Deloitte’s 2019 Retail Industry Outlook signals a tipping point for retail this year and advocates for synchronized bets across six key focus areas, from emotional-based loyalty to emerging technologies. “To leverage the true power of next-generation technologies,” Deloitte writes in the report, “retailers should make some significant changes. They should be able to consistently mine the data they collect, transform their operations to deliver on the brand promise, and adapt to the future of work.”
Retailers across sectors are gaining a competitive edge by adopting mobile strategies that engage hourly team members, automate mundane work and validate consistency in the customer and brand experience. Simultaneously, these tools are helping them to mine qualitative and quantitative data, while also freeing up labor to focus on revenue-driving activities.
Retail operators understand which actions best accelerate business outcomes in stores and distribution centers. They work hard to train and standardize these actions. Inevitably, though, certain locations and teams will fall short. Operators need a mechanism to deliver concise, clear, focused direction, and a way to verify that what they expected to happen in-store actually did. Seasoned retailers know the power of focusing teams can deliver 2%-6% more in revenue performance on average; in retail, execution is everything.
Platforms that help team members easily collect and report data on top operational tasks and store conditions help spotlight execution gaps. Giving teams mobile apps that silence the noise of callouts and product shorts, and reduce email, free them up to offer exceptional customer experiences. The data they collect gives leadership an in-depth view of the field across every location. Top brands are informing new rounds of innovation and spotting winning trends to proliferate using this approach.
Our company’s experience guiding retailers in self-funding their digital transformation, and my past experience as an executive at a top natural grocery retailer, confirm three mobile strategies that offer tremendous value to the sector and align with Deloitte’s recommendations for 2019:
1. Digitized daily standard audits and inspections on mobile. Increasing efficiencies and consistency in execution and adapting to the future of work for Gen Y and Gen Z means digitizing daily standard operating procedures across merchandising, marketing, LPI and spoilage audits, new product launches and service protocols.
Mobile field execution apps should drive right actions in sequence, eliminate paper and Excel-based systems, reduce redundant data entry and human error and give teams the kind of intuitive, easy-to-use apps they expect in today’s workplace. They should also mirror the technology people use at home. These apps can deliver tremendous time savings both in-store and at the regional level — labor that can then be optimized for effectiveness. Our partners at JOH Brokers saw an 81% ROI using such an approach, with improved labor efficiencies at both market and regional levels. They redirected that time to selling, coaching and data-mining to benefit the business and their clients.
As data rolls in from the field, leaders are reimagining the power of instant reporting that doesn’t require business analyst labor to produce. They can drive accountability and see their stores as the customers do. Mobile data capture has an unintended side benefit in an era of shrinking travel and expense budgets: a single view of every location’s execution, from your home office.
Under Armour is at the forefront of adopting these trends. They successfully piloted a mobile merchandising app and transformed their ability to efficiently collect in-store data, train team members, and localize assortment. The brand’s leadership has new visibility into retail execution in real time and has captured incremental sales based on its findings. Under Armour’s frontline teams collect and submit critical data on sales, customer interactions, product issues, merchandising and marketing.Sales leaders no longer have to schedule office days or take time away from the retail environment to process reporting. Instead, they are able to prioritize execution, selling and training in stores. The impact to their business has been significant.
2. Mobile on-the-floor training. Training in a highly labor-leveraged retail environment has become increasingly complex and difficult to administer. The impact is felt in the customer experience and the numbers. Highly flexible apps that drive execution can also optimize training and provide reference materials, videos and “did you know” content that keep teams engaged, learning on the sales floor and responsive to customers. Studies from MIT and Wharton School of Business show that well-staffed, knowledgeable teams translate to higher retail sales and increased transactions — sometimes by upwards of 10%. Giving teams intuitive mobile tools that train in the moment can help even new hires be effective on day one and ensure retailers that the tasks most critical to their business are completed. Better-trained teams asked to “do more with less” need time saving platforms to deliver savings to the bottom line, and those tools need to be available on the sales floor.
3. Live imaging/image recognition capability. Technologies that fluidly leverage the power of human and machine capabilities, such as AI-powered computer vision and image recognition analysis of sets, can save retailers labor in analyzing and localizing displays, and free up team members to innovate for the business. Brands can repurpose labor toward selling and deliver incremental growth through stronger sets, informed by customer demand. Team members can use mobile devices to take photos of a drink box with trained UPCs, then accurately analyze the set using AI. Audits that used to take 15 minutes or more now return data in 30 seconds or less and communicate assortment, share of shelf and compliance to planogram. The machine manages the mundane and frees up the team member to write a sales order or troubleshoot in-stock conditions and voids.
A top global beverage company we work with is using computer vision AI to gather the ground-level insight they need to be more agile, responsive, and better equipped to deliver experiences that delight customers, team members and shareholders.
Investing in mobile platforms that optimize FTE labor, validate operational execution on business-critical tasks, train on the sales floor, capture data for innovation and elevate the brand experience will reap rewards for retailers in 2019 and beyond.
Heather Larrabee is an Executive Vice President at GoSpotCheck, the platform that is reimagining how the mobile workforce works. GoSpotCheck helps 200+ enterprise brands in 70 countries across six continents perfect merchandising, increase sales, reduce labor and expenses, ensure food safety and quality and improve profitability from the field with mobile surveys, photo capture, image recognition and business insight reporting. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.