Automation in Retail

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BY ERIK VAN AS, Product Development and Strategy Officer. Retail automation is a constant and necessary process for retailers on the path for ever increasing efficiency. It is about increasing the service offering to the customer at the lowest possible overhead, which can only be achieved through technology.


A good example is the Point-of-Sale (POS) which has evolved from just an adding machine, to something with integrated card payments, cash back transactions, ATM withdrawals, digital signage, virtual airtime, electricity vending, loyalty cards, etc.


We see ESL (electronic shelf label) as one of the major focus areas for retailers in the immediate future. Due to the volatility of the Rand, prices of goods change with almost every purchase, failure to deploy prices to the shelves quickly and efficiently, will not only lead to losses, but will also lead to disgruntled customers when shelf pricing does not match the price at the till, ultimately leading to customers losing confidence, and trust in the retailer.


E-commerce is a component of automation which is in its infancy.  Online retail in Africa accounts for only 3-4% of total business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales worldwide.  Although still in its infancy, recent signs indicate that e-commerce sales will grow at a steady pace. The internet’s contribution to Africa’s GDP stands somewhere close to 1%, which is much lower than other emerging markets, but this could rise to 10% or US$300 billion by 2025 according to  At present only 0.38% of total retail sales in South Africa is done through the e-commerce channel.

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