Why Are The Most Important Front-Line Employees Still Being Ignored?

Give store employees the platform to serve the consumer.

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It is hard to believe that I have been immersed in the retail industry for over 30 years.  I cut my teeth 30 years ago: way back when there was no technology to electronic scan goods. This resulted in having no way of knowing which items were sold on which day of the week. We didn't know how promotions were performing or how items were purchased together in the basket. To ensure you had the correct amount of accurate inventory, you had to physically count the items in the store! It's amazing, looking back, at how we were able to keep the shelves full.

Over the past 30 years, technology has transformed the way retail professionals are able to move away from making decisions based upon ‘gut feel’. They now have untold amounts of data and business intelligence technologies to help them. 

Business analysts based at retail headquarters are finally in a position to analyze data available to make factual decisions on what items to sell in each store. They now know where to merchandise items on the shelf, which items sold well together and those retailers that did this well gained a competitive advantage over the laggards.

The emergence of big data in recent years and the next industrial revolution of the Internet of Things (IOT) has seen the uprising of the data scientist with a solid grounding in math. This means they are now able to take raw data that can unlock insights and start to identify trends.

Historically, key retail metrics for success such as product availability, stock loss, waste and markdown is still a huge problem for retailers and you have to ask the question "Why?"

The answer is simple. For too long retailers have ignored or decided not to invest in providing ‘actionable insight’ to their most important employees in their organization: store colleagues. 

Empowered consumers can walk into retail stores armed with a mobile device to check prices, take photos of empty product gaps on display and comment on their customer service experiences via social media. Yet typically, store colleagues have to operate their stores based upon static reports or paper-based information.

Retail System Research, an American market intelligence company focused on the impact of technology on the retail industry asks the leading global retailers the same questions annually. What are the top 3 opportunities for improving the in-store experience? How can we ‘educate and empower our in-store employees using technology’ is typically the Number 1 focus. So the desire is clearly understood.

RSR Research Data

Where the next wave of competitive advantage will come from in this data-driven mobile age will be by 'putting analytics into the hands of store colleagues at the point of decision’. By this, I mean an analytics platform allowing store colleagues to address their operational issues in front of a product, shelf or in an aisle. This will ensure they are delivering an excellent customer experience, maintaining product availability and minimizing waste.

Qlik is already taking retailers on this transformational journey, as Scott Silverthorn, Head of Data at Lush, and a global retailer with over 900 stores stated:

“Managers have access to easily digestible information in real time. Shop managers have told us they’ve had their most profitable year ever. That’s because Qlik gives them access to all the data they need to manage their sales, stock and staffing.”

To put yourself in their shoes, why not check out Qlik’s ‘Day in the Life’ of a Store Manager. This can help retailers give store employees the information they warrant. You might also want to try out this demo as well.

Photo credit: Jim Griffioen

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