How Voice Technology Supports Retailers’ “Mini DC” Needs
Brick-and-mortar retailers were already facing a hyper-competitive, continuously evolving market with perpetually rising customer expectations for the ideal shopping experience when COVID-19 disrupted daily lives around the globe. Grocery and mass merchandise retailers that offered click-and-collect and ship-from-store fulfillment options — originally as a means to differentiate from online-only retailers — were suddenly overwhelmed with orders from shoppers sheltering at home. Consumers who’d never tried those services before now zestfully embrace this offering and will probably keep using it after life returns to normal.
Meanwhile, retailers have discovered these services are time-consuming, inefficient, inconsistent and often unprofitable. Yet, they need to find a solution that helps them run their e-fulfillment operations more like mini distribution centers (DCs). Fortunately, their own DCs offer a proven answer to these emerging challenges: voice technology, a well-established solution used in warehousing, distribution and fulfillment for decades. What’s more, this same technology can be applied to in-store fulfillment workflows, allowing retailers to leverage integrated, data-driven process efficiency while strengthening customer loyalty and their competitive edge.
Applying Voice Technology on the Store Floor
Unlike DC operations, brick-and-mortar stores are unstructured and often unpredictable. Store associates cannot ignore shoppers to focus solely on a single task, such as filling click-and-collect orders, preparing direct-to-customer deliveries or replenishing shelves. More flexibility is required.
Further, many in-store workflows would greatly benefit from streamlining and standardization, including gap scanning, labor scheduling and inventory management. This is where DC technologies, specifically voice systems, can improve store operations, increase customer satisfaction and boost profitability. By guiding associates through tasks using a headset providing voice-directed instructions, stores can achieve new levels of consistency, accuracy and productivity — and much clearer metrics — in day-to-day operations.
A voice-directed workflow all but eliminates the risk of errors in order picking and preparation, stocking shelves, and counting inventory while delivering up to a 20 percent increase in productivity. Further, managers can finally do away with paper-based checklists and written inventory reports, instead capturing and analyzing detailed, real-time information about their store as workers complete their tasks. This intel also helps to identify areas of improvement to optimize operations.
The Benefits of Voice-Directed Workflows
For brick-and-mortar retailers, operational visibility and predictability go hand-in-hand. Voice technology and its software give managers the real-world data they need to establish baseline standards for task duration, allowing for more precise estimates of order readiness for in-store pickup. This data also informs labor models to build staffing requirements, helping determine how many associates are needed per shift to fill orders and keep store operations running smoothly.
Retailers can deploy voice technology workflows across a wide range of store tasks — including order fulfillment (in-store click-and-collect picking and returns processing); store operations (gap scanning, restocking, load-to-cart replenishment, stock counting, training, labor accountability, staffing and combined processes); and compliance tasks (planogram auditing and annual stock counts) — to achieve:
- Improved customer satisfaction: Associates can provide click-and-collect customers with the error-free orders and seamless experiences they demand, from receiving the order to packing and shipping.
- Higher inventory accuracy: Store managers gain better control of inventory from back-of-store to shelves with system-driven receiving, staging and restocking.
- Greater visibility and predictability: In-store and back-of-store order fulfillment processes and labor efficiency can be tracked and measured to identify how long it takes to perform tasks. This allows store managers to optimize staffing and associates to focus more attention on customers.
To learn how to apply the science of DC processes to the art of retail with Honeywell Voice, read our white paper titled Apply DC Science to the Art of Retail With Voice Technology.