By Stefan Spendrup, VP of Sales in Northern and Western Europe at SOTI
The retail industry is gearing up for the busiest shopping periods of the year. But with an ongoing cost-of-living crisis consumers are tightening their purse strings, so retailers may see different shopping behaviours this Black Friday as shoppers’ disposable incomes are reduced.
Consumers have become more selective of where they shop, with more than 40% testing a new method. Whether online, in-store, or via hybrid shopping experiences, consumers are becoming increasingly internet-reliant.
Businesses are under increasing pressure to ensure smooth consumer experiences across all shopping methods. Coupled with ongoing supply chain disruptions, retailers must work to mitigate disruption and provide a seamless shopping experience from start to finish.
SOTI’s report, From Clicks to Ships: Navigating the Global Supply Chain Crisis, highlighted 61% of global consumers continued to shop with brands that can deliver goods the fastest, while 68% said they expect to know where their order is all time throughout the delivery process.
Streamlining Consumer Shopping Experiences
Consumers are becoming bolder and more selective of where and how they shop. Tackling supply chain chaos is only one part of the problem. Retailers must also work to streamline endpoint processes to deliver a unified experience throughout business operations. Confirming what goods are in stock online, having the option of choosing delivery at home or ordering online and picking up in store. These are all methods customers have become used to expecting, and specifically which day and time for delivery or pick up. If these options are not available to them, they will abandon their basket and purchase elsewhere.
Despite inflation reaching 10% in September, many UK customers are still showing a tendency to change their buyer behavior to support brands and retailers that meet new hybrid retail expectations. Shoppers demand the same experience, whether they are shopping in-store, or online.
Connecting all retail tech through IoT software allows retailers to streamline customer experiences by providing visibility of products throughout the supply chain. By digitizing retail operations with an advanced solution, brands can provide accurate dispatch and delivery dates, and stay on top of inventory levels. Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) solutions can help highlight device performance to ensure device downtime will not cause supply chain disruption.
Secure Management of In-store Mobile Devices
Devices such as point-of-sale tablets, in-store printers and mobile devices are all being utilised in brick-and-mortar stores, to further enhance the customer experience. For example, River Island has recently announced the roll-out of in-store staff smartphones that can be used as mobile points of sale.
But with such initiatives, EMM software is required to effectively manage, secure and update mobile devices remotely, ensuring they all work effectively. An EMM solution helps IT managers stay aware of any potential issues with the devices before they arise, to mitigate device downtime.
Revamped Warehouse Processes
Wearable scanners to receive goods in and allocate them efficiently to retailers ensures minimal time wasted and faster customer deliveries. On location label printer management solutions with an EMM solution will ensure printers are working on time, efficiently and any issue scan be notified in advance to keep fast paced operations moving.
By implementing mobile-enabled operational intelligence on revamped and new IoT devices, retailers can ensure they have full visibility of the entire supply chain and product levels. Businesses can receive updates when stock is running low and any problems that may arise during transport. Using operational intelligence software can also diagnose and pre-empt potential problems to prevent device downtime.
With the right technology and tools, businesses can overcome the obstacles to ensure customer expectations are met during this holiday season, regardless of the volatile economic climate.
Improved Returns Process
A key challenge also lies in the returns process. Ensuring a simple process with QR codes for returns in local pick up and drop off points, with text updates and tracking abilities to trace your package back to the warehouse, right through to tracking updates for refunds. Research predicts that there could be up to 121 million returns completed by the end of 2022 costing £1 billion. With more returns and products circulating throughout supply chains, it is vital that remote devices have the capabilities to cope with this almost unprecedented level of items being returned – in addition to the demands they will face during Black Friday and Christmas shopping.
EMM solutions can benefit retailers by providing the tools for store operatives to manage and track returns into warehouses, thereby monitoring the progress of the return. This can then highlight potential delays to the return process which can then further halt consumer refunds. With EMM solutions retailers can continuously update consumers projected returns and the length of time to receive refunds.
What to Expect This Christmas
This year’s festive period is expected to be completely different from previous years, but nonetheless, retailers must be prepared and plan how they navigate the upcoming Holiday shopping season. Especially as SOTI’s research report, showed 34% of global consumers said delivery times have been slower than usual, and just 13% said retailers are providing accurate information as to what items are currently in stock. With consumers feeling disgruntled already when it comes to supply chain processes, the challenge is on.
Utilising new and older technologies are the key to offering consumers a seamless hybrid retail experience, as well as streamlining business operations from the warehouse to the shop floor. New mobile-enabled operational intelligence allows retailers to prevent potential issues with productivity or supply chain disruption and act accordingly to mitigate any disruption this may cause to the customers.
Black Friday has always marked the beginning of a chaotic seasonal shopping period. And for retailers, the key to a successful festive period is evolving and adapting to new consumer expectations and allowing fluidity throughout the businesses to tackle the ongoing supply chain and economic chaos in the UK.