Gartner: Retail’s role in sustainability improvements

woman shopping in store

Increasingly, retailers are learning that sustainability matters to their customers, and the COVID season did not stop sustainability efforts.

Recycling, energy conservation and reduction of waste are all everyday topics of conversation.

That desire to help conserve Earth’s resources has helped unite customers who may otherwise be very different from one another.

To meet the increasing requests from customers for carbon-neutral packaging and products, retailers are offering more environmentally friendly options. Gartner has recommended three ways retailers could improve sustainability within their supply chains: source responsibly; use recyclable or minimal packaging; incorporate “recycled goods” into product offerings.

Source Responsibly

Image:  Tom Fisk 

Retailers can choose vendor and distribution partners who practice sustainability.

When reviewing vendors, retailers can weigh sustainability as quality.

Sustainability includes processes that mitigate the harmful impacts of pollution and waste on the ecosystem, including reducing freshwater contamination and greenhouse gases.

Retailers benefit too, because sustainable practices such as decreasing energy usage, cutting back on waste generated and eliminating equipment for pollution control lower operating costs.

Packaging

Image: Karolina Grabowska

Many suppliers are coming up with innovative packaging to reduce waste.

For example, dental floss can now be purchased in reusable glass vials, rather than hard plastic packages.

Not only has the product cut back dramatically on waste, but because of its very nature, it creates its own pool of customers who return to buy the floss replacement on a regular basis.

On the recycling side, L’Oreal cosmetics will market its first cosmetics in recyclable paper bottles to consumers this year.

“Re-commerce” Goods

Image: Nataliya Vaitkevich 

Thrifting — or shopping secondhand—is in vogue, and not solely because items are bargains or bespoke.

Because these goods are living a second life, they aren’t taking up room at the local landfill.

In addition, significant amounts of resources are saved by not creating a new product. For example, making a pair of jeans uses approximately 1,800 gallons of water.

The production process also generated greenhouse gases equal to driving more than 80 miles.

A number of retailers are focused on the “re-commerce” market, such as ThredUp and Poshmark, but some clothing brands including REI and Patagonia are selling their own gently used clothing, similar to the way in which luxury automobiles have sold “certified pre-owned vehicles” for many years.

Retailers wanting to strengthen or embark on a sustainability program should ensure their suppliers are committed to the same long-term vision.

Increasingly, customers are looking to buy from retailers and brands that share their values, and that includes companies that recycle, reduce waste and promote sustainable business practices.


In-store shoppers, in-store fulfillment: Planning for inventory challenges

safe retail shopping during COVID

Handling a supply chain is always part art, part skill — but during 2020, it sometimes seemed like it was also part magic act.

Getting products on shelves was a testament to the relationships retailers had built over the years with their suppliers, and only the strongest survived.

COVID inventory crisis

man staring at wall with papers pinned to it

A little more than one year ago, COVID-19 lockdowns began — ushered in by a period of consumer buying never before experienced.

Within days, paper goods and disinfectants were out of stock, available only on the black market for outrageous prices.

A year later, quarantines are gradually being lifted, in some areas more quickly than in others, and most — if not all — of the items once in short supply are reliably back on retailers’ shelves.

A year ago, however, many retailers were forced to close very quickly, with little notice and stockrooms full of inventory.

Those retailers not considered “essential” were left with a surplus of stock that during the ensuing weeks and months became outdated and unwanted; many people weren’t leaving their homes, so foot traffic hit all-time lows.

Adapting stock strategies

Online retailers and brick-and-mortar shops alike depend on good inventory management to run an efficient business.

Now that stores are open on a more regular schedule, their managers are recognizing that inventory strategies must change.

By offering a more curated selection than pre-COVID, retailers can more adeptly handle the ongoing uncertainty in customer traffic and buying behavior.

A number of retailers, including Gap and Nordstrom’s, reportedly reopened with a limited stock strategy, to hedge against a less-than-robust shopping season.

BOPIS challenge

In some respects, offering customers the option of buying online, picking up in-store (BOPIS) saved the day.

Many retailers further simplified the process for customers by offering curbside pickup; customers never had to leave their cars to retrieve their purchases.

By allowing customers the flexibility of purchasing online and retrieving products safely without leaving their cars, retailers eliminated a point of customer friction: Customers had the convenience of ordering online plus, in many cases, same-day pickup.

However, retailers faced the challenge of maintaining the right amount of inventory in stores to keep brick-and-mortar shoppers happy while still profiting from opportunities to move inventory through digital channels.

Stores that came up with the perfect balance will likely continue to offer the service post-COVID because of its popularity with customers.

Visibility into inventory movement

Retailers can only be successful at both in-store selling and e-commerce with accurate insight from trading partners into what is coming in and when.

With integrated inventory visibility from suppliers, retailers won’t be risking the safety stock they’ve built for in-store consumers.

For example, sending shipment information within two hours of shipment departure, and including scannable barcode labels on all packages can help retailers manage appropriate safety stock thresholds for in-store and BOPIS experiences.

Inventory management tools like Retail Pro also make the process more efficient for retailers.

When ordering merchandise on a multi-store Purchase Order in Retail Pro, a retailer can generate an advance ship notice for each store so each store knows what merchandise to expect.

When the merchandise arrives at the store, managers can generate a voucher from the advance ship notice to receive the items ordered on the PO into inventory.

Recovery ahead

Inventory management pre-COVID required effort and attention to detail.

During COVID, the supply chain was thrust into chaos, as manufacturers slowed production due to workers’ illness at their facilities, and orders fluctuated from exceeding capacity to trickling in.

Post-COVID, in the weeks and months ahead, the economy will begin to recover, and inventory management will face challenges as demand increases and stock levels race to meet it. When vendors are transparent and help retailers plan based on accurate delivery forecasts, retailers will be able to pursue sales opportunities in digital channels, resulting in improved top-line revenue and contributing to a global economic recovery.


Retailers benefit from unified commerce insights

For retailers, a unified commerce strategy is built on the foundation of integrated retail technology for an efficient, frictionless customer experience across channels.

Unified commerce gives retailers a smooth, efficient means of transacting business, because inventory, sales, e-commerce, and fulfillment system data is integrated to regularly and automatically keep inventory availability and customer details synced and up to date.

From Point of Sale to e-commerce, from CRM to inventory management, all these technologies need to be connected so retailers have a clear picture of who their customers are and how to provide what they want.

Interaction with customers

Woman examines various items of dishes. Beautiful woman shopping tableware in supermarket. Manager helps a costumer.

Each time a customer enters the retail store, they leave behind a wealth of data for any retailer who can measure their interactions within the store:

  • What was bought?
  • What was picked up but not purchased in the end?
  • What was the dwell time near products that were not purchased?
  • How long was the customer in-store?
  • Was this an online pickup?
  • Did they purchase other items along with their online pickup?

Those answers, when documented with technology, inform a retailer’s back-end systems, so inventory can keep pace with demand, and so marketing teams can keep pace with customer needs.

To collate and analyze that information, retail processes and tools must be intelligently integrated in a retail management platform like Retail Pro to enable sharing of relevant data across both customer-facing systems and those that integrate with backend vendor systems.

Applications from the point-of-sale report on purchases, inventory, and customer data. Sharing this data with an integrated warehouse management system allows warehouse staff to have insight into stock levels currently on the shelves, and to place orders with suppliers as supplies diminish.

Sharing the data with a loyalty and personalized marketing platform like AppCard for Retail Pro allows marketing teams to create targeted campaigns around a customer’s purchase history.

Consistent data across channels

That principle also applies to in-store sales staff—they should have the same product information available as retailers’ online channels.

Integrating your ecommerce software with your POS can give store staff the visibility they need to serve customers who call in to verify stock availability before coming in.

Customers who started their retail journey at home but then switch “channels” to come into the brick-and-mortar store must be certain that inventory is in sync: Surprises such as realizing that products aren’t in stock when the web site said they were there are unacceptable.

If your website indicates there is a pair of shoes in certain size on the shelf, your in-store staff should be able to verify that through an inventory management application.

Retailers that use disparate, unintegrated systems risk delays in communication because data is manually updated at the end of the day, causing inventory counts to become out of sync and unreliable.



Customer-facing systems for engagement

There are a number of technologies that retailers can put in place to provide a seamless customer-facing experience.

Shelf labels and cameras can map consumers’ movements within the store. That helps in product layout for future products, and in product forecasting. They can also indicate where is the heaviest foot traffic within the store.

Beacons can communicate with an app on the customer’s phone to notify them of product sales when customers are in the store’s vicinity, enticing them to stop in.

When integrated with the POS as well, interactions in the app which originated from a beacon trigger and resulted in the ultimate purchase can be properly attributed to track the efficacy of the tools and campaigns put in place.

The connected data then provides insight also on unvoiced customer needs which are nevertheless discernable through their interactions with a retailer’s various channels.

Integrating data in retail technologies provides the foundation for retailers to more effectively determine and act on customer needs for a better customer experience.


US retail’s recent rush to adopt contactless payments

Image: Pixabay

The COVID-19 pandemic has motivated retailers to turn to technology to help their businesses plan better, increase productivity, and service their customers.

Contactless payments are one of the areas that, because of COVID-19, will change forever the way retailers do business.

Safer and faster checkout

safe retail shopping during COVID
Image: Anna Shvets

These RFID-enabled payments have been available for years but have surged in popularity during the pandemic.

Not only is contactless more hygienic – in the time of COVID-19, no one wants to touch cash that’s been touched by hundreds of strangers – but it also streamlines the entire checkout process.

While the pandemic may have provided a strong push toward a cashless society, customers could still choose to use a traditional payment card, rather than NFC technology, and be safer from virus exposure during the transaction because they are operating the card reader rather than handling cash.

However, because they use radio-frequency identification, contactless payments reduce time waiting in lines.

The “tap-and-go” process generally results in speedier transactions. While the transaction time for a chip-enabled card can take as long as 30 to 45 seconds, a contactless transaction can be as short as 10 to 15 seconds.

Global adoption of contactless payments

Contactless transactions build upon RFID and typically use NFC technology, the foundation for services such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Globally, this method of payment is very popular. 

The United States, however, has been slow to adopt contactless payments.

In 2018, only 3% of cards in use in the United States were contactless, compared with 64% in the United Kingdom and up to 96% in South Korea, according to global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

Even prior to the pandemic, Juniper Research reported that contactless payments would triple to $6 trillion worldwide by 2024, up from roughly $2 trillion this year.

OEM mobile wallet transactions were predicted to increase as banks expanded the use of contactless cards. 

In the U.S. market, contactless transaction values were expected to rise at an even higher rate than the global market, reaching $1.5 trillion by 2024, compared with the approximated $178 billion in 2020. 

Once COVID-19 hit, contactless payments began to surge.

By August 2020, the global contactless payment market was valued at $ 1.05 trillion by 2019 transaction value, and is now predicted to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 20.01% between 2020 and 2027.

Today, the global contactless payment market value is expected to surpass $ 4.60 trillion by 2027.

Customers have enough friction getting out to the store today. By offering contactless payments, retailers can provide an efficient, safe method for purchasing goods and services while enhancing the customer’s overall experience.


Predictive analytics: Looking at the past to shape future sales

Understanding customer behavior and shopping patterns is difficult enough during “normal times.”

So, when a shockwave hits the system – like a global pandemic or natural disaster – it stresses the supply chain and puts planning on its ear.

Accounting for seasonality in demand

Image: JESHOOTS.com

Predictive analytics can help retailers prepare for all types of seasonal happenings, including not only holidays, but also hurricanes and wildfires.

Natural disasters are often seasonal: For example, wildfire season is August-November and hurricane season is slightly longer, starting in June.

While it is impossible to predict the final landfall point of a hurricane or the path of a wildfire, goods can be procured in a way that optimizes costs while considering all path probabilities.

Making accurate predictions regarding the types and amounts of products demanded by consumers is not trivial: Ineffective forecasting efforts result in shortages of in-demand products as well as overages of unwanted products that ultimately must be salvaged.

Focusing predictive analytics on concrete business objectives

Image: shattha pilabut

It seems paradoxical that predictive analytics uses historical information to determine future shopper actions.

Such retail data might include transactions, sales results, customer complaints, and marketing information.

Retailers use predictive analytics with a business goal in mind. 

By harnessing large, heterogeneous data sets into models, they can glean clear, actionable intelligence that helps them achieve their goals, such as more sales, less inventory, and faster deliveries.

Having the right data is key to predictive analytics success. That information may include:

  • Point-of-sale data
  • Consumer-related information (e.g., loyalty programs)
  • Store layout
  • Online navigation traffic flow
  • Consumer demography
  • External factors, such as weather

Retailers can prepare for seasonal shopping by crunching last year’s sales data, combining it with those other pieces of information, and creating a game plan that can meet any storm – or holiday – head on.

The key to retail growth in today’s marketplace is unlocking the benefits of predictive analytics to gain a deep understanding of the customer base to maximize sales, improve inventory churn and increase customer satisfaction.


Operational growing pains during COVID-19: Inefficiency stemming from poor data visibility

The larger a retailer becomes, the longer it takes to get simple tasks accomplished.

Whether it is an associate’s inability to quickly respond to a customer’s product feature query, or the HR department’s delay in answering an employee’s benefits question, such examples are indicative of a systemic problem in providing relevant information when needed.

Then, when a global pandemic strikes, the inefficiencies resulting from operational growing pains are made all the more evident.

A systemic information problem

Inefficiencies tend to be rooted around lack of information.

A customer service agent doesn’t have visibility into the supply chain, for example, and can’t answer a customer’s question about order status.

In addition, the consequences of those inefficiencies are generally not confined to the backroom – one inventory problem can very quickly escalate to a customer service issue when a product shows up on the computer as in-stock, yet isn’t available on the sales floor.

Attempting to solve customer problems can be a frustrating process for both the employee and the customer, which may eventually lead to loss of trust and decreased retention for the business.

That threat can’t be taken lightly; according to Salesforce, 76% of customers report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.

Gaining comprehensive visibility

A comprehensive suite of reporting and analysis capabilities is necessary to make sense of all the data a retail business collects through its various sales channels, including in-store as well as online and social media.

Customizable business intelligence dashboards and reporting tools like Retail Pro Decisions and Retail Pro Reporting deliver visibility of operational performance and exception alerts.

They are available on a wide range of desktop and mobile devices and provide not only decision-making data daily, but also a historical and trend view that offers strategic insights.

Selective archive search

Slow, inefficient archive operations force employees to struggle with storage and retrieval of in-formation that business analytics provides, stealing time from performing their core responsibilities.

Gathering too much information can be a major barrier to accessing the right information.

Some inefficiencies can be solved with archival systems that enable the easy application of multiple retention rules according to the document category.

For example, those HR records that require longer archiving periods than others would automatically be filed appropriately.

In addition, permissions are automatically allocated to those who require them according to skillset and authority.

All archived materials should be easy to access as needed.

Visibility into what?

Retailers are faced with gathering the answers to inventory questions, beyond what products are best-sellers and who is the target customer.

Such analytical questions include:

  • What products should be sold together?
  • What is the optimal shelf life is for certain products?
  • Is the pricing strategy impacting sales volumes?
  • What should the sell-through percentage be?
  • What is the stock-to-sales ratio?
  • What is the stock turn, and how many days of supply are there?

Best-in-class retailers head off problems from the start.

They understand the need for great reporting tools and the need to analyze the data, not just collect it.

They are proactive and require tools that alert them to potential problems, help them figure out root causes of successes as well as failures, and enable their businesses to be more agile so they can adapt when needed and profit from future trends.


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Consumers are watching for consistency between brand’s messaging and business reality during COVID-19

Gaining customers’ trust and loyalty is always a painstaking business.

Particularly in times of crisis, that work pays off as customers turn to the comfort of the companies they are not only familiar with, but are also aligned with on global issues.

McKinsey research has found that 64 percent of customers choose to buy from socially responsible brands.

Retailers are under scrutiny today more than ever, as customers are increasingly interested in how companies demonstrate their ethical practices in the ways they conduct business.

Customers are attuned to local, national and global issues, and their buying decisions are increasingly influenced by how retailers are responding to the world.

Indeed, customers who once wondered, “Does this company have questionable labor practices?” now also ask, “How did this company treat its employees during COVID-19?”

News reports suggest that the businesses that show concern and empathy for their employees are winning with customers.

COVID-19’s shift in retail plans and consumer behavior

The COVID-19 pandemic and periods of economic shutdown have thrust retailers into crisis mode, and into providing services that were not on the roadmap for this year — if ever.

Curbside pickup of items from bath towels to ground beef has become commonplace; even this past January curbside was something only a handful of pharmacies and chain restaurants offered.

Customers too had to change buying habits and embrace e-commerce.

The proof is in the numbers: It was, quite literally, Christmas in May as digital sales were up 77.8% year over year to $82.5 billion, tracking higher than holiday shopping levels on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to Barron’s.

Analysts are still watching to see whether these shifts will remain or recoil.

But during times of crisis, the way a business treats its customers can make a lasting impact.

Loyalty is reinforced with brands who show care in crisis

Consumers remember which companies contributed to their communities’ well-being.

Those that were supportive earn loyalty — and the ones that were perceived to be unsympathetic lost customers.

Customer experience leaders must not only position their companies as being socially responsive in order to attract and retain shoppers, but actually strive to embody those values.

Empathy, care and concern are part of a new currency.

Of course, delivering high-quality products and services at a good value along with providing excellent customer service will never go out of style.

But involvement in civic causes demonstrates how — and whether — the company cares about their customers.

In times of hardship, customers want to know their favorite stores are there for them and will reward those retailers with their loyalty even after the crisis has passed.


3 retail supply chain vulnerabilities to fortify during COVID-19

Disruptions to the supply chain — beginning in China in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak — have impacted the availability of inventory and delivery times.

Customers are now often faced with significant shipping delays — sometimes as long as 14 days.

And retailers themselves are experiencing shortages from their own suppliers.

Inventories across the board have been reportedly low (and sadly not due to higher turn), and factory closures in China and other manufacturing countries mean they may not be able to restock products easily.

Retailers who have been weathering the storm with greater fortitude have discussed production schedules with their manufacturers and have an idea of how COVID-19 is impacting their businesses.

From warehouse and store employees being affected by quarantine or illness, to an over-reliance on human intervention within inventory planning, the pandemic has uncovered existing vulnerabilities within retail supply chains.

Here are 3 areas of vulnerability to fortify during COVID-19.

1: People: Be clear on protocol for employee safety along the supply chain

Offering goods and services that delight customers and entice them to return should be the goal of all profitable retailers.

But the safety and well-being of customers, staff and the suppliers that are delivering goods to your warehouses is of first importance, especially during COVID-19.

Using the Retail Pro Prism app for your receiving operations will help your team maintain social distancing.

Advance ship notice (ASN) vouchers in Retail Pro will also help speed up the receiving process, reducing employee exposure.

Retailers weathering this storm should not assume suppliers are current on specific state and countries’ health and safety policies.

Instead, they should sponsor straight-forward discussion of expectations.

That makes delivery staff feel secure and shows the entire staff their safety is a priority.

For later reference, supporting documents should be sent via email or texts to reinforce the message and ensure compliance.

Having a direct and transparent approach will help ensure both an adequate product supply to serve customers as well as a healthy customer pipeline.

2: Process: Adapt your 80/20 to align supply with demand

Some retailers have created redundant supply chains to handle quick shifts in demand, adapting the 80/20 to source 80 percent of product for low cost and 20 percent for fast response.

Quick response with volatile demand can often be sourced more locally, even within the United States.

For each of those suppliers, a direct line of communication with a designated person is critical, as is understanding who their suppliers are.

Transparency is key.

Weekly check-ins help keep everyone on the same page, as policies affecting suppliers are rapidly changing, as are supply needs, state mandates and safety protocols.

When the interests and data of retailers, suppliers, and manufacturers in the supply chain are aligned, the decision-making of each works together to help to optimize the entire supply chain’s performance.

Vendor management tools in a POS and retail management software like Retail Pro Prism go a long way toward helping retailers keep up to date records on critical vendor information, including the following:

  • Contact information
  • Account and payment terms
  • Currency defaults, especially for international suppliers
  • Trade discounts
  • Special notes and product images

3: Product: Keep reevaluating inventory costs and allocations

Cost of goods sold is rising because vendors must account for the extra time and associated expenses that are accrued with no-contact delivery, purchases of masks and gloves, etc.

With a higher cost of inventory, the types and variety of products purchased must be regularly reevaluated.

COVID-19 has changed customers’ needs and preferences, so agile inventory strategies are required.

However, just-in-time strategies may seem risky at a time when vendor shipments are generally delayed.

Allocation patterns across stores will also need to be reevaluated to account for COVID-induced purchase variations.

Use reports in Retail Pro Prism to stay up on demand flux and use the findings to adapt allocation patterns for problem stores.

Right now, retailers are seeing the value of integration between their retail management and enterprise resource planning software.

Such integrations, as between Retail Pro and SAP, allow for automated data exchange between the two tools so merchandise managers have up to date data unified in one picture of the entire business.

Fragmented data sources are always a cause for wider margins of error in ordering and allocation, but even more so during a pandemic when historical data is a less reliable source for forecasting.

A new study by WMG, University of Warwick, and Blue Yonder concludes that retailers must invest in creating supply chains with greater flexibility, visibility and automation: “Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a key role in helping retailers navigate future disruption, whilst still meeting customers’ expectations.”

In-depth and on-going analysis of recent shopping patterns will help retailers make more strategic decisions on product offerings, which will dictate inventory ordering.

Latent vulnerabilities existed in retailers’ supply chains prior to COVID-19 but the pandemic served to draw them out.

The added strain exposed and compounded weaknesses.

Addressing these three areas will help fortify the supply chain to last through the pandemic.

As conditions begin to plateau, retailers will be able to revisit these areas with more thought to long-term improvement.


Retail Pro Prism: Tracking inventory needs and movement in COVID-19’s accelerated Omnichannel

Image: Polina Tankilevitch

The uptick in online sales due to COVID-19 has been explosive.

Listrak reports a 40% increase in ecommerce revenue since the United States declared a state of emergency in late Spring.

Research from Klaviyo shows a sudden spike in demand for product categories that help people make the most of time at home, such as the “new essentials” that include electronics, housewares, and office supplies.

Order values of electronics this June 15 was approximately $8 million, for example, compared with roughly $4 million one year ago.

Retailers in the home goods industry are likewise seeing an impressive increase in sales, likely because shelter-in-place laws have made people a bit more conscious of their home environments.

As demand surges, many manufacturers are finding it difficult to keep up. Retailers are faced with figuring out how to efficiently manage inventory during production slowdowns when products are in high demand.

No retailer wants a repeat of the infamous “toilet paper shortage.”

With the uptick in sales, retailers are keeping a closer watch on orders to ensure satisfied shoppers.

Having accurate inventory data is crucial to survival for retail, which is where retail management solutions such as Retail Pro Prism fit in.

Tracking inventory available for omnichannel sales with Retail Pro

Because many physical stores are not yet opened at full capacity, a greater percentage of sales are being funneled through e-commerce platforms.

However, as states and nations reopen commerce, curbside pickup and in-store purchases are being added to the mix even for non-food retail, making it increasingly important that inventory counts across channels are accurate.

But many retailers were only on the path to omnichannel when COVID-19 hit and have had to accelerate digital efforts to create somewhat of a make-shift omnichannel to fill moment’s need.

As the platform for omnichannel data connectivity, Retail Pro Prism also helps retailers fill in the gaps as they transition toward fully integrated data across systems.

Retail Pro Prism gives retailers full visibility into their inventory at each location, whether the goods are at the warehouse, in transit, in the back room, or on the sales floor.

This kind of detailed visibility gives retail managers greater accuracy in tracking inventory, helping minimize unprofitable overstocks and the opportunity cost of shortages.

Automated replenishment capabilities based on minimum and maximum values in Retail Pro also ensure purchase orders are placed in time to prevent shortages.

Integration with retailers’ ecommerce platforms gives a threefold benefit:

  1. Shoppers are given visibility into which locations near them have the products they want in stock
  2. Store inventory can be used to fulfill online orders, increasing turn and reducing the need for duplicate inventory sets, one for each channel
  3. Changes to inventory triggered by online purchases or purchases in store are automatically updated in both platforms, keeping availability accurate

Gauging staffing needs based on transaction and traffic volume

Image: Edmond Dantès

Proper inventory tracking processes not only guarantee items are on hand when requested but can also help with employee staffing.

With less shoppers in stores during COVID-19, certain support staff jobs are not being performed at the same rate, so stocking up on the materials used for those jobs isn’t imperative.

Reduced foot traffic means moving resources and shifting focus. Warehouse workers may need to adjust schedules and workloads to accommodate.

Using reports and visual analytics in Retail Pro, you can compare staffing levels to number of transactions completed per hour, including the number of items per transaction and foot traffic counts.

These kinds of data together will help determine whether an increase in staff would be needed to improve the experience for shoppers as they are coming back to your stores and wanting to find items quickly.

Levi’s: better turn even during COVID-19

Levi Strauss credits smart inventory management with helping it to remain strong during the COVID-19 crisis.

In the first quarter of 2020, the company reported inventories were 7% lower than the prior year’s.

During an investor call, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Harmit Singh said that Levi’s strategy will continue to focus on inventory management and added that a significant majority of its inventory is core replenishment.

That includes stock it can carry over into future seasons: More than 70% of Levi products are so-called “evergreen products.”

In addition, the retailer plans to increase its ship-from-store capabilities, allowing retail outlets to fulfill e-commerce orders.

When they do venture into a store post Covid-19, customers will want to see well stocked shelves and will not want to wait for shipments to arrive.

With a more proactive approach to tracking inventory and stocking shelves, retailers can keep existing customers happy — and attract new ones.


Curbside retail: here to stay, and simpler with Retail Pro Prism POS

Thinking out of the box and providing new ways for customers to connect with retail has long been critical for businesses to maintain loyal shoppers as well as to attract new prospects.

Sometimes, circumstances such as COVID-19’s mandated social distancing are the impetus for lasting changes.

Many retailers have had some omnichannel presence, but others have had little or even no experience; both groups have had to innovate and create new ways to connect with customers during COVID-19, many of whom wanted to shop but were reluctant to mingle with the public at large.

As a result, retailers’ new strategies are catering to those unique, and challenging, requests.

At a time when many are feeling overwhelmed, retailers that can offer convenience will be rewarded by shoppers.

Curbside pickup is one convenience strategy that has been refined in recent weeks and is likely to remain long after shoppers’ fears about going into stores have subsided.

Curbside: the final BOPIS frontier

Image: Gustavo Fring

Prior to March, many large retailers offered the ability to buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS).

The strategy lets customers shop round the clock, and then during business hours take delivery of the products at the retailer.

It may save the customer some time, but it’s more likely simply enabling a “time shift”: Instead of shopping for two hours between 10 and 8, BOPIS customers might shop for an hour online at midnight, and then stop on the way home from work to retrieve the items.

However, “stopping off” used to mean find a parking spot, enter the store, find the pickup location and finish the transaction.

All those steps ate up precious time.

Simplifying curbside pickup with Retail Pro POS

Retail Pro Prism mobile point of sale

Integrating curbside pickup into the process has made BOPIS much more efficient for the customer; the pre-ordered product is simply delivered to the customer waiting in the car.

That last step makes BOPIS far more convenient, and Retail Pro Prism mobile POS makes this step more convenient for your team.

With Retail Pro Prism you get the same deep functionality on any device you use – whether mobile or desktop, Apple, Android, or Windows – so your associates can meet your customer at their car with their order, POS in hand. This is useful for orders that were reserved online and still need to be rung up.

Customers who have been shopping with you online during COVID-19 may also bring returns with them when they come to pick up their order.

With Retail Pro Prism mobile POS, your sales associate can complete the return on the spot with the customer’s receipt. If the customer forgot their receipt, you can easily look up the transaction from the system or just look up the item in your inventory and enter it as a return transaction.

You can even sign your customer up for the integrated AppCard loyalty and rewards from the curbside.

Retail to go

Image: Christina Morillo

The number of orders placed online and picked up at brick-and-mortar stores by customers rose 208% between April 1 and April 20 compared with a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures the web transactions of 80 of the top 100 U.S. internet retailers.

If retailers keep the curbside option once they fully reopen, it will provide yet another delivery channel to their most busy customers.

Texas governor Greg Abbott recently allowed nonessential retail stores to start offering curbside pickup, or, as he called it, “retail to go.”

Even before the economic shutdown, some pharmacies were offering curbside service, such as CVS.

However, the drugstore chain didn’t offer the service at all of its outlets, and it was relatively unique in offering it.

Pre-COVID, curbside pickup was nowhere near as popular as it has become.

Looking into the future, it seems logical customers will want to retain this new convenience.

Convenience is going to drive the economy in the coming months, and possibly years.

While born out of necessity, customers are going to consider a once-novel curbside service part of the “new normal” retail experience.