The Key to Building Customer Loyalty in a Time of Uncertainty: Streamlined Retail Communications
By Gary Stonell
Effects of the pandemic, inflation, and supply chain challenges will undoubtedly continue to affect not only the retail industry, but also the way consumers shop. With more U.S. consumers switching to different brands and retailers in 2022 than at any time since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s evident that retailers must ensure they are able to attract and retain consumers.
To build loyalty in a time of ongoing uncertainty, retailers must work to create a satisfactory experience for customers using their most valuable asset: their employees. To hire and keep good, helpful employees, retailers can streamline employee management and unify communication channels. Doing so guarantees that employees are able to quickly adapt, are prepared to assist customers and can enhance the experience for omnichannel shoppers.
Help Employees Stay Ahead of Tasks and Pivot Quickly
Although retailers can’t always control challenges in the supply chain, they can ensure that all employees are on top of tasks and prepared to quickly and efficiently communicate any changes in stock level. With centralized communications and task management, employees can let managers know when product inventory is decreasing or when products are moving quicker than anticipated on the shelf. For example, if an employee sees that a certain brand of clothing is flying off the rack, they can let their managers know. Then, managers can create tasks for employees to address to solve these problems, such as reordering more products from that specific supplier. This helps retailers proactively counter any supply chain issues that may affect stock ahead of time.
Not only does improving operational communications allow retailers to easily keep track of inventory, but it also guarantees that employees can sufficiently assist shoppers and improve the overall shopping experience. When employees are well-trained and prepared to pivot when changes in stock or product availability occur, managers can adjust roles in real time, whether that be sending employees to assist shoppers in the aisles, or staff checkout lanes.
Ensure Employees Are Equipped to Help Customers
When shopping for groceries, over two-thirds (68%) of shoppers have become more price-conscious since the start of the pandemic. By streamlining task management and communication, employees can access all needed information through a mobile device, including detailed item inventory or price changes. For example, automating workflow makes it possible for employees to quickly update a price on the shelf as soon as the change happens in the system, ensuring customers aren’t surprised when they get to checkout.
Although inflation cooled in January, prices have still risen by 6.4% over the last twelve months. For price-sensitive shoppers, successful retailers are those with helpful employees who can provide real-time, relevant insights and information. Employees can recommend specific products to different shoppers that fit within their budget or answer any promotion-related questions, making customers feel that their needs are being met.
Improve the Omnichannel Experience
The pandemic exacerbated the need for alternatives to in-store shopping.When the pandemic hit in 2020, Best Buy was one of the stores that quickly pivoted to omnichannel, converting four test stores into fulfillment hubs and partnering with Shipt to streamline pickup and delivery. Automating store operations allows retailers to exceed shopper expectations no matter how they decide to shop. Whether they shop in-store, via curbside pickup, or through BOPIS, retailers can guarantee that employees are efficiently assisting all shoppers.
With complete visibility on all tasks, retail managers can streamline task execution across teams and locations. For example, if a manager sees that there is an uptick in curbside orders at one store, they can reassign employees to help with on-time fulfillment. Prioritizing the omnichannel experience is an easy way to ensure all shoppers feel valued.
Build Customer Loyalty for the Long Haul
Although many factors around the pandemic, inflation and supply chain challenges are out of retailers’ hands, they must work to reduce the effects that impact consumers and proactively solve problems before they arise to keep customers for the long haul. By centralizing store operations and retail communications, retailers can boost the customer experience by staying ahead of tasks, keeping employees informed, and refining the omnichannel experience. Doing so not only makes customers loyal to a retailer in times of uncertainty, but it also builds lasting loyalty, turning one-time shoppers into long-term customers.
— Gary Stonell, SVP of Sales and Operations, Opterus
About the Author
Stonell, SVP of sales and operations, Opterus, has 20 years of sales management and business development experience in CPG and SaaS. Beginning his career in CPG, he worked for Kraft Foods, Philips Electronics, then SunRype Products fostering partnerships with retailers and managing various aspects of the sales and marketing processes. More recently at Sysomos/Meltwater, a SaaS-based social media content management platform, Stonell led the enterprise sales team responsible for managing existing clients and new logo acquisition. The key to his success has been a meaningful focus on building business relationships with collaborative solution based partnerships.
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