Inovretail thought leadership article
Bricks-and-mortar retailers have nowhere to hide in the brave new world of Amazon and Uber. Consumers have lapped up the instant gratification offered by online disruptors and their attention spans have shortened considerably as a result – along with their tolerance of queues and poor customer experiences.
Recent research by Inovretail reveals that 70% of store customers are unwilling to wait more than five minutes to discover if stock is available, and no more than two minutes to get assistance from a staff member. If that isn’t bad enough, a whopping 69% of shoppers have abandoned a basket mid-purchase, because a queue is too long.
While data, automation and artificial intelligence are the engines of online commerce, bricks-and-mortar retailers must place their trust in the store associate. Staff remain the stars of the bricks-and-mortar show, but the demands placed on them have been growing steadily for years.
Store managers and their teams face complexity like never before, executing a growing number of tasks, leaving less time to devote to the valuable customer interactions that drive sales, yet at a time when customers require high quality service and immediacy. Here are just some of the tasks teams must complete:
- Fulfil ship from store orders
- Efficiently process click-and-collect orders
- Process returns from online sales
- Point-of-sale price matches
- Preparing for promotions, setting displays, organising stock
- Provide detailed product information across 100s of SKUs
- Restocking the shelves, and replacing garments from the fitting rooms
- Arranging shift patterns
- Report and deal with broken hardware
- Store safety audits
- Product recalls
- Managing the fitting room
If retailers are serious about rising to the challenge, and optimising store associate value – giving them the time and resources they need to do their job well – they need a better way of managing this precious resource, and they need to focus on the level of immediacy demanding by today’s customers.
Unleashing store associate potential
Faced with this growing challenge, forward-looking retailers must use new technology to unleash the potential of the store associate, maximising their biggest asset – their workforce.
Retailers that digitise their processes to achieve a single, real-time view of store workforce scheduling, whilst empowering staff to sell, will boost productivity and gain a significant competitive advantage over other retailers.
By using data science led demand forecasting to efficiently manage their workforce, retailers can unlock latent value, maximising the qualities that differentiate them from their competitors, drive increased in-store sales conversion, basket value and customer service.
Fully aligned processes and empowered store staff
When alignment occurs between the work schedule, customer traffic, and store sales targets, staff understand their role and are put in a position where they can excel. An empowered workforce is more productive, provides a first-class customer experience and delivers impressive sales performance.
The digitisation of workforce management should be focused on driving immediacy, delivering process automation and eliminating repetition, essentially enabling staff to be the engine of the sales process. Analyses of workforce scheduling has revealed that the most productive staff deployment patterns are delivered by matching staff levels against customer footfall, using improved demand forecasting. Having the right staff, present at the right time facilitates the rapid, information-rich interactions that consumers demand.
Technology needs to take a front seat optimising workforce performance by automating processes and delivering real-time insights to the end-user instantaneously. The use of wearable technology, for example an inexpensive smartwatch, facilitates this. Here is just a taste of what is possible:
- Assigning tasks and monitoring staff progress
- Creating hourly forecast-based staff schedules, revised with actuals throughout the day
- Equipping staff with wearables to display key staff and store targets
- Using the wearable to provide cross-selling suggestions
- Using the wearable to deliver request to process customer orders or attend to the fitting room.
- Delivering real-time messaging from HQ.
When frontline staff access this kind of information on the shop floor, using wearable technology, this data has the potential to dramatically transform store associate performance in real time.
Creating the perfect store associate
Store associates aren’t born perfect, they need to be nurtured by the right environment and equipped with the best digital tools if they are to grow and achieve their full potential.
Speedy and effective face-to-face interaction is a key part of the customer experience equation, and for store associates to succeed they need to be confident they have full access to the necessary real-time information and that targets given to them are both reasonable and achievable`
This can only be achieved when retailers invest and equip their in-store staff with the kinds of digitised data, automation and artificial intelligence leveraged so successfully by online disruptors, making them immediately accessible in real time on the shop floor.