The labor shortage in retail remains one of the top challenges for retailers in 2023.
The pandemic highlighted the value of in-store experiences for shoppers, driving an 8% increase in bricks-and-mortar shopping between 2021 and 2022. However, the ongoing labor shortage in retail has left many retailers struggling to keep up with the staffing needed to meet increased customer expectations — in early 2023, 63% of retailers were operating with a deficit of frontline employees!
The vicious cycle: Low staffing creates poor experiences for employees and customers, causing high employee turnover.
Workers who haven’t left retail have had a hard time during the pandemic. Half (50%) of frontline retail employees surveyed said that employee staffing was either worse or much worse since the pandemic, and nearly half (43%) said that the demands of the job and/or their amount of work was worse since the pandemic.
Overall, frontline retail workers:
- are struggling with exhaustion and burnout: 72% of frontline workers feel exhausted after shifts to the point that they have trouble enjoying time outside of work.
- feel undervalued and disconnected: Only 16% felt their organization highly valued their roles, and only 38% feel well-connected to their organization’s management.
It’s not too surprising that 74% of retail workers say they’re either already searching for a new job or are thinking about it in 2023.
So what’s an embattled retailer to do?
Technology to the rescue: using retail solutions to overcome gaps and improve both employee and customer experience.
The shortage of retail labor isn’t going to abate any time soon. According to the U.S. Chamber of commerce, 50 million people quit their jobs in 2022, and 1.9 million workers have left the workforce entirely since 2020.
Many retailers are turning to technology to fill the gaps by improving workflows and offering improved options for customer experience — research from Forrester shows that in early 2023 80% of retailers planned to use technology to improve in-store experience for customers and employees.
So, what technology should wireless retailers be implementing to meet these challenges to provide superior customer and employee experience?
Get rid of clunky processes that force reps to enter data in multiple systems.
When customers are purchasing and activating new devices, it’s common for sales reps to have to swivel-chair between multiple systems that require separate data entry — creating a long transaction time that is frustrating for the agent as well as the customer. These disparate systems also require a lot training and can be overwhelming for new employees, which further compounds the frustration for everyone.
One key area where technology can be a game-changer is getting rid of these clunky processes that eat up valuable time and resources. A unified activation platform, such as iQmetrix’s Carrier Connect, solves these pain points by integrating disparate processes into one seamless flow, leading to a smoother and more efficient activation experience.
With fewer manual tasks, agents can focus on engaging with customers and providing top-notch customer service, thereby improving job satisfaction and retention. And the improved operational efficiency allows store operators to alleviate the workload on already stretched staff. This will allow you to not only attract top talent, but also to reduce training costs by both cutting time to competency and boosting retention of experienced team members.
Use omnichannel solutions to combine online convenience with in-store experience.
Consumers are increasingly beginning their shopping journeys online, so why not meet your customers where they are? Omnichannel solutions like BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store), can take the pressure off store associates by letting customers compare product offerings and make purchase decisions online. When integrated with inventory management systems, this can also eliminate the disappointment of finding out that that the product they want isn’t in-store by letting them know what is in stock.
BOPIS can also be used in tandem with solutions such as queue management and appointment booking to make sure that sales reps aren’t slammed with a lot of customers wanting to pick up and activate devices all at once.
BOPIS also delivers additional profits to retailers both through increased sales and reduced costs. Eighty-five percent of consumers who have used BOPIS say they have made additional unplanned in-store purchases when picking up orders!
Technology is key to overcoming retail labor challenges.
In the face of labor challenges, economic disruption, and ever-evolving customer expectations, staying ahead of the game requires investing in technologies that streamline workflows, reduce transaction times, and empower agents.