No matter where in the world you are reading this from, 2022 was a bit of a whirlwind.
Ongoing Covid issues, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, rising inflation, the loss of Queen Elizabeth and a politicized World Cup all contributed to a very turbulent year.
It would be easy to reflect with a negative mindset. And it is no surprise that consumer confidence is low as the cost of living continues to rise as we head into 2023.
of consumers describe themselves as pessimistic about a successful economic recovery.
Source: Source: McKinsey & Company
But there could be light at the end of the tunnel. When times are hard, every little bit counts.
Retailers are helping their customers spend less and consumers are finding ways to make do with what they have. With consumerism taking a dive, perhaps now is the perfect opportunity for retailers to also see what more they can do for less.
Retailers exist to sell stuff and make a profit. Many have other brand values and ethics that influence decision making but if they don’t sell stuff, they won’t survive.
A recent McKinsey & Company study reported that consumers are buying more deliberately and opting for more affordable options.
While spending on essentials like grocery and fuel are up, largely due to inflation, 63% of consumers traded down to a cheaper brand in the last 3 months to seek better value for money.
Now more than ever, customer loyalty is key for retailers. With consumers spending less and opting to consolidate shopping trips to retailers where they find the most value, getting them through the door in the first place is half the battle.
But if consumers are spending less, what can retailers do to keep their margins at acceptable levels without putting prices up and eroding customer loyalty?
Referencing back to the title of this piece, ‘doing more with less’ is part of the answer.
What we mean by that is productivity.
What is retail productivity?
Retail productivity is the measure of store output over a given time period. It can show how effective a store is at using its resources to generate sales. Increasing productivity is about squeezing more out of those resources that you already own.
Easy to write down in a blog post, trickier to do in practice.
But it is possible.
It is possible to make your employees 10x faster at counting inventory.
It is possible for employees to spend more time with customers and encourage sales.
It is possible to fulfill more online orders in less time.
Before you can improve retail productivity, it must be measured. Retailers will use slightly different metrics but it boils down to the number of tasks completed and the time taken for each task.
Measured across days, weeks and months smooths out any peaks and troughs and helps to gain a good understanding of how your store and your employees are performing.
High productivity is also dependent on efficiency. Inaccuracies can be costly. Having to redo tasks or deal with the fallout from an error can cost retailers time and money, especially if the error impacts customers.
To improve productivity, we are looking for an uplift in the rate of task completion. Approaches that can tackle different tasks at once will see better business results.
When on a quest for better productivity and efficiency, retailers often turn to technology.
Technology and retail productivity
Having the right technology is a crucial step in maximizing the value from your retail operations. The current climate may dictate how much new investment can take place. Retailers might be faced with squeezing more out of their existing assets to be more productive.
Many retailers are leveraging smart devices to look after their stores and their customers. Their versatility and user friendliness give them the edge over dedicated devices.
But once you have maximized how fast a human can go, further productivity gains will need to be found elsewhere.
Here, a few lines of code from Scandit can make a world of difference. Scandit Smart Data Capture integrated into existing devices can transform retail employee productivity by automating tedious tasks and providing real-time data for faster decision making.
Here are two scenarios that boost retail productivity.
Inventory receiving and counting
It can be tedious and time-consuming to scan and count inventory one-by-one, even if using a smart device. MatrixScan Count, one of the smart enablers from our platform, can take this task and make it lightning-fast and error-proof. By scanning and counting multiple barcodes simultaneously, counting workflows can be up to 10x faster.
Fulfilling online orders is a process that contains many steps. Accelerate each of those steps with Scandit Smart Data Capture to make sure the customer gets the right order, on time, every time. Location guidance, unmatched scanning performance for faster picking and packing, augmented reality for destaging and collecting. These all condense the total time it takes so more orders can be fulfilled with the same resources.
Both of these examples reduce the amount of time it takes to perform a task and increase the number of tasks that can be performed in a day. Retail productivity in a nutshell.
The other upside of automating tedious tasks is that employees can spend more time on value-adding or revenue-generating tasks: Helping customers in the store.
Not only is it important for employees to have the time to guide and support customers to help the sales process, they must be equipped with the right information when they are there.
By accessing real-time information from their devices, employees can talk to customers about product availability and upsell and cross-sell based on the data at hand and the conversations they are having.
Upskilling employees with the insights and knowledge to offer first-class clienteling that can positively impact the revenue side of retail productivity. It also means that sales aren’t lost while an employee is performing a back-of-house task that could be automated.
Driving store and employee productivity even further.
While the current environment presents challenges, it is also an opportunity for retailers to take stock and come up with ways to do more with what they already have. Preparing now to be as lean and agile as possible for the rocky road ahead.
Perhaps our current situation will be the kick that retailers and consumers alike need to make sure we are being as productive as we can and looking after our costs, lifestyle and each other.
To find out how we can make your retail operations more productive, explore our resources here.