Retail, hospitality, or maybe even the whole leisure industry; they all deal with labor shortages. The need is high, but despite the low number of applicants, the need to continue to select rigorously still exists. The shortage of good staff is particularly dire in the retail industry. How will you ensure that the shortage of employees does not spoil the shopping pleasure of your customers?
Customers want to be helped by someone who understands the business, who can listen to them, and who can proactively come up with a suitable solution. This way, you ensure that the customer leaves the store with a satisfied feeling. But the specialized staff is sadly not up for grabs right now.
We’re not going to see this change anytime soon. An earlier article in Dutch that appeared on Retailtrends already provided insights into how various retailers respond to this problem, for example, addressing a different target group (for example, people over 50). However, for the longer term, there may be a different solution we can look at.
Technology impersonal or an outcome?
Let’s get straight to the point. The solution may lie in technology. But, replace the staff with digital communication devices, is that such a great idea? You do not want to negatively influence the personal interaction with the customer and of course, you also want to keep a close eye on the customer’s feelings. Moreover, the consumer research of ShoppingTomorrow shows that a majority of Dutch consumers have no preference for a completely unmanned store.
But let’s also look at the other side of the situation. For example, a customer looking for medical devices at the drugstore expects expert advice from trained staff. And the latter is the crux of the problem we are discussing. Because let’s face it, do you want to get your medical advice from an adolescent behind the cash register when you are paying for your ibuprofen?
According to the same ShoppingTomorrow study, personal advice is still the most important reason to visit the physical store. However, that percentage is dwindling. In 2019, 73% of consumers still saw a visit to the physical store as the preferred method of contact with retailers in case of need for information or advice. In 2022, this had already fallen to 63%.
Optimal personal contact with fewer staff
To give the customer the feeling that they are being helped in a personal way and of course, in a professional way, it is a godsend to focus on digital communication. Interactive wayfinding is a good example of this. The customer can enter what he or she is looking for at an interactive kiosk. This digital assistant accurately indicates where in the store the desired products can be found.
But comparable technology can be made even more personal. Let’s go back to the example of medical information. Consider, for example, a digital kiosk where you can request specific medical information about a physical complaint or a medical device that you want to purchase. Such a kiosk is easy to link to a video calling system. As a retailer, you make sure that your specialist is available to provide information via the kiosk. The relevant specialist can take care of this for all branches.
Schoonenberg Hoorcomfort is currently running a similar pilot, in which customers can do a quick hearing test at an unmanned kiosk. The test results are sent immediately and if they turn out not to be good, the customer immediately receives an invitation to make an appointment with a consultant. Via a built-in application, it is also possible to ask questions to a specialist via a direct video connection.
Experience it yourself
The technological possibilities are endless. But in the end, it all comes down to one thing: a satisfied customer who leaves the store. You decide what works best for your store(s). Would you like to spar about the future of technology in retail? Please feel free to contact one of our specialists.