Chapter 4: Optimize store investments

Data and AI keep busy associates productive when stores are packed.

While the industry experienced a surge in online shopping over the course of the pandemic, the vast majority of transactions still take place inside brick-and-mortar locations. That’s especially true during the holidays, when 76% of customers prefer to go to a physical store to shop.
“76% of customers prefer to go to a physical store to shop at the holidays.
21 Compelling Retail Statistics [2023]: How Many Retailers Are in the U.S.?
Zippia, February 23, 2023
But today, satisfying shoppers in physical stores takes more than assigning another associate to the gift wrap counter. With store associates (and seasonal workers) also unloading shipments, setting up elaborate holiday displays, fulfilling online orders, and handling customer service inquiries, they need digital tools and training to help them manage their increasingly expanding scope of work.

Use generative AI to onboard and upskill seasonal workers quickly

Correctly staffing stores with knowledgeable workers minimizes blunders and ensures seamless customer experiences. With U.S. companies hiring an estimated 500,000 temporary staff members every year — and with employees increasingly valuing the flexibility that gig work offers — retailers are under pressure to get them ready to work fast. Here are ways generative AI can help you automate and scale store operations:

  • Personalize onboarding based on individual roles, credentials, and job requirements to ensure employees have the training they need to assist customers while browsing, checking out, or returning merchandise.
  • Generate store tasks and optimize planograms to execute the perfect shelf or display (while also making it easier for customers to find the products they want to buy).
  • Forecast labor demand and optimize worker schedules by department and shift so there are enough staff members available to serve customers (without the cost of overscheduling).

Arm store associates to deliver better customer service

The ongoing labor shortage is putting pressure on retailers to increase the productivity of their employees. Help them feel more productive and happier and they will satisfy customers and grow revenue.

To do this, give associates technology that’s intuitive, easy to use, and familar from their personal lives. With a platform that connects inventory data and commerce capabilities to customers’ digital profiles, associates can use mobile devices to:

  • Personalize service: An increase in foot traffic during the weeks near Black Friday means associates need to serve more customers faster. Armed with a complete view of data in real time, associates can quickly answer customers’ questions about order status, rewards balances, purchase and return history, delivery timing, and more.
  • View inventory availability and place orders: Nothing says “bah, humbug” quite like empty store shelves or racks. But with a real-time view of location, distribution center, and supplier inventory, you can sell merchandise that’s not physically in the store to satisfy customers and increase average order value.
  • Check pricing, promotions, and discounts: Inflation means shoppers will be even more eager to take advantage of special holiday offers. With promotions changing from day to day, it’s imperative that associates have access to the latest offer rules so customers get the best available deals.

Let store associates generate and fulfill demand

With an estimated 60% of digital sales influenced by store associates, your employees are positioned to engage customers at home and in the store. Equip store associates with the tools they need to interact with customers in person as well as text, chat, email, and even social media.

  • Help associates become stylists: Equipped with customer preferences, product and inventory information, loyalty data, and AI-driven product recommendations, associates can become engaged revenue drivers. With a mobile device, employees can help customers find the right gift at the right price throughout the entire store.
  • Turn associates into efficient fulfillment experts: Use stores as distribution and fulfillment hubs by enabling associates to pick, pack, and ship online orders. Train them to manage curbside delivery and buy online, pick up (or return) in store, and remove the friction from the last-mile experience.
  • Let associates be social influencers: Train store associates to hold live-streaming sessions so they can showcase and model merchandise from the sales floor. Give your associates a platform to announce back-in-stocks, new product drops, and special promotions.

Digitize store operations

Retailers typically schedule store associates based on sales volume versus task load. However, brick-and-mortar employees spend most of their time on assignments like preparing for opening and closing, stocking merchandise on the sales floor, unloading trucks, and handling product recalls and promotions. These duties are obviously essential, but they also force associates to spend less time assisting customers directly — a problem that gets worse when customer volume increases.

Digital tools that facilitate and streamline employee collaboration and communication ensure associates stay as productive as possible without sacrificing the customer experience:

  • Level-up execution: More than one in three consumer goods companies say their merchandising and promotional strategies aren’t carried out as intended. With digital tools, you can deliver planograms and promotional details, along with all tasks required to effectively execute – and ensure compliance across the chain.
  • Deliver data and analytics in real time: Your stores might get an eight-week plan on November 1, but that doesn’t mean it won’t look totally different by Black Friday. To stay agile in the face of evolving social media campaigns, promotions, and brand requirements, use dashboards with real-time analytics to track store performance so you can pivot quickly when a strategy isn’t working as planned.

Next: Chapter 5: Transform B2B Relationships

Nurture supplier relationships with transparency and collaboration.
See how to:
  • Streamline merchandising with generative AI.
  • Create new revenue streams with business buyers.
  • Deliver transparency across your supply chain.

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