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Attaining retail operational excellence with indoor location technology

Publication: Retail Customer Experience

By Chris Todd, CEO, Theatro

As in-store technology continues to evolve, retailers are recognizing the need and opportunity to know everything that’s happening in the store. One of the most important emerging trends is real-time indoor location technologies — not only for customers, but also for associates. With indoor location technology, retailers are already using beacons and RFID technology to understand customer behavior and improve the in-store experience. However, retailers have only scratched the surface when it comes to employee analytics.

Are retailers too focused on the customer?

In the age of customer centricity, this may sound like a foolish question. Even though retailers can generate great value from customer-focused indoor location technology, it’s imprudent to overlook the fact that they’re not the only ones in the store. It’s time for retailers to focus on applying location technology to associates in order to serve customers more effectively in the moment.

Anonymized location technology can give retailers access to patterns they’ve never been able to see before. By making it easier to understand aggregated associate behavior and quickly assess staff distribution throughout the store, the benefits of a connected in-store workforce can be fully realized. Access to anonymized behavior information lets retailers correlate associate activity with store outcomes such as sales, customer satisfaction scores, return visit rates and average trip values. Using this technology to regularly adjust training and deployment of in-store associates leads to better customer service, higher in-store conversion rates and increased customer loyalty.

A more efficient customer experience

Customers are expecting a frictionless experience now more than ever, meaning streamlining the shopping journey is vital to maintaining a competitive edge. Location analytics help make friction-reducing services even more efficient. For example, retailers can fine tune their BOPIS offerings by proactively alerting the right person or team when customers arrive for pickup — improving service while reducing fulfillment errors and decreasing wait times.

Optimize staff workflows and service

With location analytics, staff coverage within the store becomes more effective as well.  Analytics help identify unattended or understaffed store sections, or sections that experience heavier foot traffic. While team camaraderie is beneficial to workflow, a large group of employees clustered in one department can deprive customers of engagement and lead to shopping cart abandonment. Using location-based analytics in real time helps guide team members where they are needed, as they are needed, in order to be in the ideal position to assist customers at all times. With location-based analytics, retailers are entering the age of the on-demand associate.

Increased presence of managers

Managers are critical for ensuring rewarding and consistent in-store experiences for both employees and customers; however, balancing administration and on-floor support can be challenging. Location analytics can help organizational leaders determine how present managers are on the store floor, a leading KPI for staff performance. Organizational leaders can identify the most present and communicative managers and schedule them for more shifts. Retailers can pinpoint which managerial tactics are working best for team members. For example, initiating team huddles before shifts tends to improve team morale and performance. With more present and communicative managers on the floor, retailers will experience greater efficiency throughout their stores.

The value of a connected in-store experience for associates

In-store teams that can easily communicate with each other can often provide a better in-store experience for associates and customers alike. Location analytics can be used to recognize when employees aren’t engaging with their co-workers and pair them with positive leaders to improve engagement and potentially head-off employee churn. The job market is currently strong, meaning talented employees have more flexibility to move to other jobs with ease. Connected and engaged employees are more likely to remain in their jobs and will ultimately provide more positive customer service experiences.

Going forward with analytics

While many retailers are already exploring the benefits of indoor location technology for customers, the opportunity to apply similar technology to brick-and-mortar’s biggest asset — the in-store associate — has been largely neglected. Empowering all store associates with hands-free mobile connectivity platforms, and not just a few with outdated handhelds, doesn’t just allow them to better serve customers on the floor; it opens up an under-utilized opportunity to learn from their behaviors. The power of data is well-acknowledged when it comes to customers, so why ignore its potential to improve operations?

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