Navigating The 2021 Retail Holiday Season
The 2021 holiday season is already posing significant challenges to retailers. One of the greatest challenges for retailers this year will be overcoming a tight labor market while combating high employee turnover, hiring and training seasonal employees, and making sure customers stay engaged and happy during one of the year’s most stressful and trying times for retailers and consumers alike.
This year, the retail industry is expected to add over 700,000 seasonal holiday workers — all while managing their existing, often disengaged workforce. This retail period is key to delivering profit for retailers, but this challenging workforce environment could ultimately create a drag on retailers’ profitability. So how can retailers prepare their workforce to thrive this challenging holiday season?
Table of Contents
- Meeting Customer Expectations with an Exceptional Retail Workforce
- #1: Seamlessly Train and Integrate Seasonal Employees
- #2: Increase Productivity and Performance
- #3: Engage Employees When It Matters Most
- #4: Improve Operational Control Over Busy Retail Organizations
- Transform the Holiday Shopping Season With Orion
- Related Content
Meeting Customer Expectations with an Exceptional Retail Workforce
According to RSR Research, 58% of leading retailers admit they are struggling to meet changing customer expectations of a seamless experience across digital and physical touchpoints. Retailers need to equip their workforce with technology that supports their ability to provide a consistent and exceptional customer experience — no matter how they shop this holiday season.
While e-commerce is growing, shoppers are proving that they still want that personalized experience that can’t be achieved by shopping online at home. In fact, Forrester predicts brick-and-mortar retail sales will still account for almost three-quarters of all U.S. retail sales until at least 2024. This pattern shows the in-store experience is irreplaceable.
Brick-and-mortar stores are retailers’ opportunity to engage directly with their customers and are the most important physical touchpoints with consumers. Customer experience is formed by employee touchpoints from the drive-up lane to curbside pickup and from the aisles to the register. However, new seasonal employees can make or break a customer’s experience.
Adding seasonal employees into this high-stakes environment makes for a risky business situation. On the one hand, retailers need extra help during their busiest time of the year. On the other hand, retailers need to make sure customers are happy and receive the best service possible. The fact is that this exceptional service will lead to more upsells and cross-sells.
It’s mission-critical for retailers to do everything they can to make sure seasonal (and full-time!) employees are prepared.
Orion’s push-to-talk (PTT 2.0) communication and collaboration platform fits this need. Retailers empower and connect their frontline retail workforce with voice, text, and multimedia on any device. Bonus? Orions’s intelligent communication and collaboration technology offers many more transformative benefits for retail workers — new, seasonal, and experienced alike.
Here are 4 ways retailers can use Orion’s Push-to-Talk 2.0 collaboration platform to build a thriving operation with a faster, smarter workforce this 2021 holiday season:
#1: Seamlessly Train and Integrate Seasonal Employees
The first key to a successful holiday season is getting new and seasonal workers up to speed fast. All retailers know that reduced training time hurts the bottom line. Translation: All associates need to be trained — Day One/Minute One — on how to support critical functions like same-day fulfillment, BOPIS/BOPAC, register operations, customer service, and more.
Retailers that deploy communication and collaboration platforms empower new (and existing) workers with voice-driven access to training manuals and best-practice guides at the point of work. New employees seamlessly retrieve information to better serve customers on their first day on the job. From any point on the floor, they can access information like the process for accepting a check, pricing on a specific product, or store policies on returns.
As frontline workers gain confidence in the store process and protocols, they can perform more advanced tasks crucial to making personalized recommendations, cross-sells, and upsells to customers. Retail associates connect to SMEs like sommeliers or tech experts to answer questions in any store or at headquarters. Ultimately, retail associates are seamlessly onboarded, using voice to access critical information from their point-of-work — all while staying heads-up and focused on customers.
#2: Increase Productivity and Performance
In this tight labor market, retailers need to supercharge their retail associates with technology that enables them to accomplish more.
AI Voice-Driven Process Automation and Intelligence
Orion Voice Bots and Workflows enable seasonal retail associates to act faster and smarter while remaining heads-up with customers. Voice AI workflows coupled with integration to the store’s inventory, operations, or fulfillment databases empower associates who are working hard to meet customer expectations during the holidays.
Let’s take one example: A customer asks if a certain item will be back in stock soon. Traditionally, an associate would leave the customer and search for the required product and corresponding stock information in a POS system. This is time-consuming and takes the focus off the customer. Orion’s intelligent collaboration platform allows the associate to request the information in seconds with a voice trigger. The customer gets answers fast, and the associate remains heads-up and engaged, able to answer more questions, help more customers, and ultimately increase product throughput.
Store System Integrations
The Orion platform uses automation and integrations with store systems to revolutionize customer service. Orion Voice Bots notify employees when customers trip motion sensors in sections with high-end goods or ring a buzzer for access to a locked case. Associates receive a notification to respond to the customer request, with more frequent, subsequent reminders as time goes on. If no associates are available, the notification escalates to a manager to resolve, ensuring no request goes unanswered. Retailers gain assurances that associates and managers capitalize on every customer’s request — even when resources are stretched thin during the busy holiday season.
Omnichannel Holiday Shopping Support
Big-box retailer Target saw same-day pick-up or delivery channels increase 60% in Q3 this year, foreshadowing high growth in omnichannel shopping demand this holiday season.
Orion’s automation assists with fulfilling omnichannel orders by notifying associates of new orders, when orders are ready, and more. Associates are always connected, even from the curb, parking lot, or on a delivery run. Customers benefit from faster fulfillment times for BOPIS, BOPAC, and same-day delivery.
Instant Holiday Merchandise Experts
Orion also amplifies each employee’s performance with access to SMEs, making each employee an instant expert — even seasonal employees. Let’s say a customer asks an associate which wine best pairs with a particular holiday meal. The associate uses Orion PTT 2.0 to ask the company’s wine expert — whether the SME (sommelier) is located in the store, in a region, or at headquarters — and receives real-time, expert advice on which wine the customer should purchase.
Orion enables seasonal associates to provide fast, superior customer service, and retailers enable their workforce to accomplish more with less during their busiest time of the year.
#3: Engage Employees When It Matters Most
E-commerce is rising faster than ever, but 60 to 70% of shoppers indicate that they will research both online and in-store before making a purchase this holiday season. As shopping behavior changes, retailers have to focus on creating a stellar in-store holiday shopping experience in order to keep them coming back to the brick-and-mortar store.
Retail employee engagement is a critical component of building this positive customer experience during the holidays. Unfortunately, as many as 1 in 3 U.S. retail workers are disengaged from their work — a direct, negative impact on sales and customer satisfaction. If your current workers are already disengaged, what kind of message is that sending to your seasonal new hires?
One immediate way to increase employee engagement is to provide technology that makes their jobs more fulfilling. Gallup estimates that Gen Z and Millennials make up 46% of the full-time workforce. This growing segment of the retail workforce lives in a technology-driven world and workers expect employers to provide intuitive, intelligent technology to support them at work in ways similar to their technology experiences at home.
Orion’s PTT 2.0 platform offers a superb experience with a single interface that supports communication and access to SMEs and store information. With Orion, retailers can use powerful, intuitive technology to motivate retail associates — veteran and seasonal alike. When retail associates are better equipped to perform their job, they are more likely to provide greater value to the customer experience, ultimately resulting in more upsells and cross-sells for retailers.
Retail collaboration technology enables associates to more easily and efficiently communicate with their teams. When associates are connected with their co-workers, they are more supportive of the mission of ensuring shoppers have the best holiday shopping experience.
Orion’s PTT 2.0 platform enables associates to use multimodal collaboration with high-quality push-to-talk audio and multimedia to connect in groups or 1:1 with managers and individual team members. Orion provides real-time language translation too, so multilingual teams can communicate no matter their language.
When employees have a better experience, customers will have a better shopping experience.
#4: Improve Operational Control Over Busy Retail Organizations
Deloitte predicts holiday shopping sales could rise by 9% this year, requiring stores and supply chains to run smoothly to meet soaring demand. Retail managers are a critical component in ensuring a profitable holiday shopping season. Store managers wear many hats as they handle the retail floor workforce and support associates as they drive sales, fulfill omnichannel orders, and satisfy customer expectations.
Advanced Location Services
During the frenetic holiday shopping season, managers especially need greater organizational visibility across the retail floor, stock room, and even the parking lot as associates fulfill BOPIS/BOPAC orders. Orion’s collaboration platform provides management with a detailed view of their workforce and operations from an individual store, regional center, or headquarters.
Retailers use advanced location services to view a complete map of their workforce in real time. Drivers, warehouse employees, and retail floor associates are all instantly accessible, helping retailers respond to dynamic customer demands and redeploy resources fast.
Flexible Group Communications
The holiday shopping season requires fast thinking, instant collaboration, and dynamic responses when assisting customers. Orion’s Operational Control comes with ad hoc 1:1 or limited group environments to help managers and associates quickly address urgent, evolving, or dynamic issues. Managers are able to seamlessly coordinate with specific team members without distracting others from their tasks. This comes in handy when reminding team members to collect shopping carts from the parking lot, redirecting store associates to busy shopping aisles, supporting new or seasonal hires, or even responding to shoplifting.
Analysis and Optimization of Holiday Season Strategy
Each data point generated by the wealth of communication and location information is recorded and stored. Retailers gain insights into their real-time holiday operations and are able to measure and analyze the entire message stream. From there, managers can turn this information into useful insights to enhance customer service, improve operations, and drive profit during this critical period.
Transform the Holiday Shopping Season With Orion
Retailers and customers are preparing for a holiday shopping season like no other. Digital transformation is critical for retailers, especially for the seasonal frontline workers who are critical to creating a stellar shopping experience.
Workforce constraints are a challenge, but communication and collaboration technology offer a unique opportunity for long-lasting, impactful transformation. Orion’s intelligent collaboration platform and push-to-talk 2.0 system is a cloud-based SaaS platform that enables retailers to deploy in a single day, offering rapid scalability. Retailers instantly gain a Voice Operations System of Record, allowing them to optimize operations in real-time.
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