Combating Retail Ghosting: How Digital Tools Drive Worker Retention

Retail employees are quitting the industry in droves.
help wanted sign
Equipping employees with technology can aid retention.

Retail employees are quitting the industry in droves.

While the “Great Resignation” may have subsided, retail turnover remains uncharacteristically high, and for good reason. Low pay, repetitive tasks, and challenges with customers all factor into workers' decision to go in search of greener pastures.

On top of the staffing challenges, retailers are also seeing increased customer expectations for in-store experiences. The barrier between online and in-store shopping is beginning to vanish, and customers expect the same levels of personalization and convenience from their in-store shopping experience as from rapidly advancing online platforms.

Retailers can offer higher wages to motivate workers to stick around, but raising costs to compensate for this move might not be an option in a competitive environment. It does nothing to help workers with demanding customers or routine tasks.

All these factors contribute to companies looking for technological solutions to help them out, with studies showing 43% planning to reduce their workforce through technology. While automation is quickly advancing, positions like floor sales associates cannot be replaced. The challenge is how to use technology to empower employees with greater data on their products and customers, as well as reduce waste in their day-to-day work.

Putting the Power in Employees’ Hands

Shopping assistant apps have put the power of a high-end personal shopper into the hands of every worker. Employees now have real-time visibility into store inventory, maps, and online availability. With advances like endless aisle, sales associates are empowered to work with products beyond the store’s walls. Out-of-stock items can be ordered online from the shop, as can alternate colors or styles.

Through images and shoppable image tags, businesses can show off in real time what an item looks like, what it’s made from, and how it would pair with another item — all on a handheld device. This augmented reality (AR) experience allows every employee to be a stylist or personal shopping advisor, creating a better experience for customers and driving revenue.

The benefits go beyond just the products alone. Sales associates can platforms that provide detailed customer data during customer interaction. They can see a customer’s order history, items that have been in their cart, and AI-powered product suggestions.

Having this level of insight into the products and the customer allows employees to handle more orders with a higher value per order. Workers having the tools to make more educated decisions and receive better customer feedback are more incentivized to stay in their position.

[Read more: Survey: Amid labor shortage, technologies must desired by retail employees are …]

Cutting out the Waste

The flip side of using technology to empower employees is using it to cut down on waste to increase their contribution, and cut out things that feel like a waste of time or talent. One of the most effective tools for retailers to build efficiency and empower their employees is a robust order management system (OMS). These systems unite all inventory and orders across channels into a single system.

Gone are the days of wandering a store in search of inventory or checking boxes on a clipboard to keep up with inventory. Now, associates can find and locate items in real-time, both in-store and online, providing customers with accurate product information instantly.

Utilizing an OMS can reduce the repetitive workflows employees have traditionally been tasked with and free them up to focus on more high-level responsibilities, leading to high-quality customer service. And there are benefits to internal processes through collecting this data as well. Understanding where orders are surging across both online and in-store platforms allows for AI-powered analytics to make strategic decisions about inventory allocation.

Pick, pack, and ship apps are another way to reduce waste. These systems advise workers on which order should go first and where the items are located and then provide real-time inventory availability updates for the customer.

These apps can process returns and keep track of inventory, even if a product is bought online and returned in person or purchased in-store but delivered from the warehouse. By keeping a close eye on what’s in stock, inventory replenishment can be automated regardless of updates from sales channels.

Automating routine tasks and streamlining processes like refunds that have been the cause of pain points for employees in the past empowers them to spend more time on higher-value tasks, making the job less frustrating and boosting staff-wide morale.

Better Systems for Employees and Employers

Keeping retail stores staffed through the holidays and beyond requires a balancing act. On one side, retailers can leverage technologies that can, in some cases, replace workers carrying out mundane tasks. On the other hand, they need to retain human workers tempted to switch to other industries. That means the challenge is identifying how to empower employees with digital transformation by deploying

AI-enabled technology that reduces repetitive tasks, builds efficiency, and streamlines workflows for better customer service. Weaving the latest and greatest technologies into day-to-day operations creates a better experience for all parties and encourages employees to stick around.

Gerry Szatvanyi is CEO of OSF Digital and Simion Petrov is senior VP of Innovation and Industries, OSF Digital.


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