How Omnichannel Retail is Transforming the Grocery Industry
Since the very first grocery store, a Piggly Wiggly, opened in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916, grocery retail has come a long way.
Today, stores have millions of dollars’ worth of technology running inside them to optimize on-shelf availability, shrink, labor, customer service, and much more. And these investments continue. Many grocers have made extensive modifications to their businesses, such as opening full-service restaurants inside of stores, promoting an expansive selection of ready-to-heat meals, and selling prepared foods like pizza and sushi in stores. This supports a customer base with increasingly less time to shop for and cook food, relying on a quick way to buy back time spent on work and commuting.
However, over the last 12 months, COVID-19 radically changed the way grocery retailers operate. Full-service restaurants and buffet-style salad bars in stores were scaled back to accommodate new safety and hygiene standards.
But where some doors closed, others opened. With many customers anxious about spending time indoors with people outside of their household, demand for alternative shopping options such as curbside pickup and home delivery skyrocketed. In Q2 2020, Target saw their curbside pickup sales grow by an incredible 734%! Albertsons’ curbside pickup service outpaced delivery and increased more than 1000% in Q2 2020 on a year-over-year basis. And curbside pickup is here to stay: almost a year later, customers still heavily rely on it and most supermarket chains continue to scale up their curbside pickup operations.
Before COVID-19, it may have taken retailers up to 18 months to pilot, test, and roll out some of these omnichannel initiatives. Now, with curbside pickup seen as table stakes, effective implementation and execution of these initiatives is even more critical. And with 76% of US retail executives planning to improve integration between online channels and stores, the priorities are even more clear. Modernizing your store operations and doing it well is critical to providing customers with the retail experience they’re expecting today.
Here are a couple ways that you can pursue a more streamlined, modern store operations infrastructure:
1. Communicate in Real Time
Real-time communication solutions allow for streamlined corporate-to-store communication of all in-store activities such as new program rollouts, price changes, product recalls, and more. By enabling peer-to-peer communication functionality, frontline associates can immediately act if there are any issues with omnichannel fulfillment processes. If a customer abruptly changes their pick-up time slot, or if an associate needs help fulfilling an online order, these problems can be managed quickly and efficiently with a few clicks.
These mobile-enabled applications also help if curbside pickup or BOPIS procedures change company-wide and need to be communicated broadly. By creating and utilizing messaging templates and distribution lists, critical information can be directed to the appropriate managers and associates in real time. This keeps unnecessary messages from cluttering managers’ and associates’ inboxes or feeds, streamlining the communication process and ensuring that everyone is up-to-date on the latest policies and procedures.
2. Intelligently Schedule Your Frontline Associates
Ensuring timely fulfillment of online orders often comes down to having the right associates present at the right time to manage the in-store workload. Why? If your labor scheduling processes aren’t adequately accounting for new work from omnichannel processes, then you simply won’t have the right number of associates scheduled to carry out all in-store tasks.
Intelligent workforce scheduling solutions solve this dilemma by automating the scheduling process, using AI and machine learning to align labor schedules with anticipated customer demand. Not only do these solutions assess the total workload in stores, but they also factor in other critical variables such as employee preferences and availability, customer foot traffic and demand, and required skills or expertise.
The benefits to this extend beyond just improving task completion rates and customer satisfaction. If frontline associates are optimally utilized and their skills and preferences are accounted for in the scheduling process, they’ll be more productive and engaged during their shifts. This boost in employee morale translates to a better customer engagement and increased sales.
Curbside pickup and other key omnichannel initiatives aren’t going to become less relevant as the pandemic comes to a close. Improving your store operations is critical to ensuring that you’re prepared for the future of grocery retail.
For more information on how you can improve the execution of omnichannel initiatives at your stores, check out our latest white paper, “Ensuring Omnichannel Excellence in a Post-Pandemic World.”