Study: Store managers’ roles evolve in the unified commerce era
To effectively service shoppers at store-level, managers need to evolve beyond their sales roles and become “problem solvers.”
This means store managers must learn to master the combination of order fulfillment, inventory visibility and staffing to keep up with customer demands, according to the “Voice of Store Manager Survey,” a study from JDA Software Group. The second annual study is based on responses from 252 US-based retail store managers compiled in August.
As the lines between online and in-store continue to blur, order fulfillment (29%) and limited staffing (29%) are evenly split as the biggest challenges for retailers at the store-level. Meanwhile, inaccurate data (31%), and limited stock and slow replenishment (31%) are the biggest challenge for operations.
To solve these issues, the majority of store managers (64%) are using technology in some capacity to check store inventory availability in real-time. This could be via mobile or wearable devices (33%) or a central computer system (31%).
New fulfillment services are also being offered to deliver ease and convenience to busy shoppers, while luring traffic back into stores. Forty-four percent (44%) of respondents said their stores offer buy online ship from store services and 41% offer buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS). Meanwhile, 40% offer buy in-store ship to home, and 38% offer buy online return in-store (BORIS).
BOPIS services (41%) and buy online ship from store services (40%) have seen the largest increase in customer usage, though these options rely heavily on inventory visibility and staffing for pick, pack and ship to meet customer fulfillment timelines. In fact, respondents have staff allocated to support BOPIS (65%), BORIS (64%), buy in-store ship to home (61%), buy online ship to store (59%), and buy in-store ship to home/store from another store (49%).
Store managers believe lack of visibility across inventory (41%) is the biggest difficulty among BOPIS services. Despite this challenge, 36% of store managers said their stores currently offer a discount to customers who utilize BOPIS services. Another 14% are currently testing/researching options.
“As customer expectations continue to rise, it will be crucial for brick-and-mortar stores to streamline how they fulfill customer orders and work to draw in shoppers with incentives for in-store fulfillment options,” said Jim Prewitt, VP, retail industry strategy, JDA. “In the future, we foresee some stores evolving into distribution centers, fulfilling 100% of customer demand while others will morph into showrooms with centralized fulfillment.”
Another area needing improvement is the influx of inventory due to BORIS offerings — two in three store managers reported some difficulty with the service. Thirty percent (30%) of respondents are unsure of what to do with the additional inventory received through BORIS, and lack direction as to whether to keep it at the store, return to a distribution center or another store. Nearly 30% of store managers reported a staff-related concern with regards to BORIS.
While the “gig economy” is increasingly popular, more than 40% of store managers reported that only a small number of their store staff (less than 25%) are part of this segment. One in four store managers are exploring the possibility of leveraging additional labor – such as short-term contractors or freelance workers – outside of the traditional workforce.
Looking ahead to the 2017 holiday season, 60% of store managers plan to hire the same amount of temporary labor as they did last year 24% plan to hire more. However, the focus of the seasonal staff may be changing to meet customer demand. Over 40% of seasonal hires will be for fulfillment at stores/warehouses, not customer-facing. The other fulfillment area where store managers will increase hiring is BOPIS. One in three respondents will hire temporary staff specifically for the service this year.
“As store operations change with increasingly complex order fulfillment capabilities, the demands for staffing will change as well,” said Prewitt. “We predict there will be an uptick in tailored staffing hirers for both BOPIS and ship-from-store services.”
Thrift store chain goes ‘wireless’
Staying true to its “thrifty” roots, Savers has added a robust wireless solution without breaking the bank.
Savers, the largest for-profit thrift store chain in North America, operates 320 retail locations in the United States, Canada and Australia. Over the last decade, the company has expanded and modernized its enterprise in a number of ways. For example, it added a call center located in El Paso, Texas, a move that supports scheduling operations like donation pick-ups and trucking operations among smaller charity organizations that did not have infrastructure in place.
The company also expanded its Bellevue, Washington, headquarters to nearby Renton. Savers also manages more than 10 regional distribution centers and warehouses to support its growing retail stores.
However, all of this expansion was taking a toll its existing wide area network (WAN). Besides struggling to support operations, the company was burdened with a break-fix model of support, which was too time-consuming to solve IT problems.
That’s when the company began exploring a move toward a Wi-Fi solution — a move that would support continuous store operations, support store-level mobile operations, and more flexibility when augmenting internal operations. It also needed to allow visiting employees and corporate staff to connect to the corporate network from any retail location. As a company that thrives on thrift however, cost was also a key factor in their decision.
Savers chose Aerohive as its wireless network standard across all retail stores and corporate operations. It deployed Aerohive access points across retail stores and trucking operations, as well as among corporate offices and locations. The company also supports network management, and secure device authentication among a new guest network.
“There is always someone who has the ability to build a better mousetrap,” said Charles Blair, IT infrastructure manager at Savers. “Now Savers team members in our retail locations have the flexibility to brainstorm ways for increased productivity, and can move workstation configurations without additional cost.”
Looking ahead, the retailer plans to deploy access points in retail locations with integrated Bluetooth capabilities. This will allow Savers to connect with customers, including unauthenticated users — a move that will drive customer interaction, offer promotional opportunities and enable push notifications, according to the company.
Savers, which operates under the banners Savers, Value Village, Village des Valeurs in Canada and Savers Australia, generates revenues of more than $1 billion worldwide.
Amazon’s new acquisition becomes data breach target
Cyber-thieves have found their way into Whole Foods Markets’ payment network.
The natural foods grocer, which Amazon purchased for $13.7 billion in August, learned that payment card information processed at certain venues within some of its stores, such as taprooms and full table-service restaurants, has been breached. These venues use a different point-of-sale system than the company’s primary checkout systems.
The transactions seem to be contained among these Whole Foods’ entry points, as payment cards processed at the primary store checkout systems were not affected. Since parent company Amazon’s systems do not connect to those at Whole Foods, Amazon transactions also have not been impacted, the grocer reported.
“This is still noteworthy however, because it might be the first big ’traditional brick-and-mortar’ cyber-challenge that Amazon will need to overcome following its acquisition of Whole Foods,” Paul Martini, CEO of iboss told Chain Store Age.
Upon learning about the incident, the grocer launched an investigation. In addition to contacting law enforcement, Whole Foods is working with a leading cyber security forensics firm, and taking appropriate measures to address the issue.
The company’s investigation is ongoing, and it will provide additional updates as it learns more, Whole Foods said.
While most Whole Foods stores do not have these taprooms and restaurants, the grocer encourages its customers to closely monitor their payment card statements and report any unauthorized charges to their issuing bank.
“Retail chains are high-priority targets because not only do they give cyber-criminals easy access to financial information, but their networks are also are very distributed — with multiple locations, offices and often various different point of sale systems. This means attackers have multiple entry points to choose from,” Martini said. “Distributed networks like retail stores have very unique challenges, and you’re going to continue to see breaches like this unless the big chains get serious about preventing attacks.”