In-store shopping is officially back. Customers are returning to America’s biggest retailers in droves, checking out the racks on lunch breaks, holidays and weekends. To satisfy shoppers, retailers are working overtime to make in-store experiences as smooth as possible. But with supply chain challenges, labor shortages and inflation it’s not easy. Retailers are left wondering which sticking points will matter most to customers.
Andy Szanger, CDW’s director of strategic industries, and David Dobson, director of global retail, hospitality and consumer goods industry at Intel, discussed this topic at NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show. The session was so popular it is now being replayed for IT leaders.
If you missed the core takeaways, tune in here to watch on Feb. 15, 2023, at 12 p.m. Central Time.
Experts advise retailers to focus on three key pillars to drive success and deliver positive in-store experiences for customers. These include inventory management, store productivity and reduced friction at the point of sale. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Manage Your Retail Inventory with Ease
Inventory management is more complex in a digitally transformed retail environment. In buy online, pickup in-store scenarios, for example, it’s vital that retailers have an accurate inventory count.
One solution is the use of radio-frequency identification tags combined with handheld scanners, which help employees easily determine what inventory is where. RFID tags are not new, but the technology has been updated to make them more cost-effective for use at scale.
Another option is high-level scanners that provide heat-mapping. These allow employees to “scan shelves and see exactly what’s there without having to manually look through all the racks,” says Szanger.
2. Ensure You Have the Right People at the Right Time
Given labor shortages, it’s important that retailers work to “maintain the customer service that people expect, with fewer employees,” Szanger says.
To do this, retailers must maximize staff efficiency, scheduling them at the right hours and deploying them in ways that increase their customer engagement time.
Modern security cameras with artificial intelligence allow retailers to access deeper insight into their physical store environments. For example, enhanced video surveillance cameras can alert store personnel when a customer appears to be struggling with a purchasing decision so staff can help.
Heat maps can also show store managers how customers move throughout the store so that the flow of inventory is optimized.
“It’s not just a heat map; it’s insight,” Szanger says. “If I see I lost a sale while I have five employees sitting in the back room not helping, that tells me I have a training issue.”
3. Prioritize a Frictionless Checkout Experience for Customers
Creating a seamless checkout experience is the third component because customers who are accustomed to shopping online are easily frustrated by delays.
To make the final touchpoint with the customer simple and quick, retailers are deploying contactless payment, self-checkout and mobile point-of-sale solutions. This allows store associates to check out customers where they’re standing rather than requiring them to wait in a checkout line.
Accomplishing these three steps requires coordination, but doing so will set up retailers for success in the coming year. These efforts will leave customers feeling good about their shopping experience and encourage them to return to stores again and again.