Article Series

Unified Commerce: Implications on Traditional Back Office Systems

Unified Commerce: Implications on Traditional Back Office Systems Part 5

Mar 7, 2017
   |   by 
Rick Boretsky

This is part 5 of an 8-part series where we examine each of the cornerstone back office systems to reveal the issues in integrating them to the world of unified commerce. This blog focuses on the new challenges Unified Commerce places on workforce management.

What’s different about Workforce Management in Unified Commerce?

Unified Commerce is quickly changing the rules about how to schedule in-store associates.

This is due to three technology-driven changes.

1. In-store fulfillment

A great many leading retailers are now offering BOPIS (Buy online pickup in store) services. This means that store associates are being constantly interrupted to deal with the many tasks surrounding BOPIS orders. These tasks include: removing merchandise from the shelves, packaging the orders, arranging shipment, notifying customers, retrieving reserved orders, dealing with returns, and so on. Many stores are even offering same day delivery on BOPIS orders. The challenge for retailers is how to schedule all of these tasks without subjecting customers to frustration and delay.

2. Digital engagement

The second big change is that almost everyone involved in shopping (including both the consumer and the store associates), uses a smart phone to facilitate the process. However, back-office systems don’t currently measure whether this digital engagement is productive or not. Another measurement that’s being excluded is which store associates are leveraging digital engagement best.

3. Internet of things

The third big change is that retailers are beginning to measure the shopping experience with a full range of sensing devices, broadly called the Internet of Things, or IOT. What’s needed now is to correlate workforce data with IOT data about dwell time, traffic, promotional response and flow. Without this, retailers are potentially missing valuable insights that could lead to new opportunities.

Workforce Management shoulders new responsibility in retail

Up until now, workforce management software focused on predicting the staff levels required at each store to handle the anticipated demand. The timing of staff was usually broken down into 15 or 30 minute intervals. Data from POS and/or traffic counters were used to establish the demand curves. Now however, with the explosion of store level tasks related to fulfillment, the old formulae must be adjusted to make sure that the stores can meet the work load.

The good news is that most Workforce Management software is highly configurable. The key challenge is how to extract useful workload data from both the Order Management System and the Logistics Systems to gain a 21st century version of workforce scheduling which has been revised for Unified Commerce. As we show in the infographic, the key transformations to be fed into the Workforce Management System include the labor required to: process returns of online orders, handle order cancellations, pick and pack for customer pickup, pack and ship for customer delivery, manage the receipt of goods ordered for specific customers, and remove merchandise from the display area for customer hold. As we’ve seen throughout this series, the responsibility for recognizing the opportunity for integrating Unified Commerce with Workforce Management falls overwhelmingly on Data Integration teams.

Customer engagement

Every retailer endeavors to use technology to enhance the customer experience. But this comes at a price: store associates must be available to engage. There are many data points that will edify how store associates are carrying out these new tasks. These data points must be integrated into the workforce management software in order to gain some insights into just how effective the customer engagement is.

Here are a few of these data points:

• Which associates are most effective at selling additional items to customers who come to pick up online orders?

• Which associates make the most effective use of “endless aisle” selling tools?

• Which associates utilize on-line product knowledge resources?

• Which associates do the best at selling gift cards?

• Which associates make the best use of clienteling and CRM tools?

These data points are increasingly available. The challenge is to create the data paths so that Workforce Management tools can more accurately measure productivity in the age of Unified Commerce.

Our Recommendations

1. HARNESS ORDER MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE to capture key workforce data regarding order fulfillment.

2. REFINE WORKFORCE SCHEDULING MODELS to include all of the store level tasks that come with Unified Commerce.

3. MEASURE ENGAGEMENT. Your customer engagement tools can capture key information about the interaction between the customer and associates. Use this to become more sophisticated in measuring the productivity of the store workplace.

Our next blog is about the implications of Unified Commerce on Logistics systems. We’d love to hear your feedback.

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