It’s a critical time for retailers: evolving shopping habits and decreasing consumer spending means every week there’s news of the next casualty falling into administration. Increasing competition from direct-to-consumer brands, marketplaces and discount stores, along with rising consumer expectations is putting increasing pressure on traditional retailers.
But it’s not all doom and gloom- the industry is seeing a divide between brave, innovative brands reimagining the way in which they engage with consumers and those who haven’t risen to the challenge. There is a new swarm of retail start-ups - such as Skinnydip, Gymshark and Glossier - which are remodelling organisational models around the consumer. There’s a technological revolution transforming the way retailers compete in the digital age.
For the retail giants, challenges arise when trying to untangle their legacy technology to get a single view of the customer. But the pressure is felt as a group. For small businesses, the pressure on retail is resulting in challenges at an individual level - for SMB retail owners and its employees.
Major digital trends such as AI, Voice and Augmented Reality are generating new opportunities for brands to connect to their customers and every company leader is increasingly aware that to succeed, innovation must be at the core of their business. This is especially true when it comes to gaining a greater understanding of your customer and creating experiences for them in a multi-channel, seamless way, wherever they are.
However, at a time when it’s never been more important to focus on the customer, our Time to Transform report revealed that a lack of time is making it difficult for small business retailers to do so. What’s more, this lack of time is having a serious impact on health and productivity.
37% of SMB retailers admitted that increasing customer demands has impacted their time to address other issues across the business. But with the understanding that these expectations are only going to continue to rise, the majority (36%) of SMB retail owners said they would focus their energies on customer relationship and/or experience improvement if they had more time. What’s significantly more concerning for the industry’s ability to innovate, scale and strike balance, is that for almost half (45%) of respondents, a lack of time has had a negative impact on either their or their employees’ personal health.
This is a big concern, on a human and business level. Fortunately, technology offers an important and accessible way for SMB retail owners to find the extra time that will help them to thrive in a challenging retail environment while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Proving its invaluable use for cutting down time spent on repetitive tasks by automating processes, technology is being increasingly pitched as a tool for significant business transformation and growth. Technologies such as AI, cloud-based platforms, collaboration tools – to name just a few – are not only helping businesses to become more competitive innovative and productive, but more capable to succeed in what is an increasingly challenging business environment.
The majority of SMB retail owners see automated process (57%), Internet of Things (53%) and cloud-based technology (50%) as significant technological aids to time management. For example, half (49%) believe new technologies have already made their employees more productive than they were two years ago, a key indicator of the longer-term potential for the market.
What’s clear is that, for small retailers, technology can significantly reduce admin time, such as automating workforce management for streamlined scheduling, a single view of stock reducing time calling around stores and managing cash flow and inventory, a point of sale integrated payments to allow sales to flow directly from our point of sale and a CRM system to manage a company’s interaction with current and potential customers.
All of these technologies can help to automate manual processes in order to stop staff and business leaders from getting “burnt out”, by making room for them to spend more time on the important stuff, and the things that make us uniquely human - such as offering more personalised customer interactions.
With time a limited resource, SMB retail owners need to find ways to deliver on their increasing customer expectations without having a detrimental impact on their and their employees’ physical and mental health. After all, an always-on working culture is not only bad for business, it’s bad for morale.
Technology is acting as an invaluable resource for SMB retail owners to find the extra time that will make a difference. Using technology to increase efficiency frees up employees to focus on good customer experience and the overall health of their business.
Read more about how technology can save your business valuable time in our #TimetoTransform report.