There’s no doubt that Covid has had a significant impact on one of the most important industries - Retail. Shopping center traffic has decreased, there are shifts in market demand, and more people choose to order online with delivery or pick up orders. No matter where you are from - Australia, America, or any other country - you’ll have felt the massive impact on your local economy at some point. In this blog, we will discuss three specific challenges affecting retailers and how an employee-branded app can help retailers address these challenges post-pandemic.
There is no denying that Covid has had a significant impact on one of the biggest sectors - retail. As we return to a new type of normal, retailers need to be prepared to do business the way that is safe, fits new consumer shopping habits, and has a bounce-back effect on bottom lines.
Retail throughout the pandemic has seen a huge increase in store closures, decreasing shopping center traffic, shifting demand in terms of markets, and a drive in both delivery and online pick up orders. How are we to respond for success now and in the future considering these business-disruptive events?
An employee branded app can help with retail challenges post pandemic.
Store operations have changed, with new timelines, rules, and tasks to stay Covid-safe. Ensuring that new systems are built to encapsulate these changes is critical - and that employees know the changes and how they affect their work day.
It’s not enough to communicate changes verbally, or with only a central self-service computer for reference. Employees need to be able to access up-to-date information and new workflows as they need them - which is only possible with an employee app retail focus, either BYOD or with a significant amount of devices on the floor.
Consumers are now used to shopping online, but as shipping times blow out and postage delays may be ongoing, businesses need to be prepared to be able to meet demand and keep customers happy.
“Australia Post paused parcel collections from online retailers in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, and Victoria from 7am, 4 September 201 to 7am, 7 September 2021. The company blamed the backlog on a culmination of current COVID-19 restrictions, shortage of staff, and increasing volumes of online orders.” - Australian online retailers still playing catch up from Australia Post's parcel pause, ZDNet
For major businesses, implementing an in-house or outsourced delivery unit can overcome these challenges. For smaller retailers, considering alternate private services can help.
The main thing that retailers need to manage is customer expectations - which means clear outlining of shipping times, even if they are longer than customers will want.
For customer service agents within companies, this means the ability to bring up and check orders from within a company app. Employees need visibility into orders at a tap.
In terms of recovery in physical stores, retailers need to assess how shopping will work post-pandemic. Many consumers now prefer the ease of shopping online, which may require a decrease in store floor size for browsing, but a larger orders area or warehouse distribution centers for picking and packing. Job rotation may be necessary.
Employee roles may shift from in-person sales to online help desks.
“Competing successfully online will be crucial. Sizing the business to the new reality may be a matter of survival. This is why retailers must take bold steps now.” - Retail after Covid-19: A challenging new reality, KPMG
The changes to retail don’t just affect upper management, owners, and shareholders. They also affect employees. Fresh from harsh lockdowns and difficult working conditions, employees are unsure of the future, feel expendable, and while grateful for a job, expectations are low.
By communicating new retail changes effectively to employees, you are able to manage their expectations, increase their wellbeing, and start building a positive working culture again for better satisfaction and retention.
With an employee app:
With traditional retail operations, when staff are on the floor, communication only occurs when they are going to find a manager or picking up an in-store phone. When employees are not working there is little to no communication. This isn’t good enough in a world where we are able to communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere, via chat apps.
We need business technology to reflect the state of consumer technology. If employees can’t reach the business near-instantly, brand sentiments flounder. The employee as a consumer is a newer business paradigm that is sticking.
Similarly, managers need to be able to reach their team at all times, and companies need to be able to push important information blasts - especially regarding health and safety operations during these times.
For casual and part time workers, the need to communicate effectively is even greater, as they have less time at work.
An employee communication app is the only viable option to satisfy all these requirements.
Onboarding can be tricky without very well designed and carried out internal processes and procedures. Giving a cohort of new employees a five hour training talk, a binder full of company information, and a pile full of forms on their first day is no longer going to cut it.
Instead, digital, self-service onboarding workflows need to be implemented across the business. New employees can have access to onboarding tasks such as filling in digital forms, videos of how stores work operationally, a quiz or quizzes e.g. to onboard and understand product knowledge or returns management, and other learning activities. Businesses can have clear timeframes of when certain activities need to be completed by, and notify staff if onboarding deadlines are coming up.
Using an employee app, the majority of onboarding activities can be done online, even walkthroughs of physical spaces for staff orientation to inspect the product and store layout, meaning that new employees can be ready to go before they even step foot in a store.
The right retail employee app covers some critical functions within a business:
CentricMinds has a configurable, company branded, and easy to use and manage employee apps that ticks all the boxes for retailers returning to a post-pandemic new normal. Take the opportunity to adopt a digital-first posture that’ll benefit both your business as well as your team. Is your company ready to use an employee app?