The Turning Point in 2023: When Labor is No Longer a Challenge, it Becomes a Competitive Advantage
By Shamus Hines
Chief Executive Officer, Upshop
“No one is talking enough about how we improve the store experience for our people. People are who make it happen every day for our shoppers.”
This quote is from an Upshop client who is responsible for continuous improvement at one of the country’s leading grocery retailers. Their message is clear: 2023 needs to be the year we go from process improvement to people empowerment.
2023 needs to be the year we go from process improvement to people empowerment. Investing in employee-first systems isn’t just an if anymore: it’s an imperative competitive edge.
Retailers will continue to feel the pain point of labor; hiring is difficult and retaining even harder. Technology innovation has carried grocery operations into a modern technology ecosystem—but this also means the landscape has become infinitely more complicated. The average store has 44+ point solutions running the shopping experience; disconnected solutions are guaranteed to make an associate's job harder. Overworked, unhappy labor leads to customer experiences that shape up to be less-than-ideal.
Associates must become the hero for every retail technology partner.
How does technology empower associates? Technology has to give back time to the associate, freeing them up for shopper-driven tasks. UI must be so accessible anyone can use it—no matter age, experience level, or drive. Systems must facilitate smart use of skill by empowering every associate to be an invaluable resource. They need a singular, unifying operations platform that enables a simplified, smarter, more connected associate experience...making employees the competitive advantage, not the challenge.
The good news is this: strengthening associates with the correct tools and automation to fuel total store efficiency unlocks retailer and shopper benefits.
Take, for example, the case of eCommerce in-store fulfillment substitutions.
EVERYONE HATES SUBSTITUTIONS. Shoppers and associates.
The 60-120 seconds it takes associates to manage substitutions can conservatively add up to $1.75 to $3.50+ per order, or between 1 and 2 FTE additional labor resources per store.
Apply this logic at scale and it becomes clear that addressing the fundamental problem of inventory and replenishment ordering is one of the most impactful steps towards eCommerce profitability a retailer can take.
Putting associate efficiencies into practice means addressing the most urgent retail roadblocks—like eCommerce substitutions—at the source: investing in technology that accounts for and rectifies foundational challenges like inventory and ordering.
When your associates are equipped with the right technology, your customer experience is elevated, daily tasks are improved, team collaboration is amplified, and your operations go from good to great.
Investing in employee-first systems isn’t just an if anymore: it’s an imperative competitive edge. Make labor as simple and engaging as you can—and watch your employees do the same for the customer experience.
2023 is the year we hero the associate. I believe retailers are ready to step up.
Shamus Hines is the CEO of Upshop and has spent his career structuring financial acquisitions, building smarter enterprise technology, and pioneering product development. He has spoken widely in the industry on topics such as associate empowerment, the evolving complexity of omnichannel, and the critical nature of synchronizing total store operations through a singular platform. Hines leads Upshop with a customer-first mindset, elevating teams and encouraging workplace collaboration. His deep commitment to tackling the retail food waste challenge has fostered collaboration across the retail industry.