By Karen Bomber – 06/13/2019
The demise of traditional brick-and-mortar retail has been predicted for some time, especially as major e-commerce businesses have become more accessible to consumers. While word of former retail giants filing for bankruptcy and shutting their doors have filled news cycles, the reality is that 90% of shopping is still done in brick-and-mortar stores. There are many opportunities for these retailers to make a physical connection and develop loyalty, which can drive new in-store sales.
Honeywell recently met with representatives from major global retailers to learn about their challenges through its Retail Advisory Council, and we found four common focus areas for retailers in 2019.
As mobile technology has changed today’s consumer, successful retailers make goods and services available via multiple channels.
The National Retail Federation’s 2018/2019 Winter Consumer View revealed 58% of consumers expect the ability to buy online from retailers. Of the top 50 online retailers, nearly all operate brick-and-mortar stores.
Retailers need to integrate these channels to ensure the consumer has a consistent and seamless experience, no matter where they purchase from.
Retailers recognize they can automate several associate tasks and improve productivity while lowering costs. Stores are investing in technology that enables efficiency and helps with in-store communications.
Communication and access to information can turn any associate into a store wizard. It’s no longer a want, it’s a need – consumers expect associates to quickly provide critical information to speed up decision making.
Going forward, retailers will seek to extend mobile device capabilities to more associates than ever before.
BOOSTING THE SHOPPER EXPERIENCE
Shoppers have embraced new ways of interacting with their favorite brands, and store associates need to be trained to keep up with ways to delight these shoppers.
Associate labor is one of the largest costs brick-and-mortar stores incur. Our communications technology partner, Theatro, has reported that it traditionally costs retailers an average of $2,500 to onboard a new associate and get them to productive status.
Improving the customer experience starts with staffing, which means retailers’ focus should be on training, retaining quality employees and using data to ensure ample staff is available for customers at peak times.
COMPETING WITH E-COMMERCE
While the trend is for retailers to copy web-savvy companies to meet the needs of the consumer, the best value proposition for any business is to show what makes it unique.
There are best practices retailers can take from these e-commerce-only businesses to make mundane processes more efficient, including automation of in-store payments and returns, allowing store associates to deal with other tasks that improve the in-store customer experience.
With retailers estimating 10% of their total annual sales to be returned, reverse logistics is becoming increasingly important. Our returns specialist partner Optoro reported 75% of retailers think reverse logistics is an important part of the supply chain. However, only 3% cite reverse logistics as their biggest supply chain investment. Getting items back into the supply chain efficiently, while coordinating efforts in stores, can make a difference on a company’s bottom line.
There will always be external factors that the retail industry can’t control, however retailers do control these four focus areas which create efficiencies for associates and improves the customer experience.
Karen Bomber is the director of Retail Strategy for Honeywell. She has more than two decades of experience in the retail industry, helping create products and solutions that help retailers that create efficiency and deliver consistently great in-store experiences.