Technologies and Tactics to Upskill the Retail Workforce for Omnichannel Fulfillment
The pandemic has changed our shopping habits for the foreseeable future, with customers expecting flexible ways to purchase items, including curbside pickup, same-day delivery and, of course, a good old-fashioned in-store shopping experience. These options are great for customers, and the flexibility gives them more control to shop in a way that best fits their schedule and personal needs. Nonetheless, it’s been a challenge for retailers to accommodate the scale of some of these shifts, as systems that were optimized for one type of point of sale were suddenly forced to adapt to an entirely new balance of factors, including massive fluctuations with in-store retail, supply chain challenges, and changes in consumer behavior, to name only a few.
The burden of all these changes has been put on the shoulders of the retail worker to manage and track the new ways a single item can be purchased and fulfilled, all while dealing with the ongoing worker shortage. According to a recent U.S. Labor Department monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, a record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August alone, with 10.4 million job openings. Considering this combined with the turbulence and instability of the ongoing pandemic and supply chain woes, how can retailers ensure their employees are prepared for the new challenges they’re facing?
Real-Time Inventory Visibility
Knowing exactly where your inventory is at all times is critical for retailers, especially amid supply chain challenges. With omnichannel fulfillment, a single item could be marked for curbside pickup, buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), or same-day delivery by a courier service. Using technologies such as RFID tags to track inventory have become increasingly popular among retailers, enabling businesses to function as a normal brick-and-mortar storefront and a shipping warehouse.
With real-time tracking of inventory, employees can find items faster which means fulfilling orders and serving customers more efficiently. For example, instead of manually checking the back of a store to see if a particular item is in stock, a hand-held point-of-sale device can pull real-time data of a specific item, including if it’s in stock, if it’s at another store location, and if more are on the way to be delivered, giving a holistic view of the item across the supply chain.
Employee Onboarding and Upskilling
Technologies that enable inventory visibility are great for retailers, but new employees must be able to use these order management systems effectively. Even current employees need to be trained and upskilled to stay on top of the new updates to the system, and training thousands of employees can be time consuming and expensive when deployed at scale.
For example, a large consumer electronics retailer has its own order management application (OMA) that all its brick-and-mortar employees use. With thousands of employees, including service agents, part-time workers, seasonal workers and full-time employees, there were not enough resources to onboard new employees and train existing ones as updates were made to the platform, impacting efficiency. The company eventually turned to a digital adoption platform (DAP), which overlayed in-app training and contextualized help bubbles in its own OMA, enabling employees to quickly get up to speed on the platform to better serve customers.
This also alleviated the retailer's corporate team, which was spending too much time manually creating training collateral and addressing support calls — approximately 10,000 each month from their own employees. With the digital adoption platform in place, the retailer reduced the OMA how-to queries by 8 percent and saved approximately 56,000 hours of training time overall.
These are just some technologies that can help retailers navigate the pandemic and the customer’s ever-changing shopping habits through 2022 and beyond. As retail technologies advance, new ways to shop will be discovered and employees will need to stay trained to deliver the best customer experience possible.
Vara Kumar is Co-Founder and chief product and technology officer at Whatfix, the global leader in the digital adoption platforms (DAP) space.