7 Ways to Improve Your Retail Operations
5 Min Read
Written by: Parcel Pending
With a perfect storm of pent-up consumer demand, labour shortages, material scarcity, and choked ports of passage, retailers are rewriting the rules for success. Whether you run a small business or a large one, here are seven innovative and actionable insights on how to improve retail operations for your business.
#1 Diversify Your Suppliers
Although consumers are well aware of supply chain disruptions, they still expect their gift purchases to arrive on time. As a result, diversifying your suppliers is paramount. After all, 80% of consumers expect faster and more flexible shipping options from retailers1. This is one way of meeting consumer demand and retaining customer loyalty.
#2 Enhance Fulfilment Options
Is your physical inventory still fully stacked despite continuous sales? One of the reasons behind this might be a lack of inventory optimisation. Bottlenecks in the distribution channel can translate into difficulty getting goods picked and sorted for either pickup or shipping. Best Buy, for example, recently converted its store layout to ensure 25% of floor space is dedicated to order fulfilment2.
#3 Automate to Reduce Reliance on Labour
The shortage of workers is real. Job vacancies continued to fall in the first three months of this year as economic pressures forced a hold on recruitment3. Retail job openings hit 1.3 million in August 2021, and 50% of employers reported not hiring enough staff in September4. Supermarket giants Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda all recently announced a raise in hourly pay to over £11.00 per hour4. The labour pressure makes automating tasks essential. From inventory to information, leveraging technology for automation is key. With automation, there are fewer employees to monitor, freeing up the task load of key personnel, like the retail operations manager and even the store associate. Automating certain tasks can also boost operational efficiency because there are fewer margins of error. Operations that could be automated include inventory management.
#4 Boost the Customer Experience
Despite an overall fall in spending due to the cost-of-living increases, consumers are still willing to open their wallets – however, in order for them to become loyal customers, they need to feel validated.
According to recent research, 63% of respondents state that they are more likely to shop with brands that customise and personalise the experience for the shopper5. As Alex Atzberger, CEO of Optimizely explains: “Retailers have a captive audience of consumers who are seeking relevant content, ideas and offers online. However, only the brands that have progressed their digital maturity through experimentation and personalisation to become adaptive to consumer needs will differentiate and win over shoppers.” In short, one of the solutions to increase customer satisfaction is a customised shopping experience. Learn more about how you can improve the retail customer experience.
#5 Implement Buy Now, Pay Later
Buy Now, Pay Later (or BNPL) adoption is booming! Revenue skyrocketed 45% in 20206. And in a recent Adobe survey, 25% of respondents stated that they have used this shopping option within the last three months.
#6 Expand Click-and-Collect Options
Since last-mile delivery costs account for approximately 50% of shipping costs, getting customers to pick up their items in-store is a significant cost saving. Further, according to research by PYMNTS, the number one draw for getting customers back into stores is Click-and-Collect, accounting for 44% of respondents7. Consider revisiting your Click-and-Collect strategy and finding ways to improve it.
#7 Install Retail Smart Lockers for Self-Service Click-and-Collect
Retail parcel lockers are one way of expanding your click-and-collect offerings to personalise the shopping experience for your customers. Here are just a few key performance indicators (or KPIs) that click-and-collect from a retail locker can help you realise for your business:
- Incremental Purchases and Sales – 61% of customers make an incremental purchase just by virtue of entering the store. Since customers whose wait times are two minutes and under are four times more likely to purchase again, smart lockers are a key retail store operations strategy. With click-and-collect from a retail locker, pick-up takes less than 30 seconds. By comparison, traditional click-and-collect (from a counter in store, for example) can take 2-5 minutes, and the curbside pickup wait time hovers between 8-12 minutes.
- Lower Labour Costs – Both curbside and click-and-collect from a retail locker require retail employees to pick and pack the order. The key difference, however, is that once the order is placed into a locker, labour costs decrease significantly. Retailers that use retail lockers for click-and-collect saved an average of 45 hours per month versus managing traditional click-and-collect from store orders.
- Fast & Efficient Returns – Returns are a significant problem for retailers. The return rate in 2020 was 10.6% of sales and is expected to jump to 11.2% in 20218. Moreover, 67% of all consumers scrutinize the return policy before purchasing, emphasizing the importance of a fast and frictionless return experience. Since a return to the store is the lowest hit on margins, leveraging lockers for retailers is fast and efficient; it takes a shopper less than 30 seconds to process a return. And smart lockers can be configured so that only certain doors can be used for returns, allowing stores to balance capacity between pick-ups and returns. Couple these facts with the statistic that 92% of customers will buy a product again if the returns process is easy and the benefit of a locker returns system is clear.
- Better Customer Experience – Short wait times in terms of retrieving a package positively impact the customer experience. 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties and loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again9,10.
- Reinforced Branding – Custom wraps, tailored workflows and integrations, and consistent colour and logo applications aid in creating a seamless continuation of your branded experience for shoppers.
The retail landscape has forever changed with COVID acting as the digital catalyst for innovation. As you plan your retail strategies for the future, now is the time to embrace smart lockers and other tools that improve your retail operations. With these seven methods, you can strive for operational excellence with your retail business.
To talk to a Parcel Pending by Quadient sales representative about how our solutions can improve your retail operations and customer experience, contact us here.
- Cullen, Katherine. National Retail Federation. Consumers embrace physical retail as U.S. emerges from the pandemic. (2021, July 15). https://nrf.com/blog/consumers-embrace-physical-retail-us-emerges-pandemic.
- Retail Dive. 3 strategies that all retailers should do today. (2021, November 22). https://www.retaildive.com/spons/3-strategies-that-all-retailers-should-do-today/609931/.
- Director of Finance.Work in progress: analysing the first-quarter for jobs and retail (2023, Apri; 24) www.dofonline.co.uk/2023/04/24/work-in-progress-analysing-the-first-quarter-for-jobs-and-retail/
- Grocery Gazette. Supermarket pay in 2023: What’s changed and who’s top of the league? www.grocerygazette.co.uk/2023/02/22/supermarket-pay-rate-2023/
- Rogers, Kate. CNBC. Retailers look to staff up ahead of holiday rush with workers in short supply. (2021, November 5). https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/05/retailers-look-to-staff-up-ahead-of-holiday-rush-with-workers-in-short-supply-.html.
- Optimizely. (2021, October 14). Optimizely Survey: Consumers Report Heightened Expectations for Digital Experiences this Holiday Season [Press release]. Retrieved from: https://www.optimizely.com/company/press/
- Adobe. (2021, October 20). Adobe forecasts record $207 billion holiday season online (U.S.), $910 billion globally [Press release]. Retrieved from: https://news.adobe.com/news/default.aspx
- PYMNTS. Retailers Push Curbside, In-Store Pickup to Fight Delivery Inefficiencies. (2021, October 27). https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2021/retailers-push-curbside-in-store-pickup-to-fight-delivery-inefficiencies/.
- Johnston, Chuck. Supply Chain Brain. How Retailers Are Bettering the Online Returns Experience. (2021, August 4). https://www.supplychainbrain.com/blogs/1-think-tank/post/33438-the-shopping-and-returns-resurgence-how-retailers-can-prepare.
- Puthiyamadam, Tom & Reyes, José. PWC. Experience is everything. Get it right. (2017). https://www.pwc.com/future-of-cx.
- Dorsey, Moira. Qualtrics XM Institute. Research Recap: ROI of Customer Experience, 2020. (2020, September 17). https://www.xminstitute.com/blog/research-recap-2020-roi-cx/.