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How to make a retail employee more accessible in store

Technology Writer

Brick-and-mortar shops, like their online counterparts, now have access to a wealth of data on consumer tastes and shopping habits inside and outside the walls of their stores. Through a holistic analysis of these data points, retail managers can optimize operations to prosper with a leaner staff that better predicts and reacts to the flow of foot traffic.

Not finding a retail employee in a store can be frustrating, but it's even worse to discover most of the employees standing idly together in some far-off corner, unsure of what to do with themselves. Some 64 percent of consumers say they have walked out of a store in the past year because of poor customer service, according to Consumer Reports.

Brick-and-mortar shops, like their online counterparts, now have access to a wealth of data on consumer tastes and shopping habits inside and outside the walls of their stores. They gather this through location-tracking systems, live video feeds, RFID tags, point-of-sale systems and social media feedback. Through a holistic analysis of these data points, retail managers can optimize operations to prosper with a leaner staff that better predicts and reacts to the flow of foot traffic.

Big data can ultimately boost retailers' profits, improve the customer experience through well-placed staff and track signals to prevent those staff members from jumping ship.

Predicting demand

https://kapost-files-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/direct/1440425189-7275-5250/creatingSmarter_blog.jpgEven before the retailer opens its doors, big data can help inform staffing decisions. Businesses can compare weather data with shopping trends, which can help them forecast the flux and demands of customers on either a rainy or sunny day. That could determine the number of salespeople needed and which sections of the store they should focus on.

According to Advertising Age, Wal-Mart has found surprising correlations between low-wind, 80-degree days and customer demand for salads and berries. Based on this data, Wal-Mart targets their advertising accordingly and stocks salads when it's less windy and steaks when there are high winds.

Tracking customers in stores, in real-time

Retailers are increasingly turning to smartphone Wi-Fi signals, beacons and security cameras to track customer movements in stores. In this way, managers can determine the high-traffic sections of the store that need greater staffing, and also gain insight into areas where customers tend to linger longest. The insights can be simple but profound for product and staff placement. The Harvard Business Review reported on one jewelry store that analyzed data from a video feed and learned that 98 percent of its customers walk to the right side of the store when first entering.

Clothing chain Zara went one step further and attached RFID chips on store items so employees can collect inventory data almost instantly, according to The Wall Street Journal. Not only does this reduce the amount of staff needed for inventory duty, but it also gives staff a clear glimpse of what customers are buying at any given moment so they can be positioned accordingly.

Feedback on customer service

New payment systems have made it easier than ever to painlessly survey customers about their shopping experience. Take Square, the mobile payments service, as an example. Last year, Square introduced a feedback option to its electronic receipts, giving retailers a way to solicit customer reactions to wait times and service quality. Shoppers can also leave more detailed comments praising or criticizing a retail employee.

Employee retention

Multiple human resources analytics firms now scour data on performance reviews, pay increases, team sizes and time spent engaging with coworkers to determine the likelihood of a particular employee's departure and the impact it would have on the organization. Billion-dollar businesses such as Box, Credit Suisse and Wal-Mart have made use of this data to figure out the flight risks of employees, according to another Wall Street Journal article. If the data suggests employees are unhappy because their team is too large and impersonal, management can work proactively to either shift staffers to smaller teams or consult with the relevant manager to be more attentive to individual employees.

If a particular employee has a very high flight risk, retailers can start to look for possible replacements rather than risk having a lengthy period of being understaffed. This works for more positive situations, as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart has relied on this data to spot employees likely to be promoted and then moved more quickly to find replacements.

Big data ensures employees are working where they are truly needed most, and it can also help prevent you from losing those valuable employees unnecessarily.

Use data to make better staffing decisions and provide the best customer service. Learn how on our IBM Retail Solutions page.

Topics:
Analytics