How to do more with less in-store? (3 Steps to Smarter Store Operations)

Mila Budeva
Mila Budeva
May 17, 2017

Despite predictions of its demise relative to e- and m-commerce, the physical store remains the most important consumer touch point. 

Yet despite rising customer expectations of the in-store shopping experience, economic pressure has led many retailers to remove operating cost with a leaner and more flexible workforce.

For example, following a recent review of its store operations Sainsbury’s announced it will cut up to 400 jobs with 4,000 other employees facing a major change to their working hours. Similarly, John Lewis said that employees would be able to “work more flexibly” [1]. Retailers are therefore facing a serious challenge:

How to maintain and improve in-store standards with a leaner workforce on the shop floor- how to do more with less by significantly improving the productivity of their deskless workforce?

 

To achieve this seemingly impossible balance, retailers need to re-think the design, communication and execution of store operations and implement a smarter, leaner, digitised approach. With the help of analytics, cloud and mobile capabilities, retailers can do more with less, optimising the time and efforts of store associates for a perfect balance between executional excellence in store and operating costs.

 

1. Data-driven task automation

Retailers invest millions of dollars in an array of systems – POS, CRM, ERP, e-, m- and s- commerce, order and inventory management, labour scheduling etc. How can they make the most of the abundance of data provided by these systems? A key capability is the ability to take insights from these systems (and the analytics engines being developed alongside them) and turn them into action through an automated prioritisation of daily tasks.  

 

Store associates are enabled with an intelligent, data-driven to-do list, which focuses their efforts on the highest-priority activities. For example, data shows that sales of ready-made salads and sandwiches peak between 12-2pm, so every half an hour during this period, store associates are sent an alert to check on-shelf-availability for these SKUs together with guided workflows for real time corrective action. Then, they move on to merchandising soft drinks which have the highest sales rate between 2-4pm. This way - rather than constantly wondering what they should do next - store associates know what to do at any given time and can quickly move from one in-store priority to the next, reducing operating time and increasing productivity. 

 

In addition to the significant productivity gains, store managers and HQ gain visibility over store and staff performance, can easily identify trends and issues with in-store execution and compare the success of strategies in different outlets. Retailers can experiment and re-design in-store processes based on these insights. For example, retail operations directors may experiment with A/B productivity tests, providing store associates in store A with one half-hour break and with two 15-minute breaks in store B and compare the impact on productivity.

 

2.Real-time Communication

Real-time communication between the head office and the shop floor, enabled by a unified communication platform, is essential for successful store operations. Enabling store associates to report on their day-to-day activities in a standardised format provides the head office with visibility over in-store productivity and effectiveness. What is more, data captured about issues, root cause and corrective actions taken in-store feeds back into the analytics engine, helping to continuously refine the accuracy of algorithms and automated task prioritization.

 

Real-time communication is also crucial for responding to critical situations in-store. Retailers need to be able to manually create and push urgent task to managers and store associates within seconds. In the instance of a food safety alert of a hazardous product on the shelves, every wasted minute poses danger to consumers’ health. With a unified communication platform, retailers can push to store associates the required corrective actions within seconds. Store associates instantly know which products and in what quantities need to be recalled and can resolve the issue within minutes.

 

3. Five-Star Customer Service

According to a recent study conducted across Europe, 25% of European consumers want better-informed store staff who are able to offer e-commerce style services such as sharing detailed product information, access to online reviews and real-time stock checks. A quarter of shoppers also expect sales associates to be equipped with a mobile device [2]. Retailers can meet customers' expectations by providing store associates with a millennial experience on the shop floor - as intuitive and informative as the digital customer journey. This will increase store associates' engagement, productivity and effectiveness and improve their direct communication with customers.

 

A user-friendly mobile application can give store associates instant access to inventory, e-commerce, click and collect information so they can respond to any customer query. Gamification can boost their engagement by rewarding them with points and badges for a job well-done and showing them how they compare to their colleagues.

 

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Resources:

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-retailers-cut-4000-staff-national-minimum-wage-john-lewis-sainsburys-tesco-new-effect-employees-a7641261.html

[2]http://www.digitalstrategyconsulting.com/intelligence/2017/02/omnichannel_demands_shifting_instore_expectations.php