year

  • 26 Nov 2020
  • Industry Sectors
AP Automation for Retailers - How to Support the Busiest Season of the Year Image

Holidays bring to mind sipping hot cocoa by a crackling fire and sharing warm moments with loved ones. For retail and finance people, the frenetic holiday season kicks off a month of hard work and keeping up with endless data reporting requirements. In 2019, retail sales exceeded 1.1 trillion dollars. According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales for 2020 are anticipated to increase up to 4.1 percent more, even during the uncertain economic times of coronavirus quarantining. In AP, retail booms can also mean increased errors when manual processes are in place. Discover how AP automation and the effective use of automated workflows help retailers support the busiest season of the year. 

The Vast Adoption of Automation By Retailers - And Why

According to the “Retail Automation Market by Type, Implementation, End User and Geography - Global Forecast to 2023,” the retail automation market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.96 percent between 2017 and 2023. By 2023, the automation market is anticipated to be valued at $18.99 billion. Automation is crucial to the modern retailer who must ensure internal processes can keep up with the industry’s speed, intense competition, and higher consumer expectations than ever before. The vast adoption of AP automation by retailers is based on its ability to drive efficiency, improve accuracy, foster vendor relationships by paying invoices faster, take advantage of early payment savings, and reduce overall costs. 

Dependence on Vendors in Retail

Retailers depend on vendors to deliver products for distribution to the shoppers that pour in from Black Friday to Christmas Eve during the hectic holiday season. AP automation helps with replenishment, cycle counting, back-office and bookkeeping challenges, price changes, and other essential routine tasks during this busy season. As a result, labor hours are reduced, so employees enjoy more time with family during the holidays. AP automation also makes it easier to close the books at the end of the year with the latest data accessible to the financial team and C-suite in real-time. Plus, with cloud-based AP automation easily accessible for users, everyone can collaborate from any location to help close the books - even if they are spending the holiday with family in another state.

Improve the User Experience from the Back End

AP professionals in retail organizations will surely agree the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for any retail business. The back-end infrastructure and operations strategy must support front-end technologies and a great customer experience in the retail environment. This also applies to the rapidly growing e-commerce environment as many shoppers prefer the convenience of buying holiday gifts online.  From streamlined back-office processes such as AP automation to extra staff, retailers should be ready to face the holiday season for a stellar in-store customer experience that keeps people coming back to spend more money.

Tim Grabacki, director of product management at Cummins Allison, told Retail Customer Experience in an email interview, “But, what retailers often forget is that what's going on 'behind the curtain,' so to speak, can impact the customer experience as much as what's happening on the store floor.” Operations behind the scenes include ensuring product supply is strong by using AP automation data to pay vendors on-time or early to keep items coming in on schedule.

Time is Money During the Holiday Season

From extended hours to processing and distributing online orders on-site, the changing climate of retail has raised new concerns, issues, and challenges. Regardless of how the retail climate changes, time is money during the holiday season, when retailers strive to go from the red to the black before the new year. AP automation and streamlined back-office operations help retail companies save time by maintaining the proper level of supplies and finding savings opportunities to free more working capital. Reinvesting in hot products will keep shoppers coming back to the retailer while the profits continue to add up fast. 

Handling Common Challenges Faced By Retailers

During the fast-paced holiday season, a retailer might deal with thousands of different suppliers. AP automation can enable touchless processing of the ongoing flood of invoices to help the financial team gain control over the seemingly impossible AP process. AP automation makes it easy to overcome typical and time-consuming challenges such as complicated invoice matching scenarios and unregulated indirect spend. Save time with faster processing of non-merch invoices and automatic approval for product purchases. As the back end moves forward more efficiently and faster, so will the front-end, where customers are sure to notice the difference. 

AP automation and other automated tools support overworked retailers during the busiest season of the year. Keeping up with vendors, paying invoices, tracking supplies, and getting into the red before the end of the year are all top priorities. With the savvy use of automation, the financial team can finally schedule time-off for holiday fun and face the end-of-the-year close with confidence.

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