As many retail businesses face increased competition and are forced to operate on smaller profit margins, implementing technology solutions to the workflow can significantly make a difference to the bottom line. Muneerah Bee talks to Raj Singh, vice-president of Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions ASEAN/ANZ, for insights into how this can be achieved.
What are some of the retail solutions that organisations must tap to stay ahead of the competition?
Raj Singh: The most important retail solution that must not be overlooked is technology that helps to provide shoppers with a convenient instore shopping experience. This will ultimately boost profitability and drive more customer loyalty.
Such technology can include mobile computers in the hands of retail employees to locate inventory for customers and reduce out-of-stock scenarios. Also, new 2D barcode scanning technology can quickly and easily enrol customers into loyalty programmes or access digital coupons from mobile phones without any hassle.
Why is it important for the retail industry to improve productivity in their online, offline or omnichannel models?
Raj: Bricks-and-mortar retailers are increasingly morphing into supplemental distribution centres (DCs) to support e-commerce fulfilment by leveraging available in-store inventory for customer pick-up or delivery. Hence, worker productivity will play a crucial role in all areas.
What are some of the latest advancements in enterprise mobility solutions that retailers should be leveraging?
Raj: Retailers should look into connected worker solutions, such as high-performance barcode scanners and mobile computers with integrated imaging technology, and voice-directed software, which simplify the effort to redeem mobile coupons and speed up loyalty programme enrolment and repeat sales.
Today, many retailers using older technologies face challenges due to a customer interaction management system that does not support the effectiveness of mobile marketing programmes. Additionally, they risk losing to their competitors by not staying up to date with the tools that can better help them.
What are some of the challenges to store operations, warehouse/ distribution centres and point of sale (POS)? How can these challenges be addressed?
Raj: For DCs and retail stores, one of the biggest costs to the business is unproductive time. According to recent Honeywell research, the average amount of unproductive time has increased from 15 minutes to 22 minutes per working day.
In the latest Honeywell studies of DC managers around the world, we also found that nearly eight out of 10 (79%) managers surveyed have been tasked with finding cost savings from existing operations.
To achieve this, managers are learning that they have to evaluate current processes and technology effectively to help identify areas where improvements can be made for increased efficiency. For example, eliminating battery changes midshift or using one device for multiple purposes are some ways that can help employees cut down on process steps over the course of a day.
It is also clear that effective deployment of technology investment will greatly impact productivity.
What can retailers do better to connect to their mobile customers?
Raj: Firstly, traditional retailers need their store associates to be more productive and more effective as salespeople. Retailers also need to make the click-and-collect process of picking up online orders a seamless and convenient experience for shoppers. Mobile technology in the hands of store workers can support these efforts to make it easy for them to locate the ordered item. It can also pave a way to provide additional sales opportunities when customers arrive to pick up their purchases.
Also, customers are increasingly expecting mobile checkout from anywhere in the store. Retailers can provide store associates with handheld computers to enable line
busting and mobile POS.
How can retail businesses empower their employees?
Raj: Retailers need technology that is focused on the worker to help that store associate perform his or her job more efficiently. Honeywell recently announced its new Connected Retail Solution, which is designed to empower all retail store employees. It combines software and mobile devices to bring DC operational excellence to bricks-and-mortar retail stores to enhance worker productivity, increase profitability and lead to better customer satisfaction.
The system allows retailers to better direct their store associates to improve speed and accuracy for fulfilling orders and completing routine store tasks.
What role does data play in supply chains today? How does that affect the way inventory is stored and transported?
Raj: Traceability is extremely important in the global supply chain system. Government regulations are now adding new requirements for tracking and reporting goods, starting from manufacturing all the way to retail.
For grocers and restaurants, in particular, consumers are increasingly demanding more visibility in the food supply chain. They want better traceability — from ‘farm to fork’ — of the food they eat. Millions of tons of food are wasted each year and the ability to easily track and trace goods during the entirety of the food chain, through the collection of valuable data, can help change that.