It’s a question that’s as old as retail itself: how do retailers get the most from the store and the resources available while still remaining profitable? This balancing act has never been easy, but now the growing influence of multi-channel commerce is adding ever-more layers of complexity and sophistication.
The advent of e-commerce, alongside numerous other developments in consumer behaviour, have caused shopper expectations to increase massively in a relatively short period of time. Attempts have been made to bridge the gap in the physical/digital customer experience using staff-empowering technology, but with limited success. In many cases new in-store tech, such as iPads and smartphones, achieved the opposite of the desired goal, it complicated the customer journey, created physical barriers between the customer and sales colleague and was all too often discarded because it was not fit for purpose.
A great example of this is the way that staff tablets are routinely abandoned because they are too clunky and difficult to carry and use in a dynamic store environment, or because they need charging. Tablets can also create a physical barrier between store staff and customers, or make staff look inattentive if they’re tapping away on the shop floor. Tablets also have a disconcerting habit of going missing and the tech needed to secure them often proves too expensive. Instead staff find other, less desirable ways to serve – including using the customer’s mobile to view online information.
Staff empowerment solutions
It is clear that store staff need technology to empower them and help them deliver on customers’ expectations, but the winning solution must be more elegant and sympathetic to both employee and customer needs than existing tablets and smartphones.
Wearable technology is currently enjoying widescale adoption across a range of use cases, especially in the personal fitness, health and wellbeing arena. Smartwatches, for example are being used to collect and display vast ranges of personal data, such as calorie intake, heart rate, exercise levels and location.
Now consider how potent wearable tech can be in the retail space when you switch calories and heart rate for KPIs such as sales targets, average order value and conversion rate. Real-time information immediately available on the employee’s wrist can revolutionise the workplace, revealing and improving productivity, inventory management and promotional execution.
This new capability comes at a time when the high-street model is undergoing huge structural change as physical retailers grapple with a heady mix of customers’ changing shopping behaviour and an uncertain economic outlook.
Physical retail in a state of flux
As a result, retailers are slimming down both the size of their store estate and their employee headcount. The logical endpoint is a smaller, smarter workforce supported by new technology to satisfy consumers’ increasingly omnichannel demands. This seismic shift has been predicted by analysts and industry bodies such as the BRC for some time, but it is now finally coming to fruition, with tough trading conditions acting as the catalyst.
In this supercharged environment, the challenge for physical retail is to differentiate itself from ecommerce if it is to prosper. Speed and convenience, for example, are no longer good enough. The one thing that ecommerce cannot currently deliver is experience. The store associate, capable of weaving together an omnichannel experience thanks to a real-time, single view of customer, stock and order is perfectly placed to deliver the kind of seamless experience customers crave. Achieving this in an elegant and responsive way thanks to wearable tech, without being shielded and encumbered by an iPad is even better.
The bottom line is that physical retailers need to be leaner and more productive than ever before if they are to survive and prosper in an omnichannel world. At the same time the demands on store staff have never been greater and continue to grow. A 2018 Deloitte report is among the growing evidence that wearable tech is the answer, driving efficiency and wellbeing, making workers ‘more productive’ and ‘more capable’. Retail brands such as Levis, Nike, Makro and United Colors of Benetton are among those harnessing the power of wearables, assigning legacy status to tablets and mobiles and liberating a new generation of super-connected employees.
Empower and engage your workforce with Inovretail – contact us today for more details about our innovative technology