TECHNOLOGY

Commentary: Three Tips for Flawless Execution in 2018

BY Maria Jiang

Why is it that our best-laid out plans — from promotions, floor resets to new product launches — look great on paper, but fall flat in their execution?

While trying to keep up with ever-changing shopper behavior trends, retailers are finding it more and more difficult to rapidly communicate new directives to store teams. And relying on mass emails, break-room bulletins, conference calls, and company intranets are just not cutting it. Store managers are swimming in a sea of information in the back room instructing employees how to execute in-store programs. And while teams do their best to execute, shortcomings tend to be more the norm than the exception — even among the best and brightest retailers.

To support store teams and help them turn ideas into action — and make our best-laid plans a reality — it’s time to better leverage mobile technology. Here are three tips that will give mobile-driven store teams the opportunity to execute correctly and on-time:

Tip 1: Equip them with the right knowledge. Everyone — from the stockroom to the front of house — needs to march towards the same vision. Every team member should understand the importance of their role and how they can influence the customer experience.

Customer-facing employees who not only have the right attitude, but the right knowledge about the company’s products and services are your biggest asset. Ensure that store teams have access to all the right information at their fingertips, and that is easily searchable so they can find the answers they need.

Tip 2: Send information in bite-sized chunks. Store teams that are equipped with information that is easy to understand — and to remember — are ready to focus on what matters most: the customer. It will be easier for store teams to digest and execute directives if communications are streamlined, tasks are broken down and accessible from the sales floor, and media attachments, such as photos and videos, make it crystal clear what needs to get done and how.

Tip 3: Connect everyone together. Connect your whole organization with easy-to-use tools so they can reach and collaborate with any coworker instantly. Encourage store teams to share tips and tricks so they can collectively improve store performance. Provide store teams with a two-way communication channel so they can raise issues and make recommendations back to headquarters. This will turn the best-laid plans into the best-implemented actions.

Retailers everywhere are looking to innovate and adopt new technologies to improve the customer experience — from robot shopkeepers, hologram fitting rooms, drone deliveries to virtual reality shopping. They are all groundbreaking innovations on their own. But don’t forget to focus your biggest asset and what really draws customers into your brick-and-mortar locations: frontline employees who can make or break the customer experience. Make 2018 the year you unlock the true power of frontline employees.

Maria Jiang is the head of product marketing at Inkling, which builds software designed to make work life simpler and more efficient for distributed teams. Inkling is mobile-first, so frontline employees can easily access actionable information anytime, any-where on any device.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Lagging fulfillment services are costing retailers conversions

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Slow delivery speeds, out-of-stocks and poor order tracking services are costing retailers revenue — and customers.

More than half (54%) of shoppers in the United States said they have abandoned an online purchase because delivery was too expensive. Worse, nearly a quarter (24%) of shoppers cancelled an order because of slow delivery speeds, according to a study from Arvato SCM Solutions.

When 26% of shoppers found their merchandise out of stock, they received no indication of when the merchandise would be available — a factor that prompted them to either abandon their purchase or shop with another retailer.

The majority (83%) of consumers said free delivery was the most important factor when it comes to fulfillment of online orders, followed by speed of delivery (53%) and free returns (52%). Meanwhile, 45% said that convenience was the most important factor, with 17% saying they liked to be offered multiple delivery options.

According to data, 56% of U.S. shoppers already use the ‘buy online pick-up in-store’ (BOPIS) option. While only 11% currently use two-hour BOPIS options offered by retailers, 32% said they would like to see more retailers offering one or two hour collection spots for BOPIS purchases going forward.

“Delivery isn’t just about fulfillment, but an integral part of the decision-making process for the online shopper,” said Ferka Vukel, Director Fashion and Cosmetics at Arvato SCM Solution.

“Those retailers who are not offering a fast, convenient and, crucially, free delivery service are at risk of losing out,” Vukel said. “With retailers having to balance the rising cost of fulfillment against the cost of losing an order, there is no easy answer. However, one thing all retailers can do is to be transparent, giving customers an estimated delivery cost from the outset to avoid frustration at the end of the shopping journey.”

Looking ahead, delivery will become even more significant to buyer behavior in the future. Within five years, shoppers expect retailers to offer increasingly innovative delivery solutions, including driverless vehicles or Uber drivers doubling up as carriers to get their products to them (7%), and orders from multiple retailers to be delivered in one go (17%).

Amazon’s Prime Air has also captured shoppers’ imagination with 13% wanting to see adoption of drone deliveries from retailers, while 11% want ‘drive thru’ collection lockers. Another 8% think retailers should offer ‘to device’ delivery — where an item is delivered to a customer by using their smartphone or tablet to geo-locate them.

What’s more, 12% would be happy sharing their finger prints with retailers so they can ‘sign’ for deliveries with their finger print for more secure deliveries, the study revealed.

“At the moment innovations such as drone delivery are more about capturing consumers imagination than reality, but what we are seeing from consumers is that speed, cost and convenience are imperative when choosing to shop online and that is something that is not going to change any time soon,” concluded Vukel.

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TECHNOLOGY

Amazon grabs 44% of U.S. e-commerce sales in 2017

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

From luxury merchandise to grocery items to beauty, Amazon is grabbing wallet share across an array of categories.

The online giant claimed an estimated 44% of all U.S. e-commerce sales in 2017, according to a study from One Click Retail. Amazon also accounted for 4% of the country’s total retail sales for the year — approximately $200 billion, revealed the study, “Amazon Year in Review: The 5 Biggest Trends of 2017.

The product category that accounted for the most sales last year on Amazon was consumer electronics, which generated more than $8 billion. The online giant’s home & kitchen and publishing divisions followed behind with $5.5 billion and $5 billion in sales respectively. The sports & outdoors segment came in fourth with $4 billion in sales.

When it comes to Amazon’s fastest going product categories, luxury beauty lead the charge with a 47% year-over-year growth ($400 million in sales). The pantry category had 38% growth with $500 million in sales. Amazon’s grocery and furniture categories each posted 33% year-over-year growth, and $1.5 billion in sales, respectively.

In addition to these gains, 2017 marked additional wins for the e-retailer. After spending 2016 quietly building its automated marketing system, and then adding major system upgrades in 2017, Amazon now has a sophisticated search platform that includes a broad range of keywords for mobile, desktop, and/or app users. It also integrates with email marketing and vendor-powered coupons.

Today, over 50% of product searches begin on Amazon – and only Amazon has the ability to convert click-throughs to sales. With these added benefits and some killer ROI metrics, many brands have started taking their search budgets out of Google and Facebook and putting their money on Amazon, according to the report.

Sales of consumables exploded in 2017 with over 35% annual growth. These sales were bolstered by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, and what is now the online giant’s second-largest private brand: 365 Everyday Value — a category with over $10 million in estimated 2017 sales, the report said.

“Ultimately, success – for both Amazon itself and for brands that sell through the platform – comes down to knowing your audience,” said Spencer Millerberg, CEO, One Click Retail. “It’s clear that Amazon catered to the right crowd in 2017, and the brands that correctly understood who their products were for – and who they were most useful to – are the ones that had a very good year.”

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