How to Craft an Intelligent Retail Strategy
Retailers today are presented with a variety of new challenges and pitfalls. Smartphone-enabled customers go into stores expecting a unique, seamless experience. Tightening labor margins are putting more pressure on retailers to ensure that no part of their labor budget is going to waste. Store associates have more projects to complete and more systems to learn than ever before, all while searching for stability and work-life balance in their jobs.
The good news is that all of this can be addressed by focusing on an intelligent and well-crafted retail strategy. Intelligent retail is about working towards two key goals: simplifying store execution and labor operations processes, and making data-driven best practice decisions to improve store performance. Achieving these goals comes down to the tools you’re putting in place to support store managers and associates, ensuring that everyone is completing the right tasks at the right time.
Here are some ways you can begin to craft your intelligent retail strategy:
1. Utilize a Single Platform of Retail Solutions
If store managers and associates have to access dozens of disparate applications every day while they work on the sales floor, they’ll waste valuable time that they could have spent completing critical tasks and assisting customers. By utilizing a single platform with access to these store-facing solutions on a unified interface, you can give store managers and associates one place to access all touchpoints during the workday. They can look at their schedules, tasks they have to complete, and real-time notifications without ever having to log in and out of different applications, making them more productive during their shifts.
Such a system also makes it easier for your applications to draw information from one another, making your retail organization more intelligent and adaptive. Labor scheduling needs accurate data concerning store workload, customer traffic, sales goals, and more in order to adequately staff your stores. With a single platform of store execution and labor operations solutions, you can use data gathered by your task management and other store execution solutions to create better, more optimized labor schedules.
2. Streamline Store Execution Processes
Simplifying communication and other store execution processes means giving your store managers and associates two things: visibility and the means to communicate quickly. Real-time task management has the power to accomplish both of these. With a real-time task management solution, store associates can receive an intelligently prioritized list of corporate-, on-site-, and system- or IoT-generated tasks to their mobile devices. This makes it simple to quickly complete all critical tasks and immediately update store managers when tasks are completed.
Peer-to-peer communication solutions can also empower intelligent, real-time messaging throughout your retail organization, getting rid of the confusion from redundant communication and the wasted expense from inefficiencies.
It’s also worth looking into solutions to streamline other critical store execution processes, such as store auditing, document management, and in-store forms processing. Streamlining these functional areas can add exponentially to the benefits from your intelligent retail strategy.
3. Optimize Labor Operations with Data-Driven Workforce Management
With so many variables impacting which store associates need to be scheduled and how many are needed at any specific time, store managers aren’t capable of creating optimized labor schedules on their own. An intelligent retail strategy uses AI-powered workforce management to automatically generate the most accurate and cost-effective labor schedules, forecasts, and budgets. With AI-powered workforce management, you can account not only for labor laws and union rules, but also for all of the variables that make the most impact at your stores, such as customer traffic, store workload, weather events, and more.
By decreasing the time needed to create labor schedules, and by removing the guesswork and inefficiencies from the labor scheduling process, AI-powered workforce management uses deep learning to automatically make certain schedule edits, providing store managers with even more time out on the sales floor. This gives them the ability to create more training opportunities for store associates and provide better service for customers.
4. Drive Continuous Improvement with AI and Machine Learning
There has been a great deal of hype around the application of AI and machine learning in retail. And many retailers are taking notice: a majority of retailers today are planning to implement AI technology in the near future. But without a clear plan as to how these technologies are going to make measurable improvements to store execution and labor operations, AI and machine learning aren’t going to make the impact that retailers desire.
Any application of AI and machine learning should enable your intelligent retail strategy, driving continuous improvement throughout your stores. And there are many functional areas that AI and machine learning can improve. Whether it’s labor forecasting and scheduling, employee performance, capacity planning, or in-store pilot program testing, AI and machine learning have the ability to optimize the performance of key functional areas, ensuring your stores are constantly improving.
To learn more about how to implement an intelligent retail strategy in your stores, read our white paper, “Where Does AI Fit into Your Retail Store Operations Strategy?”