29 Jun Retail Recovery: Virtual technology for remote store visits
“Virtual technology for remote store visits” is the third part of our four-part Retail Recovery series. Click here to download the full retail recovery plan.
“At the end of December, Zoom reported a maximum of 10 million daily users. By March, 200 million people were on it each day to work, socialise, view lessons and lectures, sing in choirs, attend church, birthday parties and weddings, meet new babies, say final words to dying family members and observe Ramadan and Easter.”The Guardian
Over the last few months virtual technology has become part of our daily life. It’s how we’ve connected with loved ones, managed our mental health, stayed fit – and for non-essential workers, it’s how we’ve communicated with our colleagues.
For many retail teams in head offices across the UK it’s been a steep learning curve. It’s easy to think back to the sentiments of friends and colleagues who said, “well it just wouldn’t be possible to do my job from home, so I don’t see how it’s going to work.”
And yet a few months later, businesses have adapted, employees continue to work, and it seems like we’ll work from home for the foreseeable future.
Remote working does work, and we’ve proved it. In fact, there’s plenty of research out there to suggest that working from home makes us more productive.
In a Ted Talk by Nicholas Bloom, Eberle Professor in the Department of Economics at Stanford University, he discusses a study undertaken by China’s largest travel company Ctrip. The study found that remote workers made 13.5% more calls than in-office employees, which was the equivalent of almost a full extra days’ worth of work in a given week. They reported higher job satisfaction, demonstrated a productivity boost because they eliminated distractions and found it easier to concentrate at home.
The success of remote working has also led us to consider the long term, positive financial impact this could have on our businesses.
Many businesses, including retailers, are reconsidering the need for large offices, face to face meetings and international travel.
With the potential to significantly reduce outgoing costs in the future, retailers should strive to recreate this success in other areas of their business by harnessing the power of virtual technology.
How can we bring this efficiency and cost reduction into other areas of retail?
It’s not something that anyone likes to think about, but for most retailers emerging from this crisis, it’s going to involve making some difficult and unpleasant decisions. Whether it’s closing stores or losing team members, senior management teams are going to need to take a hard look at their business operations to cut costs.
Virtual technology can help support these difficult decisions and improve efficiency.
Virtual Technology for Remote Store Visits
With the right technology you can help your field team to support their stores remotely, without having to be constantly on the road visiting stores. Of course, we aren’t suggesting that they never visit a store, but instead we’re suggesting they reduce the frequency of face to face visits to improve efficiency, mitigate health risks and cut costs.
There are several ways a remote store visit can be managed. Here are a few examples:
- We’re all familiar with a store visit form. Hosting this online means that a store can complete a “self-audit” and provide feedback and photo evidence. The report can be shared with their Area Manager online, who can then discuss with the store team via video call and provide actions for the store.
- Head office teams can have regular “check in” video calls with store managers, to see how they are coping with new store measures, how store teams are settling in and if they need any further support.
- For quarterly or annual visits, store managers can use video to guide Area Managers around the store. The Area Managers can complete their visit report digitally and it can be shared with stores online with all their actions.
- Set all stores regular requests for photos, for example a photo of your store queue at 11am on a Saturday, so you can manage potential pain points without having to physically be on site.
Improving efficiency and cutting costs
The average Area Manager is responsible for 15-20 stores and visits 1-2 stores per day. For some Area Managers, their stores are spread across a large area and so much of their day is spent on the road travelling to stores.
With remote store visits, Area Managers can win back those extra hours spent in the car and use that time to continue to support stores. They will be able to increase the number of stores they can communicate with in a day, and therefore they’ll have a much better grasp of what is going on in
their area at any given time. Being off site allows Area Managers to be more available to their stores. Less time travelling or in the stock room means store teams can get hold of them more easily.
Many field teams are still conducting their visit reports on a static excel spreadsheet, and sometimes even on paper.
By digitising your store visits, your field team will spend less time writing up their feedback, filing and circulating the reports, and chasing tasks.
We understand that sometimes change can be challenging and some team members are resistant to new ways of working. Area Managers in particular, as well-respected members of the retail team, often have their own ways they like to conduct a visit – whether that’s on paper or with a preferred app. However, unless you have all Area Managers using the same tool, these ways of working simply won’t be efficient enough.
Using technology to collate information from stores saves time – so they can focus on reviewing and actioning their store visit. And with a more efficient store visit process, Area Managers will have the capacity to manage a higher number of stores, freeing up resources.
Want to learn more?
Download the full StorIQ Retail Recovery Plan by clicking this link.
The plan is set out in 4 stages. We’ll help you develop an agile communication strategy, improve compliance, and conduct remote store visits all whilst cutting costs and building a leaner operations function. We’ll help you analyse ROI and offer advice of investing in smart tech solutions to support your recovery.
If you need help or advice managing remote store visits, then please get in touch – we’ll be happy to help!