Despite the best intentions from digital transformation, the effective evolution of processes and workflows in retail operations is sluggish. Employees are still performing repetitive, redundant, and time-consuming tasks, and broken or disjointed systems leave workers feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and under-valued.
Retailers globally are trying to prioritize innovation and automate their workflows to optimize their day-to-day operations and counteract these sentiments. However, current challenges are requiring the industry to quicken its pace with adopting new technology.
One technology adoption accelerant is the economy – the US is heading into a potential recession this year and the current labor shortage is expected to continue. Workforce participation has steadily remained below pre-pandemic levels in 2022, and compared to February 2020, roughly 3.4 million fewer Americans are working today. At the same time, consumer expectations for convenience and innovation are greater than ever.
As a result, one of the major questions our retail clients are asking is “how do we do more with less?” Countless companies are struggling to both fill and maintain their workforce, and it’s becoming crucial for them to determine how to empower (and retain) their current employees and make their legacy processes simpler and more efficient.
Any technology investment is under extreme scrutiny and must deliver in spades to stand a chance of being commissioned. Retailers are asking: “how do we do more with less?”
To be successful in 2023, retailers must recognize and adapt to recent trends, including:
- Stricter Financial Motivations: Although retailers just experienced a record-breaking holiday shopping season, the global economic situation and the Russian-Ukraine war’s impact on the global supply chain has already significantly influenced business investment and consumer spending decisions in the industry – and will continue doing so in 2023. As a result, any technology investment is under extreme scrutiny and must deliver in spades to stand a chance of being commissioned: high ROI is a given.
- Omnichannel Strategies are Key to Customer Engagement: Omnichannel shopping increased post-pandemic, and in 2023, shoppers will continue purchasing through a combination of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. E-commerce significantly pushed previous boundaries and thrived during the pandemic, but sales have been declining since early 2022 as consumers resumed their craving for physical retail and in-person experiences. Simultaneously, customers aren’t ready to give up the convenience they became accustomed to through shopping online during the pandemic.
To support and find balance between both desires, and therefore drive profitability, retailers will need to review and enhance their processes for managing inventory, sales, and more in 2023. For example, companies like River Island are streamlining operations and empowering their employees with smart data capture solutions, which allow workers to retrieve product information, check stock availability, and more in real-time directly from one smart device.
- New Forms of Retail: On top of hybrid shopping, consumers will carry on exploring new ways to shop. This could be via third-party fulfillment companies like DoorDash, Shipt and Instacart, cashier-less stores like Amazon, or experiential stores like SHOWFIELDS or The Body Shop. Same-day home delivery, in particular, is thriving and isn’t going away anytime soon. Whatever the experience, retailers looking to thrive need to innovate to stay relevant.
- Generational Demands: Recently, Generation Z consumers have been leading the charge in demanding that more information about products be made available in-store. From information on brand sustainability commitments like carbon footprint and non-fast fashion, to product origins, dietary information, and background on the brand – these consumers want transparency in what they’re buying, and retailers must be prepared to easily provide this information.
- ID Verification: This year will see an increase in ID verification as more age-limited products are sold and delivered online. While the REAL ID enforcement deadline was recently extended to 2025, states are beginning to recognize there’s significant room for improvement, and simple visual verification of IDs doesn’t work.
The retailers that will stand apart from their competitors throughout 2023 and beyond are the ones that look to adopt technology and solutions like smart data capture which relieve employee workloads and empower staff to upskill, while offering retailers important data they can leverage for both in-store and omnichannel strategies. In doing so, companies will provide store associates with more time and resources to dedicate to necessary, value-add activities like customer service and experiential retail.