5 ways technology can help retail staff concentrate on the most important jobs

In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the retail industry is in sharp focus. Now more than ever, the importance and necessity of an industry that many used to take for granted has been highlighted.

Here, Peter Luff, President of Ipsos Retail Performance, offers a few ways that technology, when combined together, can conduct the tasks to empower key workers in the retail sector, to help them meet customer demand, safely.

At a time when people’s main form of communication is via a reflective screen, a physical, human presence has never been more important.

When a person in need of just one key ingredient, exasperated from searching from store to store, asks for help, receiving a compassionate, human reply will go a lot further in building customer relationships than relying on store signage to locate the item. When stock is low, it’s human hands that replenish the shelves and even self scanning checkouts can’t exist without a worker to help when the weight of a pack of painkillers isn’t recognised on the scales.

Store workers are essential in this time to provide compassion to customers, answer queries in a relatable way and perform tasks that technology simply cannot. However, with the help of specialist technological solutions, staff’s time can be freed up to focus on these important retail critical essentials.

Here are just four examples:

Occupancy solutions enable distancing measures

Occupancy solutions and footfall trackers are coming into their own, with providers adapting their existing solutions to meet current and changing needs. For example, Ipsos Retail Performances’ Shopper Count tool now offers live insight into store capacity, enabling retailers to reduce the risk of the store becoming too busy  and even automatically shutting the entrances to prevent too many people entering one space.

Keeping till staff safe with self-service checkouts

Self-service checkouts are not new but have certainly adapted the way customers purchase their goods. With two metre spacing now a requirement between shoppers – yes the number of ‘open’ self serve checkouts will be less, but by nature limits the interaction between staff and customers. Contactless payment is now a default for many pay points with a spending limit increased to £45, to restrict the contact and exchange between customers touching multiple surfaces unnecessarily.

Smarter queue management

Signage has been a staple of retail environments for decades but it has never been more important. Reducing enquiries of ‘where can I find this item?’ and improving navigation can be helped with smart queue management and wayfinding technology. While static signposting needs to be manually adapted and replaced, digital signage can update communications to customers (and staff) remotely, allowing employees to maintain distance and focus on replenishment at busier times.

Boosting pick + pack capabilities for online orders

While lockdown has increased pressure on bricks-and-mortar stores for visiting customers, it has also emphasised any weaknesses in the delivery structures too, as vulnerable communities do not want to risk leaving their homes. As such, it is paramount that technology to support fulfillment of online orders is deployed quickly and efficiently. This might be inventory management to limit substitutions, real-time delivery updates or technology to improve communication up the supply chain to repeat orders accurately.

During the new social distancing measures, it might be tempting to opt for a completely tech-fuelled operation for many stores. In reality, the key to operating safely and effectively lies in utilising the technology that is available in order to keep critical staff safe, and able to perform their crucially important roles as they find themselves on the frontline.

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