Maximizing the Effectiveness of Store Layout Changes During the Pandemic
At the beginning of 2020, nobody could see just how dramatically retail would change in the coming months. From store occupancy limits to mandating masks, spacing out displays to implementing one-way aisles, as COVID-19 swept across the world in early 2020, retailers have had to adapt by completely changing how stores look and feel. And while some of these changes come from safety regulations imposed by state or local government, many of these changes are simply a way to appeal to customers who have drastically modified how they shop at stores.
For example, take omnichannel services, which are now table stakes for retailers. While 91% of retail customers miss shopping at stores, the vast majority of customers have increased the frequency at which they use curbside pickup, and view contactless pickup as very important to their shopping routines. Buy online pick up in store (BOPIS), ship from store, curbside pickup, and online returns are now critical to attracting and retaining customers, and many retailers have accelerated their implementation of these services to appeal to today’s retail shoppers.
All of these services require reallocating space in the store. Retailers need to be able to store curbside pickup or BOPIS orders in a designated area before they’re fulfilled. In doing so, front-line employees can better manage these orders, ensure that they aren’t mixed up, and get them to the right customer in a timely fashion.
In addition to omnichannel services, social distancing and other safety measures are still going to be critical in the coming months. While people are gradually loosening how they practice COVID-19 guidelines in their own lives, the CDC continues to promote social distancing as essential to combatting the pandemic. Retailers are going to have to adapt their store layouts to account for both of these trends, preparing for more customers to shop in stores while also ensuring that they’re adhering to CDC guidelines.
Adequately accounting for all of these pandemic-related forces comes down to maximizing the efficiency of your operational infrastructure. If your stores can’t execute omnichannel or safety related tasks, or if they’re not correctly staffing for shifting in-store workloads, then these changes are only going to slow you down.
Here are a couple strategies you can use to keep your stores running smoothly through all of these layout and format changes:
1. Provide Front-Line Employees with Real-Time Visibility into Their Workload
Real-time task management solutions provide front-line employees with the ability to see exactly what tasks they have to do at any time, ensuring that all tasks related to store layout changes are accomplished quickly and efficiently. These solutions optimize the workflow at your stores, intelligently distributing all corporate-, store-, and third-party-generated tasks across your associates, guaranteeing that nobody is overloaded and that tasks are completed effectively and on-time. Front-line employees also receive alerts when new tasks come in, and can see their priority compared to what’s already on their lists. This way, associates are always in the right place at the right time, working on the right tasks.
By empowering your associates with real-time task management at their fingertips, they’ll know exactly when they need to fulfill curbside pickup orders, place new social distancing signage around the store, and refill hand sanitizer stations. They can quickly complete all tasks associated with changes to store layout, all without feeling overburdened and frustrated by their workload.
2. Optimize Staffing to Account for New Tasks and Initiatives
Dynamic workforce scheduling solutions ensure that your labor forecasting and scheduling is aligned with your in-store workload, as well as other critical variables like customer traffic, employee availability and preferences, and labor laws and regulations. These solutions automate the scheduling process, improving schedule accuracy and cutting back on the need for last-minute scheduling adjustments that could violate predictive scheduling laws.
Optimizing your labor with workforce scheduling tools ensures that you have enough front-line employees scheduled to complete any omnichannel and safety-related tasks in the store. By properly accounting for key drivers when staffing your stores, you’ll foster associates that are engaged, productive, and effective at managing curbside orders and implementing social distance signage.
With the right store operations and workforce management technology, changes from the COVID-19 pandemic don’t have to take you by surprise. Not only will front-line employees have the information needed to manage all of their tasks, but optimized staffing ensures that enough employees are in the store to get it all done.
For more information on how to manage pandemic-related store layout and format changes, check out our latest white paper, “Streamlining Retail Store Operations to Manage Changing Store Layouts.”