Gareth Thomas, Retail Business Consultant at Zetes, explains the importance of optimising Store Assistant activity to not only prioritise excellent customer engagement but also improve efficiency and transform profitability.

Real-time access to informationThe role of the high street store has changed fundamentally over the past decade – and with it the day to day activities of the Store Assistant. While it is now a given that retailers will offer click and collect and buy online and return in store, increasingly self-informed and empowered customers heading in store also expect a Store Assistant to offer a far more engaging and personal shopping experience. But where does that leave the Store Assistant now tasked with multiple roles from fulfilling click and collect orders to managing inventory, replenishing shelves and selling?  How can a retailer manage these diverse in-store activities to maximise productivity and efficiency and achieve a great customer experience?

This article discusses how in-store solutions, and more specifically a retail task management software, are key to today’s retailers who wish to get the most out of their store assistants whilst keeping customer experience at the centre.

Understanding in-store activity
Right now, the vast majority (69%) of retailers have no insight into the way Store Assistants spend their time and, therefore, no way of determining how to optimise activity. Of those retailers that can monitor activity, Store Assistants typically spend 30% of their time managing inventory, including inventory management and replenishment in the back of the store.

Of course, a Store Assistant’s primary role is still improving sales through direct customer engagement. However, increasing customer expectations and their changing behaviour, along with the fact that for almost a third of the time Store Assistants are not customer facing are all having a significant implication for in-store revenue and long-term loyalty and this cannot be ignored. Customers are simply more empowered and impatient; they are checking products online before entering the store and if a product is not on the shelf, the vast majority will just walk back out. And if they do ask a Store Assistant, they want information fast – with 30% prepared to wait less than two minutes for information; 70% leaving within five.

How can a retailer empower their Store Assistants to effectively juggle all of these requirements to both achieve profitability through improved productivity and meet customer expectations in order to maximise sales?

Leveraging real-time information and setting clear KPIs will help improve task management and help retailers get the most out of Store Assistants working in omni-channel.

Empowering Assistants
Clearly the number one priority has to be to provide Store Assistants with a real-time view of inventory – something achieved by just 36% of retailers to date – preferably via a mobile device to ensure a customer query can be answered on the shop floor.  However, while this will improve the quality of the customer interaction, it does not address the ‘multi-job’ challenge and the fact that a great customer experience can only be delivered by an available assistant, not by one stuck in the stock room.

Real-time access to informationIn addition to the real-time view, streamlining logistics processes such as inventory receipting and automated flagging of inventory gaps on the shelf can reduce the time spent handling stock. Critically, it is about leveraging real-time information to improve retail task management and using this information to dynamically prioritise and allocate the task activities of the store assistants.

Now is the time for retailers to ensure they are becoming more prescriptive about each employee’s objectives by setting clear KPIs for each task within their role. In conjunction with a real-time view of inventory and slick inbound logistics, improving these tasks will need to be supported by improved analytics and insight into the overall store performance.  To get the most out of each staff member in-store and to enhance their value to the business and its customers, retailers should analyse all Store Assistant activity and assess the impact on the store’s overall revenue, so that they can undertake a continual reassessment and optimisation of task management.