Retail Technology vs Store Operations: How to Innovate with Simplicity
Time is money, especially in a fast-paced retail setting. Store associates drive sales by creating a positive customer experience, keeping shoppers engaged and informed, and directing them to value-added purchases. Time spent checking stock, waiting for deliveries, and reviewing irrelevant communications is time away from customers.
However, a store can’t function without associates executing recalls, restocking, updating displays, and many other tasks. By using technology to streamline workflow, retailers can ensure that they have the right people working on the right tasks at the right time. Everything gets done on time without sacrificing customer engagement.
Challenges to Streamlining Store Operations
The work of brick-and-mortar retail has become more complex. Customers have more choices and often start the shopping experience before even entering a store. New omnichannel models like Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) and mobile order-ahead have generated new challenges around stock and order fulfillment. Store associates have to more work than ever before as retailers experiment with experiential stores and enhanced customer loyalty offerings.
However, retail technology, particularly mobility and IoT integration, can help streamline the process of managing these disparate tasks. In the old task management model, various corporate departments—marketing, HR, loss prevention—would send emails or print materials to field managers and directly to stores. Tasks were forwarded, resent, and updated. Phone calls were made and voicemails left. In this model, there’s no visibility into what’s been assigned or what’s been completed, and communication only flows one way.
Mobile solutions and IoT integration can make communicating about work in stores faster and simpler.
Mobile Task Management
Reflexis Systems, the industry leader in retail execution and workforce management, has revolutionized task management for the modern era. Reflexis Real-Time Task Manager is a comprehensive, centralized, mobile work platform. All initiatives are pushed through a single system; there’s immediate visibility into how many projects a store has open, which tasks are most urgent, and what’s been completed or left undone. Tasks can automatically be assigned to store associates based on current workload, skill set, or task urgency. Tasks are pushed directly to associates on the floor via mobile devices, so there are no delays to execution, especially on urgent projects like product recalls.
With instant communication options as part of a mobile work platform, store managers get immediate clarification on any unclear tasks. Improving store communications has a clear ROI; task execution doesn’t bottleneck while stores wait for information and, with mobility, messages don’t sit unread in the back room. Managers and associates can spend more time on the store floor engaging with customers, without missing updates or time-sensitive information.
Smart Stores to Simplify Workflow
Using IoT (Internet of Things) technology in combination with a task management solution can be a powerful way to make store operations more efficient. Smart systems can automatically alert managers or associates to changes in the store that need immediate attention. For example, an IoT-capable refrigeration system makes it easier to comply with food safety regulations. If the temperature rises above a pre-set level, smart sensors trigger an alert in the task management system, sent directly to the store manager as an urgent task. Stores no longer need to rely on an individual noticing the problem and escalating it to the correct person. Smart sensors can be used around the store to alert managers and associates about everything from low stock to long lines at the register. Interfacing these alerts into a task management system ensures that they are prioritized correctly and are incorporated into the overall workflow of the store.
IoT retail technology also creates new avenues for store associates to curate the customer experience. Integration with omnichannel fulfillment systems and customer apps enable associates to respond more quickly and effectively to customer needs. Other emerging technologies could potentially use localization and personalization to drive the customer experience. IoT integration with a powerful task management solution makes the store itself a tool to drive visibility and responsiveness, instantly alerting managers and associates of changes, problems, and opportunities.
Implementing new retail technology can be a challenging process and retailers are often justifiably nervous. These technologies are just one piece of a total store operations solution that improves communications and streamlines workflow. Centralizing and automating task management frees up managers and associates to focus on engaging customers and driving sales.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our latest white paper, Drive Convenience Store Success with Retail Technology, or visit us at NACS Show 2018 and GroceryShop.