Every business is looking to make efficiency gains right now. With costs high and consumer confidence low, retailers are having to plan for yet more pressure on their margins.
Cutting costs is first base in these circumstances. Anything you don’t need cost wise, cut it. Or at least find smarter ways of working to use less of it.
But making your business work more efficiently runs the other way, too. A more efficient business is often a more productive business. In a retail environment, by streamlining operations, making things easier for the customer and freeing staff from low-value tasks to focus more energy on service, you can reap the rewards through an uplift in sales.
Technology has a key role to play. At a time when most businesses are thinking about cutting costs, it might sound counterintuitive to suggest investing in new technology. But what matters is the returns you can get from that investment.
If spending on tech ends up helping you achieve a noticeable uptick in sales volumes and revenues over a sustained period of time, it’s money well spent.
Retail technology has a big role to play in achieving slicker, more efficient, higher earning operations in store. Here are some examples of how that can work.
Customers waiting in line to make a purchase is dead time. They are neither making decisions about further purchases nor spending money, so from a retailer’s perspective, time spent queuing has no value. From the customer’s perspective, it can be highly frustrating and push them to look elsewhere.
Back in the day, the solution to long queues at checkout was more POS terminals, more staff. But nowadays there is a solution that carries half the cost. With self-checkout kiosks, you only pay for the extra hardware, not the extra staff. Self-checkout has been proven to be fast, efficient, it increases sales throughput and, what is more, customers love it.
Optimize store layout and merchandising
The way your store is designed has a major impact on how easy it is for customers to find the products they want. It also affects queue times at checkout. In poorly designed stores, you’ll often see bottlenecks when lots of people want to get to the same place at the same time. Checkout is a common hotspot.
That’s why store layout has always been considered a skilled and prized specialism. But nowadays, store planners have an extra tool at their disposal – data. By tracking how customers move around your store using video cameras, Bluetooth Beacons or other technologies, you can quickly get a detailed picture of where the problem points are, what influences the way people move around the store, and where you can improve flow.
This ties in directly with merchandising. Tracking customer movements tells you the most popular areas of the store, and therefore which products more people are spending more time browsing. This should be incorporated into your layout planning, too.
Done right, you can position your highest value and/or best selling items in such a way so they get maximum exposure as customers move around the store and easy flow from where they are on display to checkout. Make things easier and more obvious for your customers, and you will see sales increase.
Nothing drags down your sales efficiency like running out of a popular item. It’s game over right there – the customer comes in planning a purchase, the item they want isn’t available, so they probably go elsewhere. A complete roadblock in the sales journey.
The simple solution to avoiding stockouts is to link inventory management software to your POS. This updates stock levels after every sale in real time. Once stock volumes reach a pre-set level, you will get alerted about the need to reorder or replenish. In the case of the former, you can now get inventory management tools that will do the reordering automatically for you.
If it’s a case of replenishing stock front of house from the storeroom, what matters most is staff knowing when to act. Mobile tablets are now commonly used to make POS more agile in store. But they have the added bonus of providing a convenient mode of communication so information about stock levels etc can be relayed across your teams quickly and efficiently.