Like many industries, retailers are dealing with a shortage of labor at every level, from delivery drivers to store associates. As a result, they must often be prepared to do more with fewer resources, including handling irregular deliveries and replenishment schedules as well as managing available inventory for maximum efficiency and sales.
Meanwhile, a new era of omnichannel commerce challenges retailers to seamlessly manage multiple fulfillment channels to keep up with consumer expectations. Retail has in many ways bounced back to a “new normal,” where consumers see little difference between online and physical stores and expect retailers to keep pace with heightened expectations around convenience and product availability.
The key to overcoming the challenges resulting from driver shortages is an investment in end-to-end retail technology solutions that integrate analytics, inventory monitoring, and workflow management to optimize overall store operations.
Meeting Consumers’ Evolving Omnichannel Expectations
Last year, most consumer shopping shifted to online, and it stalled altogether in categories that held less relevance to people who were no longer going to offices or social events. As pandemic restrictions continue to lift, brick-and-mortar stores are experiencing the pent-up demand built up over a year spent at home. Now, stores are trying to balance e-commerce and in-store inventory to ensure they have enough of the right products to fulfill orders on either side. Managing online and in-store returns adds another level of complexity.
With technology, retailers across all categories can monitor sales trends to better prepare for surges in consumer demand and avoid empty shelves — or shelves filled with stagnant, overstocked SKUs. Prescriptive analytics, real-time inventory visibility, and workforce management tools are vital to retail operations, helping stores and warehouses ensure they have the right people and inventory in the right places at the right time to offset the impacts of uncontrollable industry disruptions, such as the current delivery driver shortage.
Empowering Front-Line Workers and Enabling More Accurate Inventory Counts
The retail landscape is changing fast, but the technology available to retailers is also advancing at a rapid speed. As retailers add more digital channels that require fulfillment from store shelves, such as buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), having an accurate inventory count becomes imperative. Investing in the right mobile devices and software enables stores to complete smart cycle counting on a more regular cadence without increasing headcount or taking associates away from delivering stellar customer service.
Many retailers are also bringing technology once reserved for the warehouse or back of the store to the front of the store. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is an increasingly popular solution for apparel, sporting goods, and electronics retailers. RFID tagging enables faster and less labor-intensive inventory management for weekly or even daily counts and can also help facilitate faster returns processing and inventory re-shelving.
Visibility for Retail Agility
Intelligent inventory and workforce management solutions work together to improve store productivity, despite external challenges like the delivery driver shortage. This visibility into sales data and the movement of goods across the supply chain allows retailers to leverage data to assign tasks to the right associates at the right time. Ultimately these solutions help merchants make better procurement and labor scheduling decisions to ensure they can always keep up with consumer demand, whether shopping online or in-store.
To learn more about technology solutions that can help retailers better navigate the increasing demands and challenges presented by the delivery driver shortage, click here.
Lindsey Allen is senior manager, retail and hospitality vertical marketing, Zebra Technologies, a company that builds enterprise-level data capture and automatic identification solutions that provide businesses with operational visibility.
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Lindsey Allen is currently senior manager, retail and hospitality vertical marketing at Zebra Technologies, where she's responsible for the go-to-market strategy for the retail and hospitality vertical and expansion efforts into emerging markets. Lindsey has more than four years of experience within the mobility industry and has over 16 years of marketing experience. Previously, she served as director of marketing at RACO Industries, a value-added reseller of Zebra Technologies where she helped shape the company strategic vision to drive profitability and accelerate growth. Lindsey holds a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication from the University of Kentucky.