Woolworths Uses Stock Checker to Improve Customer Satisfaction


Woolworths, a European general merchandise retailer, makes sure that its customers can easily obtain the 'Big Red Book' catalog items during the past holiday season by implementing in-store stock checking technology.

The success of the Woolworths Big Red Book previously meant that occasionally customers were disappointed when they got to the till point to find that their chosen item had sold out. Woolworths formulated a plan to address this by implementing company-wide stock checker solutions. They selected Episys as their systems integration partner.

Woolworths' IT team built a shared service software solution to check availability of products both in-store and at their central fulfilment warehouses. They chose Episys to integrate this to colleague-operated mobile devices in all their stores and self-service "Stock Checker" units in 98 stores. Episys managed both integration and installation. Thanks to the new service customers can confirm product availability either by asking a store colleague or by serving themselves at a stock checker or customer service kiosk.

Tony Godwin, Woolworths IT Director said, "This solution was developed quickly and cost effectively in partnership with our team. Because common software is used across our devices, there is one version of the truth. This is a great example of Episys systems integration; they showed great ownership in getting the solution up and running."

The colleague-service part of the project went live in October and took four weeks to implement, from concept to reality. There are now 2,000 mobile devices in use by staff. The self-service Stock Checkers took eight weeks, including site surveys, installation and training, with Episys co-ordinating a consortium of supplier partners.

Woolworths wanted to provide customers with the facility to check product availability on the shop floor, and is exploring both colleague and self-service options. The solution needed to be in all stores for the 2007 pre-Christmas period.

The Company launched their 'Big Red Book' to showcase its extended multi-channel product offer. This has been such a success that at times they have found it hard to keep all the products available throughout the life of the catalog. They did not want customers to have to queue at the till to find this out.

The same mobile device is used for the Stock Checker as for in-store mobile shelf edge labeling and other stock management tools (also provided by Episys).

Stock Checking for customers is an extremely important project for Woolworths, who wanted a device that enabled customers to check product availability for themselves. Episys was chosen thanks to its innovative approach to complement the existing Woolworths infrastructure rather than replacing it.

Episys program managed the entire implementation, including selecting the hardware for the devices (Devlin and NordicID), supplying and implementing the platform-management software in association with J Brands, integration of the hardware and software to the Stock Checker shared service developed in-house at Woolworths, and getting the store equipment up and running. Woolworths' design required a larger LCD screen for the self-service Stock Checker, allowing for more information to be displayed, like an extended product description and details of store as well as to-order availability.

So far the self-service Stock Checker has been rolled out to 98 stores, all with at least two devices. The project went live on schedule. Woolworths is very pleased with the early results. Within a fortnight self-service checks in the 98 stores had already overtaken colleague-service checks in the other 720. 1,800 shoppers served themselves within the first ten days and usage continues to grow rapidly.

Steve Lewis, Managing Director (Retail and Distribution) at Woolworths, and sponsor of the project said, "The solution is amazing. The project has taken just eight weeks from start to finish. This is another example of Woolworths investing in customer service and delivering great results. "

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