Driving a new level of efficiency in retail

The retail sector has been transformed by technology and new ways of shopping in recent years, but the new trend for hybrid shopping is posing some unique challenges from an operational standpoint.

Hybrid shopping is where consumers use both physical and digital touchpoints. They either view goods they’d like to buy in person, before moving onto online platforms to complete their purchase, or view online before visiting a store to buy. According to Shopify, it’s now the main buying method for 27% of consumers, rising to 36% among younger Generation Z shoppers.

Making hybrid shopping a success requires not only a careful balancing of physical and digital experiences for customers, but also efficient processes so that they seamlessly move through the buying journey. Streamlining operations with technology can play a big part in enabling those smooth customer flows, and this blog will explore the key areas where technology can be applied to best effect.

The advantages of streamlined operations

When retailers are able to maximise the efficiency of their operations, customers will get the positive experiences that they’re looking for from the brands they shop with. The increasingly digitised retail landscape means that it’s never been easier for customers to shop around, and many will abandon a retailer and move to a competitor even after just one bad experience.

At the same time, word of mouth and online user reviews are very powerful in influencing consumer sentiment, both positively and negatively. So as much as bad experiences can cost retailers business, good ones can play a major role in generating more revenue from new and existing customers alike.

Some of the tech-driven efficiencies are more customer-facing than others, but all have a contribution to make in helping retailers streamline operations. In particular, efficiencies can be found in these three areas:

  • Facilitating better inventory and supply chain control: with real-time data through all stages of the supply chain, it’s far easier for retailers to spot and resolve inefficiencies that can hold up deliveries, and to react quickly as and when problems arise. This digital-first, interconnected supply chain can be enabled through technology like RFID tags for item search and identification, syncing point-of-sale systems with inventory management for automated tracking, and data-driven inventory counts that enable inventory cycles and reports to be conducted more regularly
  • Enabling smoother customer journeys: the key to a seamless customer experience in the hybrid shopping era is to ensure that customers can easily move from online to physical touchpoints, and vice versa. This doesn’t just apply to streamlining checkout processes or automating emails for personalised marketing: it also applies to returns processes. If customers have bought items online that they no longer want, they don’t want the inconvenience of arranging postage of the return. A Buy-Online-Return-In-Store (BORIS) system is far more convenient, provided the right inventory management and tracking technology is in place, along with a self-service portal for creating return labels and receiving personalised communications
  • Improving sustainability: every day, more and more consumers are prioritising retailers who can demonstrate a meaningful commitment to sustainability in everything they do. This doesn’t necessarily have to be achieved through grand gestures that attract maximum publicity: instead, the smaller, more practical and tech-driven changes often resonate much better with customers on an individual level, and make them feel like they’re making a positive contribution. For example, this can include paperless receipt systems that use email instead of printing, or combining multiple orders into one delivery to save on packaging and reduce delivery emissions.

Practical solutions for potential efficiencies

There are so many different areas where retail operations can be streamlined that it can be hard to know which technologies and solutions are best for enabling them. However, three stand out as cost-effective, easily implementable and coming with a substantial benefit:

  • Saas Print Management solutions: using a software platform to manage all printing-related devices and resources can help cut unnecessary printing and wastage. Maximising efficiency in this area can help cut capital expenditure on print hardware, improve cashflow and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the business.
  • Cloud Print Solutions: moving print management into the cloud means that retailers can move away from expensive and energy-consuming on-premise servers. It also enables data analysis to identify unnecessary usage and drive further efficiencies.
  • HR automation: using automation to take care of repetitive, time-consuming tasks can ease the onboarding, recruitment and experiences for all employees. It can also help free up valuable time for the HR team to focus on other areas where employees may need support

Whatever your retail business sells, SCC has the Document Services to take your efficiency, sustainability and customer satisfaction to the next level. 

Speak to our experts about our range of IT solutions that help to streamline your retail operations. 

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