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Tame the Chaos and Transform Retail Operations

employees working at store

The current mix of labor shortages, disrupted supply chains, and virus variants has created a perfect storm with demand for retail services far exceeding the retailer’s capacity to serve. Here are some ways that technology can help support the retailer’s – and even other customer-facing operators’ – ability to deliver a successful branded customer experience – no matter what the operational challenges.

Inadequate Staffing

In today’s competitive labor market, in which multiple industries aggressively compete for the same talent pool, retailers have no choice but to prepare for regular occurrences of inadequate staffing levels. Here are some ways technology can help compensate for a lack of resources and maximize the customer experience:

  • Streamline and simplify operations with self-checkout options.

  • Make answers to frequently asked questions available to customers via QR code at product displays.

  • Deploy Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions to eliminate paperwork in the stores, so employees may focus their time on serving customers.  

  • Consider technologies, such as live and on-demand digital media solutions, to enable store managers to expand oversight across multiple locations in case of manager shortages.

  • Enhance morale and build a stronger sense of community with private social media groups, group text chats and regular email updates from corporate and local management.

Disrupted Supply Chains

In today’s operational environment, inventory is unpredictable, yet knowledge is power. Data analytics can help make the most of customer buying trends and products on-hand. For example:

  • Unleash store-based operational data (that is routinely collected but often unused) to identify potential prospects or promotions.

  • Consolidate data sources and break down data silos for integrated analytics.

  • Rely on data visualization tools to spot trends more quickly.

  • Access real-time inventory counts to eliminate manual efforts when resources are scarce.

  • Introduce additional third party data sources and apply artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) solutions to provide real-time, actionable insights and improve product positioning and promotions across a franchise.

  • Consider shared services architectures to complement legacy tech stacks and expand store capabilities.

Unified Commerce, Omnichannel and “Phygital” Strategies

While there has been explosive growth in e-commerce, physical brick-and-mortar stores remain the mainstay. For decades, retailers have attempted to integrate their physical and digital brand experiences. One hurdle to seamless integration is the lack of back-end systems and processes to support the fusing of all operations. As a result, retailers typically have to maintain two separate and independent businesses. Here too, technology can be applied to compensate for limited resources, meet customer expectations and streamline operations, such as:

  • Analyze and optimize processes along the customer journey to ensure the right technology base is in place before system integration efforts begin.

  • Align and connect channels to support a continual back and forth flow of information and data.

  • Consider implementing an API-enabled shared services architecture to connect a range of applications, such as payment, inventory, analytics, and data storage to support smooth transitions of the customer experience between various channels and engagement touchpoints.

  • Centralize the data collected on customers and products on a single platform.

Retailers everywhere – with a few stores or hundreds of locations – are facing uncertainty and severe labor and supply chain challenges. Now is the ideal time to apply technology to tame the chaos – and in the process, transform operations for more efficiencies and a better customer experience.



About the Author:

With a background in both engineering and human/organizational studies, Tim Tang has degrees on both sides of his brain. With over 20 years of professional experience in developing enterprise solutions, Tang is keenly interested in the intersection of technology and humanity. As a director at Hughes, Tang studies various enterprise markets (e.g. Restaurant, Retail, and Banking/Finance) to anticipate trends that will enable enterprise customers to fully unlock the business value of technology. Click here for more content from Tim.