Challenges of retail: how to increase operational fluidity

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shopping-1165437_1280Large retail companies tackle several operational challenges on a daily basis. The complex logistics involve several flows and technologies. Each one of these flows interferes directly in the experiences of internal and external users, affecting the entire business.

That is why applying innovation to improve operational fluidity is not just a way to gain a competitive edge in the market, it also increases productivity and the overall organization of the operation.

In this post we will show you how Design Thinking and its process of structured innovation can be the key to a positive renewal in your stock, relations and sales operations. Shall we?

In a large retail company with several warehouses it is always interesting to begin by looking at the operations through the stock. Here, we can see at least five themes that can be assessed:

– How is stock organized?

– What are the labels like? (are they a source of data on the product?)

– How is relevant information digitized?

– How do employees deal with these techniques and how does their

workflow function?

– How does this interfere in the allocation of employees’ time and in the

final delivery results?

For example: we identified a huge opportunity for improvement in the labeling of stored products in a specific Brazilian retail business.

Labeling: how to improve your production

On most occasions, the lack of standardization in labels takes away the ability to simplify the collection of information that they generate, be it to update changes, to gather and analyze product information or for internal control.

For a faster operation, it is expected that the labels are thought out and standardized in an efficient and personalized manner, taking into account the data that they generate, the handling, the necessary clusters or categories, and more.

Sometimes there are several labels for a given product, which makes changing prices difficult, aside from that, this price-changing process can often become toilsome,as it is sometimes done by hand..

Another issue is that certain types of product codes may not allow for the “human interpretation”, because they follow a numerical sequence unrelated to the product type, sector or product line.

During our work, we identified cases of wastefulness during the printing of labels, which required a whole sheet to print one single unit. Another common problem is the lack of standardization amongst branches. Let’s look at some opportunities and solutions created.

Opportunities and solutions

Taking into account the needs of each business, Design Thinking will study daily routines and map out the entire flow of the operation. In this way one has access to reports and is able to observe, in several spheres, a company’s bottlenecks and specific needs.

Rethinking labels according to the needs of the users can lead to simple

solutions like:

– The reading of the labels being both automated and manual, helping those who handle the merchandise and materials. It is worth remembering that for this to work there should be very precise information to avoid creating more loopholes in the system. Accuracy is always the word of the day

– Facilitating machine readings

– Adding information to increase granularity over each moment in the life of the physical product.

Other opportunities

– Gamifying the process to stimulate the activities of collaborators that deal with repetitive and mechanical tasks.

– Innovate the organization of the physical spaces so they in turn encourage organization.

– Create overall rules for the layout of the stock that fits all branches.

– Creating store personas to humanize the process.

Studying the business from the inside-out

After studying the applications used by the company and: their interactions with internal users; with the mapping of the process; their main personas; there comes a time where we need to look at their effects. Three focal points are key:

– Sales Tools

– Customer Relations

– Performance and Results

Amongst the problems in the sales area, techniques that blend analogue and digital aspects in the salesmen’s daily routines were identified. The idea here is to use technology as a way to empower through practicality, foregoing the need to use pens and all other analogue tools. After all the purchase experience should be practical, pleasurable and focused on the client. The use of mobile is an alternative that may prove effective.

As for after-sales, we identified that lack of information on the clients and the selection/training of those responsible for this work were crucial points. The opportunities here are the use of Big Data to understand the consumption behavior of the clients, how they researched the store what the path was that they took. Ways to improve the CRM, taking into account that many clients prefer a personalized treatment, are always a source of innovation and improvement today.

In terms of performance, several studies on innovation today, refer to the methods available to salesmen for accessing their results and goals. This panel should always be in the horizon of professionals that are responsible for leveraging your product. In this way, all innovation that stimulates them towards this work will be returned as productivity.

Operational fluidity: always case-by- case

Here, we have pointed out some bottlenecks observed throughout our experiences in retail innovation. As we have previously mentioned, each company has its own particularities and specific positioning.

What is common to all retail businesses is that they are all in a constant process of improvement and already possess a market awareness with regards to the need to create a good purchase experience for their clients. This being the case, innovating in a planned fashion is never a wasted effort.

Design Thinking - Business Innovation

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