Stores are under more pressure than ever. They not only have to beat year-over-year sales numbers every quarter, but also meet new expectations to support omnichannel and deliver a data-fueled, more engaging customer experience — despite a limited payroll.
That means retailers must embrace tools that maximize the efficiency of their store workforce. The right solution removes obstacles that impede daily productivity, like spending time trying to find information to help a customer, waiting for slow systems to work, executing cumbersome store-specific processes and workarounds and responding to internal data-sharing demands due to deficiencies in current siloed systems.
Retailers are beginning to recognize that the budget they’ve been devoting to customer-facing technology, like digital signage and mobile devices, only gets them so far. If the underlying store operations systems aren’t actively helping store associates make the most of those devices, their investments will under-perform. As many as 54% of the most successful retailers (compared with 23% of less successful retailers) agree that: “We need to focus more of our IT spending on operational efficiencies to offset increased spending on the customer facing side of the business,” according to research from RSR.
Eliminate IT Barriers To Optimize Operational Efficiencies
Many retailers are finding the answer to these challenges in an integrated retail software solution. By eliminating the barriers that bog down daily store operations, an integrated solution enables store operators to maximize the efficiency of their workforce, which helps support customer-centric retail goals. Here are several ways those benefits translate into greater efficiencies:
- Enhancing visibility for sales associates by putting the right information at their fingertips. Great sales associates motivate customers to visit stores: Shoppers want a conversation with someone who can provide the right answers in real time. BRP found 49% of shoppers are extremely likely to buy if helped by a knowledgeable associate; another 39% are somewhat likely. A cloud-based, integrated solution provides associates with real-time access to the enterprise-level data associates need to respond to customer needs — products, inventory, purchase history, and more.
- Delivering reliable and fast data. Speed is imperative to create an elevated experience. The underlying infrastructure must be capable of collecting and delivering accurate data in real time to all the places it’s needed. According to BRP, “Real-time retail, through unified commerce, enables retailers to identify the customer and gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing, and inventory data across all channels — Since consumers expect a seamless experience in the store, on the Web and via their mobile device, real-time retail is an imperative.” But retailers currently lag in accessing data pre-checkout in stores: Just 25% can look up previous transactions, which is the most common type of customer data retailers have access to, BRP reported.
- Making sales associates more mobile on the shop floor. When associates are out on the sales floor instead of tracking down information or solving problems behind the scenes, they can better assist customers and reduce wait times during checkout. Putting mobile devices in their hands is even better; not only are associates available to customers, but via mobile devices they can access store systems on the spot to get answers. Retail TouchPoints’ 2018 Store Operations Survey found retailers providing mobile devices to associates reported:
- 64% increased customer satisfaction;
- 41% increased upsells/cross-sells; and
- 30% increased average dollar sale.
These solutions work because they can instantly and easily access all the data they need to respond to the customer, thanks to solid, integrated retail systems.
- Unifying and simplify processes. Over time, stores running outdated, siloed legacy store systems struggle to invent processes and workarounds to adapt to new customer demands. In addition to impairing associate productivity, this means the retail enterprise suffer with inefficiencies and inconsistencies from store to store. According to KPMG Top Retail Risks 2018, retailers face significant risks to their business from excessive bureaucracy and empire building, lack of singe organizational vision, being ill-equipped for innovation and rapid response, and maintaining a technology plan that is connected to the current state rather than the desired state. To succeed in today’s new marketplace, retailers need an integrated solution that ensures consistency and cohesion across enterprise store operations.
- Optimizing store performance through greater control of activities that impact sales. Retailers that are succeeding in refocusing on the customer experience do so by reorienting all operations and infrastructure toward this goal. According to PWC, “Speed, convenience, helpful employees and friendly service matter most, each hitting over 70% in importance to consumers. Those who get it right prioritize technologies that foster or provide these benefits over adopting technology for the sake of being cutting edge.” An integrated retail software solution supports this mission by streamlining administrative tasks and enabling the consistent processes, data access and tools to deliver the brand experience vision across the enterprise.
As customer expectations edge ever higher, retailers need to devote every available resource to ensuring an elevated shopping experience. In stores, that means maximizing the workforce by freeing them from administrative obstacles and system-imposed delays and limitations, so they can spend time focused on the customer. Well-designed, integrated retail software serves as an enabler, instead of an impediment, to a great customer experience.