“Driving” to a Better In-Store Customer Experience
Automotive technology developments have given us steady advances in performance, safety, and the overall driving experience. Retailers can apply similar technology to improve associate performance, customer safety, and the overall in-store shopping experience.
Over the course of the past 30 years, there have been incredible technological advances in the automotive industry. Much of that technology manifests itself in a user interface that’s within inches of — if not directly attached to — the steering wheel. Without taking their eyes off the road, today’s drivers can make and receive phone calls, listen to their favorite music, set cruise control, monitor key indicators regarding maintenance, fuel economy, and tire pressure, and a whole lot more. The combination of automation and intuitive user controls found in modern vehicles has become something few of us can live without.
There are several parallels with modern retail real-time store execution and workforce optimization platforms. Many retailers are stuck with ancient legacy systems that leave them hamstrung, while their more progressive competitors enjoy a slew of cutting-edge features that drastically improve the daily lives of store team members and customers.
Blind Spot Monitoring. First introduced in 2007, blind spot monitors produce a visible and/or audible alert if a car enters the driver’s blind spot during a lane switch. Today, blind spot monitoring systems are standard equipment on dozens of vehicles.
Store managers struggle with blind spots, too. They don’t know if a truck is going to be delayed, or if sudden changes will sideswipe their best-laid operations and customer engagement strategies. Like blind spot monitoring systems, however, modern real-time store operations solutions monitor what store managers can’t see. They collect inputs from virtually any source of data — from truck shipment status updates to weather feeds — and proactively alert store managers to the unknown and the best way to respond. With visibility into delayed shipments, store managers quickly redeploy labor to tasks more productive than sitting at the loading dock, waiting for a late truck. With advanced insight into a looming winter storm, they’re able to proactively adjust planograms to promote snow shovels, ice melt, anti-freeze, and other hot-selling winter weather essentials, eliminating the blind spot and driving best-practice action in response.
Satellite Navigation Systems. Early iterations of GPS-enabled navigation systems began hitting the market in select vehicles in the early 1990s. GPS leverages satellite communications and software to advise drivers on which routes to take and to provide real-time traffic and weather updates. They’ve largely displaced paper maps and roadside stops to ask for directions.
Similarly, real-time store execution systems displace spreadsheets, paper reporting, best guesses, and intuition in charting the retailer’s labor demands. Instead of relying on store managers to copy or re-create work shifts, schedules are built automatically for store managers by software that uses advanced mathematics — taking a host of contextual data such as workforce availability, promotions, and sales forecasts into account — to accurately predict labor needs and schedule associates. Like satellite navigation, modern workforce management and labor analytics systems are designed to guide store managers safely and efficiently to their desired outcome. And when conditions suddenly change, new workforce management systems enable store managers to re-allocate labor in just one or two mouse clicks or swipes on a mobile device.
Lane Departure Warning and Collision Avoidance Systems. Lane departure warning and collision avoidance systems came on the scene in the early 2000s. The former is designed to warn drivers when their vehicle begins to move out of its lane without a turn signal being activated, the latter to warn of a forward collision and, in some cases, automate the application of the vehicle’s brakes.
Just as driving sometimes leads to accidents and fines, unintentional improper adherence to workplace rules and laws puts retailers at legal, monetary, and reputational risk. Modern real-time workforce management platforms serve to mitigate those risks. By monitoring schedules and hours worked at the associate level, they warn store managers when associates are on a collision-course with overtime violations, trending toward full-time status per the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and DOL (Department of Labor) guidelines, or on the brink of breaking other work rules. That proactive notification gives store managers the reaction time that legacy and paper-based systems simply don’t offer.
TPMS and Performance Monitoring. In the late 1980s, drivers were introduced to TPMS (tire pressure monitoring systems), which feeds tire pressure data to the driver’s display. That was a precursor to a host of critical engine performance monitoring technologies that deliver specific service alerts — from necessary oil changes to emissions and engine compression issues — directly to the driver’s dashboard.
Real-time store monitoring platforms deliver similar no-hassle functionality to store managers. Just as TPMS alerts drivers to tire inflation issues before tires go flat or burst, store monitoring systems can feed real-time Key Performance Indicators and alerts regarding sales, sudden customer traffic surges, stock-outs, faulty equipment, and recalls. Such store monitoring systems preemptively notify store managers and how to respond. Instead of having to read and analyze e-mails or physically inspect sales floors to identify opportunities and trouble spots, actionable information is delivered to managers’ and associates’ mobile devices.
Your Steering-Wheel-Mounted, Single Unified Dashboard. The modern car’s steering wheel does far more than steer. With hands firmly on the wheel at 10 and 2, today’s driver can access a host of information and control multiple applications with a touch of their thumbs. Similarly, real-time workforce management and store execution systems offer retail managers a single, unified interface that brings all systems data, notifications, alerts, and necessary actions to one place. With one-click accessibility to critical operations data and the ability to view alerts and update multiple applications using mobile devices, having to learn multiple software interfaces and consult paper manuals for answers to daily and common challenges is a thing of the past.
Just as a late 20th century vehicle would feel foreign to today’s driver, legacy store operations systems are increasingly cumbersome for today’s store managers and associates.
Today, powerful and intuitive real-time store operations technology like Reflexis StorePulse remains a competitive differentiator. Tomorrow, it will be the expected standard. At Reflexis, continuous innovation ensures StorePulse users will set those standards and exceed performance expectations, while their competitors go the way of the Edsel.
So when you look at the capabilities of your systems and ability of your managers and associates to turn on a dime and provide the best customer shopping experience, what kind of “car” do your stores drive?