Keep the Lights On In Your Dark Store With Smartphone Scanning

There is something of a retail revolution going on right now. The pandemic has done more than change the way people shop – it has put crucial under pressure.

Consumers have moved online pushing pre-existing online supply infrastructure to the limit.

At the same time, online fulfillment centers and warehouses are busily hiring staff to cope with the rise in orders. And many outlets have been adapted to ‘dark stores’ to handle the increased demand.

Simply hiring new staff is not enough. Getting large numbers of new employees onboarded with the right tools is a big, and potentially expensive, challenge. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this that some retailers are already using.

Keeping on top of inventory and maintaining supply

But first, let’s take a quick look at the situation. According to a study from retail analyst Brick Meets Click, US digital sales in March this year were up 233% from August 2019. And in the same study, 31% of US households used online grocery delivery instead of 13% in the previous month.

233% rise in US online sales between August 2019 and March 2020

A hiring spree is happening behind the scenes to deal with this. For example, Amazon is hiring 100,000 full and part-time employees across the US to fulfill the Fresh and Whole Foods brands.

And it is not just about delivery. According to consultant McKinsey, 92% of consumers said they had increased the use of curbside pickup following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smartphone scanning – a cost-effective and flexible solution

Retail is one of the most dynamic sectors. But stores are designed for customers, not online order fulfillment. Managing inventory, pickup, delivery, and order picking can be difficult to scale in these environments.

Combine that with the integration of new staff and complications are likely to arise.

Turning a smartphone into a high-performance barcode scanning device offers an adaptable and cost-effective solution. Furthermore, they are more economical than hardware scanners so retailers can quickly scale them up or down according to staffing levels.

Stores can even go for a bring your own device (BYOD) model, or corporate-owned personally enabled device (COPE). Scandit has experience working with businesses that have taken either of these options.

Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK turns any camera-enabled device into an enterprise-grade scanner. In our experience, we have worked with both retailers who have been successful with either model.

Either way, a smartphone scanning solution means staff can avoid sharing the few handheld scanners that are floating around. Something that is crucial in an environment where contactless working is an essential requirement, not a luxury.

Speed up your inventory management

Supply chain and inventory visibility are crucial to keeping omnichannel sales running smoothly. If you don’t know what you have in stock you will be unable to place the right orders and possibly run out of stock. And if your customer is unable to find what they want in your store or online, they will go somewhere else.

As anyone in retail knows, poor stock management is a recipe for lost sales.

Equipping each employee with a barcode scanning smartphone provides another level of inventory control support. In this way, employees can update stock levels at any time and wherever they are, whether they are in the store or the warehouse.

Mobile device-based scanners also offer lower TCO compared to traditional hardware scanners—and are easy to integrate into your existing inventory management system.

Fast order picking with smartphone barcode scanning

Whether it’s in-store or the warehouse fulfillment center, the increase in online demand means an increase in the need for product pickers. Staffing levels will rise and fall with demand. So new employees will need to be brought quickly up to speed and supplied with the right tools.

While temporary workers will leave, dedicated, and costly, hardware scanners cannot be sent back to the manufacturer. Smartphone-based scanning – especially with a BYOD-model – resolves this issue.

Efficient order collection and delivery

Getting the product into the customer’s hands should be seamless and safe – whether it is Click & Collect, home, or curbside delivery.

Proof of delivery can be contactless rather than requiring a signature. Scandit’s ID scanning solutions allow employees to quickly record the recipient’s ID details. The SDK can even connect to a web application allowing customers to sign for deliveries with their own phone.

Scandit’s MatrixScan AR capability can also make delivery more efficient. With it, a smartphone can scan multiple barcodes at once and overlay their information on-screen. It means the correct order can be easily identified from a group of packages with just a sweep of the phone.

Superb barcode scanning performance is a bare minimum

One retailer that is busy scaling up its order picking service is US retailer Instacart after it reported a 150% growth in orders in a few weeks and is hiring an additional 300,000 order pickers. It is worth noting that Instacart’s order picking app is backed up by the power of Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK.

instacart employee

The one prerequisite for using a smartphone scanning solution is an enterprise-grade scanning performance. Staff effectiveness, and the store operation, will plummet if the device cannot scan each and every time.

Scandit’s barcode scanning solution works in difficult environments, distances, and handles damaged barcodes with ease. That is why, in addition to Instacart, it is used by retailers as renowned as Coop Denmark and dm.

Even if dark stores are not the future smartphone scanning is here to stay

We all hope the pandemic will soon be over and shopping will return to what it used to be. But the shift to online shopping is an ongoing trend. It makes sense that new retail practices will grow out of the Covid-19 crisis.

So while shopping may get back to normal, there will be innovations from the pandemic-inspired retail revolution. Our predicted innovation? That every staff member will have a barcode scanning smartphone to help keep track of the inventory and supply.

Contact us for more information on how Scandit can help you bring smartphone-enabled scanning to your supply chain operation.

Posted in Retail