By Guy Yehiav, General Manager of Zebra Analytics, Zebra Technologies
The Australian retail sector has been forced to adjust to a complete shift in consumer behaviour due to COVID-19. Retailers are now faced with the challenge of surviving current complexities and preparing long-term rebound strategies.
In times of crisis, companies need a proactive action plan. Contrary to conventional belief, cutting staff does not need to be a focal point of that action plan. There are other measures retailers can take to manage their bottom lines before resorting to layoffs.
The implementation of data-driven analysis through advanced technology, for example, can identify hidden cost-cutting solutions that serve as alternative options to reducing staff.
Crack Down on Non-Compliance
With less in-store traffic as a result of COVID-19, now is the time to take a step back and assess any glaring causes of profit loss that can be alleviated. One area that easily comes to mind is that of non-compliance. Advanced software technology can record cash register actions like transactions, payouts, cash outs, manual discounts and price overrides – all of which can easily go undetected without a data analytics system monitoring transactional behaviours and alerting loss prevention.
Some analytics systems, like prescriptive analytics, can be used to flag “phantom inventory” that goes missing from inventory shelves. In these cases, the solution flags specific products that sustain unusual drops in sales contradictory to historical trends. The products could have been damaged without a claim being filed, stolen, not delivered, or simply never restocked. But regardless of the reason, every dollar counts when margins are razor-thin.
Ramp Up Omnichannel Capabilities
When COVID-19 lockdowns were first imposed, retailers without an established online presence to adapt were exposed. Omnichannel capabilities are therefore critical at this time, as it is unlikely that in-store customer volumes will return to previous levels until a global vaccine becomes available.
By having a robust e-commerce platform, companies can truly compete in the online arena. For retailers, omnichannel efficiency requires seamless purchasing and fulfillment processes tailored to social distancing measures. Such processes will need to include options such as in-store pick up, expediated delivery, and seamless returns.
In order to sustain such omnichannel capabilities, investing in staff is critical. From in-store fulfillment needs to customer service, a company’s staff is the driving force behind any online business. If resources allow, consider upskilling employees who were previously working the floor to omnichannel support roles, especially around in-store fulfillment and customer service.
Repurpose Stores and Staff
It is important to remember that the current reality that we are living in is only temporary. Instead of fixating on the present, retailers need to look beyond the current situation. With that in mind, the concept of cross-training – meaning developing skill-specific employees to perform multiple functions at once – can allow stores to remain versatile. Through the use of data analytics, retailers can identify which positions can be optimised with cross-training. Such training will help the retailers to retain their talent and develop a flexible staff that can proactively adapt to business challenges and unpredictable volume trends.
COVID-19 will be an ongoing challenge for the retail industry. However, the businesses that have remained resilient during this period are those that have been able pivot and adapt accordingly. Consider all the tools at one’s disposal, including the likes of advanced technology and data which can be critical in these trying times. The last thing the world needs right now is higher unemployment rates. Let us think outside the box instead.
For more information, please visit: Zebra Prescriptive Analytics.