The retail sector is witnessing dramatic shifts in shopper behaviour, along with widespread changes in product assortments, and exponential growth in digital orders.
In response to these market shifts, innovative retailers are taking a series of measures to adapt to current market trends, by creating new initiatives that focus on available data and build on modern technologies in order to improve consumer experiences.
While these efforts were good steps, they are not enough, that stores should also focus on improving their ongoing operations behind the scenes and in their back offices so that there are support staff that are not facing consumers, to increase automation capabilities, enhance efficiency and reduce costs, because these factors Necessary to improve the performance of departments whose employees come into direct contact with consumers.
It is important here to work towards achieving a good level of balance between improving internal processes, and initiatives aimed at improving the consumer experience, which ultimately ensures the creation of a comprehensive and distinct strategy supported by technology in the store, which is what we call the vision of the smart store.
There are some strategic imperatives for smart stores, which can help increase efficiencies, improve stores’ financial revenues, and provide many advantages in the currently highly competitive retail market.
Strengthening the integration of physical and digital capabilities
For an omnichannel retailer, having a physical store is often the most cost-effective and efficient way to fulfill orders online.
Some retail stores meet up to 90 percent of digital orders from their own stores, which means that stores must become mini-centers for fulfilling orders, especially when their design and ability to secure products and fulfill orders quickly, the result will be in time. Higher cost per order, which may negatively affect the brand.
This problem is particularly evident in the grocery sector as consumers switch to online ordering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grocery store employees need to equip store assistants with predictive fulfillment tools based on artificial intelligence and machine learning to prepare orders quickly and efficiently and direct product deliveries and deliveries.
As part of its digital commerce strategy, Co-op, a UK grocery and retailer, is using technology solutions from Naveo Commerce and Bringg to reduce the time required to find and prepare products to meet digital orders, as well as manage the coordination of acquisitions. The appropriate online orders, and provide them to customers or delivery service employees to complete the orders as quickly as possible.
Equip store staff to better interact with customers
Customers want to have seamless interactive experiences with in-store assistants, so retail stores must provide mobile technology tools for their employees who come into direct contact with customers, to enhance their ability to interact with consumers by conveying information, or handling sales.
In-store employees need to make discussions more personalized, understand the entire inventory status in real time, both in the store and across the supply chain, and work to seamlessly complete the transaction the way the customer wants.
At the start of the Corona pandemic in March 2020, Neiman Marcus was forced to close its physical stores, and quickly transformed by developing “NM Connect” in just two weeks, a serverless application based on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. .
The “NM Connect” app enabled store sales employees to work from home and sell directly to their customers, and helped Neiman Marcus stores generate $3 million in incremental daily sales outside of their existing e-commerce operations, increasing their ROI by 2,500 percent.
Improve stock availability in smart ways
Improving product availability and dealing with out-of-stock issues are important issues that retailers need to focus on.
With real-time shelving sensors, smart video technologies, and mobile robots, a retailer can get quick information, deal with running out of stock, and secure needed materials and products.
Adopt automation and robotics to manage repetitive tasks
There are now many advanced robotic solutions available to retail stores that are designed to automate high-volume and routine activities such as floor cleaning and stock replenishment.
American grocer Giant Eagle uses an in-aisle robotic platform from AWS partner Brain Corp. to analyze and know stock status and storage conditions, ensuring simplification of restocking and store maintenance.
Enhance the skills of store employees
Staff training is an essential element when deploying and adopting modern technologies in stores, and during the planning phase of smart store initiatives, it must be ensured that training programs are included in the project plan.
Even when all the above-mentioned necessities and steps are successfully implemented, training employees to use and understand different techniques will contribute to higher investment returns.
Stores should not neglect their employees, train them and correct course when necessary, to improve the ability of employees to use solutions to the highest level of benefit.
* Head of Global Retail Operations for Groceries and Pharma, Amazon Web Services