Effective Communications: Improving Performance Despite an Economic Slowdown

With the economy in slowdown, retailers are beginning to see the consumer spending slowdown hitting their profits hard and many businesses fear what the future holds. Many big name retailers have posted disappointing results which will make the next 12-18 months even more difficult for an already precarious market.

The goal for all retailers has always been threefold, to reduce costs, raise sales and improve the customer experience, but now the pressure builds. And there will be important questions to be raised in the Board Room. One important question, that can lead to substantial cost savings efficiency improvements, is, "How do we communicate effectively and consistently with our customers in the store, the media and the Web site?"

The question is not asked because the full extent of the problem is often not appreciated; retailers generally manage somehow to get their signage out to their stores. Some hard realities need to be confronted, because currently in every store, signs will disappear or get damaged or, worst of all, never get put up. Customers will not buy the item if the sign is missing, nor will they trust the store if it is a frequent occurrence. Missing or damaged signs must be spotted quickly and replaced even quicker. That means the in-store staff, instead of spending their time on the shop floor, are often in the back office or trying to find and replace missing and damaged signs. Also, if you think about a large store format - what are the chances of a store associate making it to the back office and returning without being interrupted and diverted by one or more customers.

These inefficiencies have dire results:

-There are long lead times in the creation of promotions, therefore they cannot be executed as frequently or as quickly as required, or, in some cases do not get executed at all in the stores.

-The creation and delivery of signage is a highly manual operation involving too much labour and consequently too much cost.

-Any changes can involve very expensive information technology changes rather than it being a quick and simple exercise.

-There is duplication across communication channels - paper signage, digital signage, Web site, TV displays, and kiosks as they are all being managed separately instead of managing all the communication channels in one place.

This results in repetition of data and effort causing branding inconsistencies, pricing errors and confused customers.

-There is a massive amount of wastage because their signage system is not integrated with the inventory system and so signage is sent to stores for items that are not even stocked, therefore increasing costs and the carbon footprint.

-When the right signage is sent to the right store too much time and effort is spent putting up and taking down signs because the signage system is not integrated with the store layout or planogram so batches of signs have been printed in no particular order. This introduces a substantial overhead for in-store staff putting up and taking down signs, rather than being focused on communication with the customer and other benefits.

-Deploying new initiatives can be difficult and very frustrating for marketing as they are given long lead times for what should be simple and quick to execute promotional activities.

But it does not need to be this way. The answer is a system by which you can manage all of your communications in one place and can execute it to all of your channels of communication, whether in-store or external. And the solution does not depend on technology, so much as improved control and integration of both systems and processes.

It is low risk, therefore quick to implement and the investment can be spread over a period of years, thus making it very quick to deliver a return.

At The Home Depot in Canada, the creation of a new sign has gone from being an Information Technology project of several weeks to a business task of less than one day. In addition, by printing signs in store walk order, stores can now complete 300% more price changes in a single shift compared to their previous signage system.

Retailers worldwide have implemented the Episys solution with their inventory system, which delivers savings of hundreds of thousands of pounds per year, as they no longer print or ship signs they do not need. Other retailers have found that when they looked into this that having spent money on the design, creation and deployment of promotional activity and signage when delivered to the store it often remains in the boxes rather than it being put up in the store. This issue can be taken away with the promotional audit module.

Woolworths in the UK has implemented mobile promotional printing on the shop floor to quickly replace missing or damaged signs. The number of customers who left without making a purchase because they couldn't find the price has gone down significantly. "This has been the most successful project for a number of years," saysMatt Jackson, head of retail operations.
To conclude, please ask the question but do not be fearful of the answer because you will discover the benefits to your organisation in terms of cost savings, the ability to increase sales because of a more efficient execution of promotions and a much more effective employee base.

By taking out these inefficiencies and implementing a solution such as this, you will then be able to drive communication to your customers in-store and externally by whichever is the most appropriate media mix to your own brand requirements. You do not have to think about it in terms of individual systems rather one system, which allows you to drive all of these devices very quickly to deliver maximum return.
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