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UK grocery shoppers struggling to book delivery slots

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Consumers are seeking speed and convenience when shopping for groceries online, with a survey of 2,000 UK shoppers found 54% expect their groceries to be delivered within the same week and 9% expect to receive their groceries on the same day when they order online.

New research from end-to-end managed services provider Ensono shows that Younger generations are leading the way in the search for faster deliveries.

Eighteen percent of those aged 25 and under who buy groceries online expect them to be delivered on the same day of order, compared to just 4% of 56- to 65-year-olds.

New app-based groceries-on-demand providers in urban areas now promise delivery in under an hour – some as fast as 10 minutes. These services seem to be most popular with younger shoppers. Ensono’s research found younger generations were significantly more willing to try groceries on demand during the pandemic, with 13% of 18-to 25-year-olds trying groceries on demand against just 3% of 46-to 65-year-olds.

More customers than ever have turned to online channels to buy groceries. Ensono’s research found an 81% rise in UK consumers doing all or most of their food shopping online since the pandemic started. According to The Office for National Statistics, UK online sales hit 27% of total retail spending in April 2022 – down from its peak of 37.6% in February 2021 but far above 19.9% in February 2020 before COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem grocers face is reliably meeting this heightened online demand. Since the pandemic began, 28% of consumers doing online shopping have not been able to choose the deliver slots they want. Just under half (49%) agree that while they are still able to online grocery shop, there are fewer delivery slots compared to before the pandemic.

Supply chain disruption is an ongoing challenge facing grocers. Driven by factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing geopolitical tensions, such uncertainty can prevent food from reaching shelves on time. Grocers have witnessed the consequences of failing to navigate supply chain disruption. In the run up to Christmas 2021, 71% of consumers reported seeing shortages in stock in major supermarkets.

Simon Ratcliffe, Principal Consultant at Ensono, said: “We are living through an unprecedented era for grocers. Whilst we have seen customers flock back to stores in recent months, the online shopping habits forged in the pandemic are here to stay as a critical part of modern retail. In this hybrid shopping era, customers are craving convenience and a service that delivers a seamless, reliable, and memorable experience between in-store and online.

“Grocers need a technology stack fit for the demands of the modern consumer. Cloud-native systems are crucial to address shoppers’ ongoing concerns about performance and availability, providing grocers with scalable computing capacity to deliver consistent and efficient global performance – whatever the level of customer demand. Cloud-native is set to become the linchpin of modern businesses: by 2025, Gartner predict more than 95% of new digital workloads will be deployed on cloud-native platforms. These solutions need to be matched with reliable back-end technology, including high-capacity mainframe systems that support vital parts of the grocery supply chain. With the right technology in place, grocers can provide consumers with a personalised experience whether in-store or online.”

90% of UK cyberattacks in retail ‘are avoidable’

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90 per cent of Director level respondents to a survey whose organisations across retail, the public sector, financial services and healthcare have experienced a cyber breach agreed most cyber attacks were avoidable.

That’s one of the insights to emerge for new research from Tanium, Cybersecurity: Prevention Is Better than the Cure, which reveals the amount of time and resources organisations spend on reactive versus preventative cybersecurity measures and the rationale behind their decisions.   

Despite the above awareness, the study shows that IT teams neglect to implement preventative cybersecurity measures for reasons such as a shortage of technical skills and budget-allocation delays from boards of directors. 

“Many organisations focus too much on cybersecurity point solutions like antivirus, rather than adopting a holistic, data-driven approach to prevention,” said Oliver Cronk, chief architect, EMEA, at Tanium. “As our research shows, many damaging security incidents – even those resulting from more sophisticated attack vectors – could have been prevented. In fact, more than half of the breaches we see could have been avoided by maintaining baseline cyber-hygiene standards. The current situation is the equivalent of leaving your front door and windows open and only locking them after a burglary has taken place.” 

Key findings include: 

Most damaging cyber attacks suffered by UK organisations are preventable. 

·       The 90 percent of Director level respondents agree that ‘the majority of cyberattacks that we have experienced within our organisation have been in some way avoidable’. 

·       86 percent of organisations compromised by a breach in the last six months believed that more investment in preventative measures (such as tools or staff training), would have minimised incidents. 

·       92 percent of organisations surveyed have experienced a breach at some point in the past, 82 percent within the last 24 months, and 73 percent in the last 12 months.   

Boards only approve new cybersecurity funding after incident has occurred. 

·       80 percent of C-suite decision makers believe the risk of cyber threats is increasing and expect 2022 to be the worst year yet in terms of the number of attacks. 

·       For IT decision makers that experienced a cyber attack in the last six months, 86 percent feel that senior leadership is likely to invest in cybersecurity only after suffering an attack; 75 percent state that “some cybersecurity incidents needed to happen” in order to get increased investment from leadership.  

·       Loss of productivity resulting from downtime is cited as the most damaging impact of a cyber attack (56 percent of all respondents). 

Preventative approaches are missed opportunities for IT teams.  

·       Almost seven in ten respondents believe that a predominantly preventative approach to cybersecurity is best (68 percent); a primarily reactive approach is favoured by only 32 percent.  

·       The skills gap and overwhelmed IT and security teams have caused preventative security measures to take a lower priority. More than half of organisations (55 percent) agree that there is insufficient staff or resources to focus on preventative security measures. 

·       Larger organisations are more likely to adopt a preventative approach, with 70 percent of organisations with 500+ employees citing prevention as preferable. Sixty percent of organisations with 250-499 employees agreed. 

·       85 percent of all respondents surveyed agreed that there is a greater cost to recover from a cybersecurity incident than to prevent one. 

A crucial element of preventative strategies is cyber hygiene, which refers to a set of habitual practices that help to secure networks and data. For example, consistent and timely patching is a fundamental element of a sound cybersecurity posture. But to be effective, organisations need to understand where vulnerabilities exist and have the ability to address them quickly and easily. The Tanium platform has these capabilities and others that help organisations strengthen cyber hygiene.  

Click here to read the full ‘Cybersecurity: Prevention Is Better than the Cure’ report, which includes more interesting findings about the attitudes of IT decision makers towards preventative cybersecurity strategies. 

Q&A: My eCommerce fulfilment provider lost 50,000 units of my stock: Now I work for their competitor

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Adam Johnson once owned an online gaming business, but now works as a Sales Director at eCommerce fulfilment provider, Zendbox. In this Q&A, Johnson shares his experiences with his previous fulfilment provider and explains why their poor service played a role in him deciding to sell his business and work for their competitor…

When and why did you start your gaming business?

I started the business in December 2019. Due to a good professional career, I was lucky enough to reach a stage in my life where I was financially capable of doing something that my brother and I had always dreamed of, which was to launch a gaming business. The idea for Rev Gaming arose from the fact that we’d both been gamers from the age of five, and our background was such that gaming gave us an escape.

Rev Gaming was an ecosystem for the gaming community – not only did it serve as an eCommerce store for gaming equipment, but it had a professional Esports team behind it and provided a pathway for amateur gamers to become professionals. Our Esports team operated much like a football team with sponsorship deals and the like.

What caused your fulfilment provider to lose your stock?

The gaming world relies on creating hype for product drops. These products are often special items that are brand new and limited-edition, and you create hype around them through your influence in the market. It can take three to four months for these products to arrive from manufacturers overseas and there is a quick turnaround in terms of fulfilment when they do eventually land.”

With Rev Gaming, we could receive stock from Asia on Friday that would have to be released to customers the following Monday. In my experience, traditional fulfilment providers have always struggled massively with these short turnaround times. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Rev Gaming just blew up and our fulfilment provider couldn’t handle our increasing order volumes and the short turnaround times. As a result, there were stock inaccuracies and approximately 50,000 units of stock were lost and written off. We were compensated but we never recovered these goods.

Did you have any issues with your fulfilment provider’s service prior to this?

We worked with two different fulfilment providers, one of which was simply not able to fulfil the volume of orders we were taking in. This reflects how operational and process-driven eCommerce fulfilment is. If a business makes a request outside of a fulfilment provider’s normal process, or if that business demands more from the service, most providers can’t cope. Ultimately, eCommerce brands are demanding more from their fulfilment partners, who need to be flexible and adaptable if they are to remain competitive. Two weeks after I sold Rev Gaming, I realised I wanted to join a company where I could help make this happen.

How did this event personally impact you and how did your fulfilment provider offer to rectify the issue? 

I experienced significant mental and financial stress, especially because the stock loss was at a cost to myself personally. There was also general business strain – at the time, I was running the whole company myself so the challenges with our fulfilment providers were simply another headache I didn’t need. We went through a compensation process and although I wasn’t satisfied with the overall outcome, compensation was the only option available to us at the time.

Why did you decide to sell your business to work for Zendbox?

The decision to sell Rev Gaming was primarily family and finance driven. Although I had a purpose-built office and running the business was within my professional remit, I had no evenings or weekends. There was no work-life balance and my whole family was consumed by the business, which was never the point. It made complete sense to sell the business when a lucrative offer was then made to purchase the data that we had been collecting from gamers worldwide.

After the sale, I took two weeks off to readjust and consider what I wanted to do. Although I was looking for a challenge, I didn’t know fulfilment was that challenge. I’m still young and saw an opportunity with Zendbox. I met the company’s Chief Executive Officer, James Khoury, and he resonated with me as an entrepreneur with a mission. Selling my business and joining Zendbox was a case of the stars aligning with what I thought I wanted to achieve.

Has your experience with other fulfilment providers been a driver for you at Zendbox?

The gaming industry has always operated lightyears ahead of other sectors, but the eCommerce market is going the same way. My experience with other fulfilment providers opened my eyes to an opportunity – one in which I can work with a fulfilment provider that has the same vision to fill a niche and deliver outside of traditional processes when possible. If we can do that, then it won’t be long until Zendbox is a market leader.

The most overlooked method of improving conversion rates

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In the era of accelerating digital opportunity and hypercompetition, ecommerce teams need websites and apps that deliver value to customers from the moment they’re released, with constant updates to functionality that open up more sales opportunities, drive loyalty and increase conversions.

Global ecommerce sales are predicted to reach $7.385 trillion by 2025. How will you grow your conversions to claim a share of that prize?

The digital world never stands still

Feature rich websites, constantly updated with new and exciting functionality deliver PR talking points, new opportunities for marketing engagement, and ultimately, more and more frictionless sales, but are increasingly delivered against tight deadlines by smaller, more agile teams. Those who aren’t constantly innovating are losing out, they are missing the opportunity to experiment, to ‘fail fast’ – to change dynamically with commercial demand.

With so many moving parts it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where something might be going wrong.  Why that sudden downturn in visitors? Why is digital revenue falling? Why is that new functionality failing to deliver uplift in business performance? You know there’s definitely a problem somewhere. Perhaps it’s one or more bugs on your site, perhaps the user journey hasn’t been designed well enough to optimize conversions, perhaps pricing is unclear, perhaps you simply don’t have enough visitors, perhaps…

Ambitious ecommerce managers don’t want to be on the back foot constantly working out where the problems are. And there may be no single, obvious reason for what’s going on. To get more people through the checkout, you might try things like A/B testing, personalization, money-back guarantees… But there are no guarantees these strategies will work. But there is a less exciting, but arguably more effective way to increase conversions.

Testing… the least exciting way to improve conversions

You might think we’re stating the obvious, but bear with us. Testing is the last step before a release, and no one wants to delay a launch either because testing time is taking too long, or because the testing uncovers issues that will need fixing.

But there are plenty of stories of website releases gone wrong, the stuff of nightmares for brands, who, needing time to develop complex new offerings but faced with fierce commercial pressures to release, struggle to co-ordinate their testing efforts effectively and end up taking risks with their reputation.

With integrations, personalisation, offers and so many other different areas to manage, the danger is that software bugs creep in, slowing systems and frustrating customers who can’t do what they need to. If innovation requires us to ‘fail fast’ on a commercial level, it also requires us to be constantly vigilant around quality, ensuring that new functionality is tested and optimised properly so that it is given maximum opportunity to succeed.

Digital teams involved in huge ecommerce projects often have no choice but to release partially or inadequately tested sites because they simply don’t have the resource to conduct anything more than basic tests before release. But these are exactly the moments when you need the most exhaustive functional testing to ensure everything is working exactly as it should be. These are the make or break moments for revenue and reputation, for allowing an environment where conversions can be optimised, to ensure quality keeps pace with the velocity of continual delivery and deployment. In short, testing prevents updates and changes wreaking havoc on your revenue stats.

Making sure your site works for any customer, on any device

Devices, operating systems and browsers are continually evolving. According to BrowserStack, “More than 4 billion people access the web through a combination of more than 9,000 distinct devices, 21 different operating systems and 8 major browser engines that power hundreds of different browsers.” That’s at least 63,000 possible browser/platform/device combinations that could be accessing your website at any given time!

This state of fragmentation means there are a myriad of reasons why a website might see a sudden drop in revenue, and multiple ways a site or an app might be failing to convert visitors to customers. Crucially, if you’re not testing your website on a wide range of real devices and operating systems, you might be missing, not very exciting but hugely impactful, conversion issues on a particular device, browser and OS combination. What if testing revealed that customers were unable to purchase a product using a particular Android device, but that device represented 15% of all your visitors? What revenue would have been gained if testing had uncovered that issue?

Delivering testing with the right coverage, and at the speed and scale necessary to make the difference when it most matters, is a complex task. Without testing the right combinations that reflect the likely variations in your market, and without being able to check the way visitors browse, you could be losing customers and revenue in surprising quantities.

Where there are so many moving parts responsible for the optimal performance of a website or app you need real-world testing data and teams working 365/24/7 to ensure you are keeping on top of it all.

Using a professional testing company that can mobilise teams and run functional tests at size and scale before and immediately after release is often the best option for an ecommerce brand that may have limited testing resource.  Successful ecommerce stories are about the continual refinement of experiences, features and conversion, based on deep customer insight. Choosing the right testing partner will mean you’ll never be left wondering ‘what just happened’ and you’ll always have a clear vision of what you need to do next to maximise sales and revenue.

Ultimately it will help you deliver greater operational efficiencies, more conversions, more revenue and all with less stress.

To find out more visit www.digivante.com.

How will shoppers pay online in 2026? 

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By TrueLayer

Cards have been successful in driving global commerce over the last century, but they weren’t designed for digital. The experience of paying by card online is often poor and security is weak — yet costs to businesses remains high.  

In 2021, credit and debit cards made up 41% of all ecommerce payments in the UK and Europe, but this number is falling. By 2026, two thirds of ecommerce purchases will be made using ‘alternative’ payment methods (APMs). 

In this article, we’ll look at three reasons why APMs are becoming much more common in the online checkout experience:

1. Bank transfer, wallet and buy now pay later payments are growing much faster than cards

More online shoppers are switching from card payments to alternatives. In just four years’ time, two thirds of ecommerce purchases in the UK and Europe will be made by bank transfer (19%), digital wallet (31%) or through buy now pay later (14%). 

The growth of these alternative payments is being driven by several factors. Global smartphone adoption (which increased from 3.7 billion users in 2016 to 6.3 billion in 2021) has made it easier for consumers to authenticate payments with their face ID or fingerprint, and pay in-app. This, in turn, has led to fast adoption of mobile-first payment methods.

2. Offering the right alternative payment methods can help you reach new customers

Letting customers choose how they want to pay — and offering the right alternatives to cards — drives sales.

Research shows that online shoppers are more likely to buy from a retailer and less likely to abandon their basket if the right payment options are available. Providing more payment choices also speeds up the purchase process, especially on mobile.

3. Open banking is driving the growth of card alternatives 

Open banking payments are likely to become the dominant method of bank transfer payment in ecommerce in the next five years. They will also act as underlying rails for other alternative payment methods, like BNPL or wallets. Open banking payments offer a number of advantages: 

  • Consumers pay straight from their bank account — and in many markets they authenticate with their face ID or fingerprint.
  • Funds settle with the merchant instantly or near-instantly, helping them manage cash flow and enabling them to ship goods immediately.
  • Coverage is pan-European because EU banks are required to have APIs available (in contrast to schemes that only work domestically, such as iDEAL in the Netherlands).
  • They can be embedded into checkout via a secure, regulated API. This generally means that the payment starts and ends in the merchant’s app or website, increasing convenience for consumers.

The findings in this article are from the report: Beyond cards: the rise of alternative payments

eCommerce solutions: 2022 buying trends revealed

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A/B Testing, Shipping and Customer Retention & Loyalty top the list of solutions the UK’s leading eCommerce professionals are sourcing in 2022.

The findings have been revealed ahead of the next eTailing Summit and are based on delegate requirements at the event.

Delegates registering to attend were asked which areas they needed to invest in during 2022 and beyond.

A significant 40% are looking to invest in A/B Testing and Shipping solutions, while 35% are looking for Customer Retention & Loyalty solutions.

Just behind were Multichannel, Shopping Cart and Chatbot solutions.

% of delegates at the eTailing Summit sourcing certain products & solutions (Top 10):

A/B Testing Solutions 

Shipping

Customer Retention & Loyalty 

Multichannel

Shopping Carts

Chatbots

Delivery options

eCommerce Cloud Solutions

Personalisation 

Conversion Rate Optimisation 

To find out more about the eTailing Summit, which takes place on July 5th visit https://etailingsummit.co.uk.

Poetic study on ‘atmospheres’ reveals how consumers respond differently to retail spaces and marketing tactics

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Retailers must create ‘atmospheres’ that persuade consumers to spend time and money in their commercial spaces, but in doing so may make some customers feel welcome and others unwelcome – possibly even experiencing negative emotions such as shame, fear and disgust, a new study reveals.

Researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Edinburgh, and ESCP Business School, in London, theorize how individuals’ responses to ‘affective atmospheres’ depends on their personal circumstances, mood, time of visit and who they experience it with.

The experts visited highly atmospheric neo-Pentecostal services and Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies in Brazil and collected ethnographic data in the field. The researchers created three poems which could help marketers better understand how consumers react to marketing and retailing tactics, noting how responses can be negative despite marketers’ efforts.

Published in Marketing Theory, the study elaborates on how personal experiences interweave with cultural and socio-political factors to make consumers feel a certain way. The study uses poetry to apply personal experience to theories of how individuals register ‘affective atmospheres’ that envelop and yet do not belong to them.

Study author, Dr Pilar Rojas-Gaviria, Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Birmingham, comments: “In recent years, we have been immersed in complex and challenging affective atmospheres. For instance, Covid-19 presented us with many potent affective atmospheres which make us feel certain emotions: anxiety, fear, guilt, loneliness. However, while it is possible to talk of the atmosphere of a pandemic, it is clear that we do not all feel the same way and that we are all affected differently; it is not ‘the great leveller’ which some suggested.

“Creating powerful poetry helped us to understand the impact of affective atmospheres on consumers’ experiences. We must acknowledge that consumption involves a myriad of complex emotions that meld both pleasure and pain. These emotions hold meaning in our path to achieve more inclusive and fairer experiences in times of distress such as global pandemics or economic crisis.”

Study author Dr Chloe Preece, Associate Professor at ESCP Business School in London comments: “This consideration of how we land in given atmospheres opens up new thinking about nebulous and unpleasant emotions. Consumer research tends to glorify extraordinary experiences, yet consumption is not only about purchase satisfaction and mood boosts. In fact, one could argue, most consumption, not least the weekly grocery shop, can be boring and unpleasant. And now facing the weight of inflation and the possibility of an economic recession, fear and distress are sadly an important part of these banal atmospheres.”

Study author Dr Victoria Rodner, Marketing Lecturer at Edinburgh University comments: “We found that what can be pleasurable experiences for some, can be deeply unpleasant for others. This can help marketers understand how the atmospherics of retail and service spaces shape the consumer experience.”

Poetry in marketing has proven to be an effective research method to challenge conventional thinking and was the chosen method in this study.

The study shows that rather than enveloping consumers uniformly, consumers land in atmospheres in a much more nuanced way than current theories account for – due to people’s backgrounds, experiences and socio-economic status.

Marketers, therefore, need more flexible understandings of how consumers land in the atmospheres curated by retailers. Consumer research has tended to glorify extraordinary experiences, but the researchers argue there is also a need to consider more mundane experiences. Examining how consumers react to atmospheres can also demonstrate how certain products and services are created in the marketplace.

37% of transport and warehousing companies up their rates as costs rise

1024 683 Stuart O'Brien

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Business Insights report shows transport and storage companies were forced to pass on higher costs to their customers in April – and the home delivery specialist ParcelHero warns this will raise retail prices and the cost of home deliveries.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., said: “It’s not only households that are facing steep rises in costs. Transport, logistics and warehousing companies have also faced significant increases in the cost of energy and materials, and many are being forced to pass these on to their own customers.

“In all, 37.3% of transport, distribution and warehousing companies reported they were increasing their rates in April. That’s because 56% of companies in this sector faced significant rises in costs during March.

Jinks says it is obviously shoppers who will pay the price for rising supply chain costs, and they will end up spending more for food and goods in the next months. With that in mind, he adds that both consumers and retailers might be heartened to learn that 25.3% of transport, delivery and warehousing companies said they planned to keep on absorbing increased costs themselves, rather than pass them on, or even reduce costs.

“This underscores the fact that transport and storage sector companies are by no means the worst offenders when it comes to quickly passing on costs,” said Jinks. “A sizeable 45.1% of accommodation & food services companies and 42.6% of construction companies said they were increasing the price of their goods and services in April.

“The impact of the rise in costs does not end there. A total of 17.5% of transport and warehousing companies said their turnover decreased in March. However, problems for some companies were opportunities for others in the sector and 15.1% actually reported increased turnover during the month.”

Jinks says there was also some good news for employees in the transport and warehousing sector: The ONS’ latest business wave report says that, even though costs for companies were rising fast, none of the businesses said they were planning redundancies, and only 4.2% planned any significant decrease to staff working hours.

“Many haulage and courier companies operate on relatively low margins, so the sector has little protection or wiggle room against increases in fuel and equipment costs,” said Jinks.

To find out more about how logistics companies and their partner retailers are innovating to reduce costs and maximise the potential of technology,  see ParcelHero’s study on ‘Dark Stores’ and the High Street of the future at: https://www.parcelhero.com/research/shop-of-the-future

The store is dead, long live the store

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By Alex McPherson, Director of Solution Consulting and Account Management, Manahattan Associates

There are few in retail circles who would argue that the role of the store is the same as it was at the start of 2020, with the retail industry (like every other on the planet) undeniably changed as a result of the global pandemic.

Where once upon a time retail business models had the luxury of evolving over years and sometimes decades, retailers over the last two years have been forced to rapidly pivot their operations, change business models and switch (in many cases) to unfamiliar, new ways of working.

These changes have included the diversification of the physical store to support the increase in ecommerce; delivering entirely new offerings such as curbside pickup; and the realignment of workflows and processes to support profitability across an entire network, not just one location.

While it’s almost inevitable that ecommerce growth will outpace growth through physical stores at some point in the future, it would be a huge mistake to lose sight of the critical role stores have to play beyond purely profitability, but also in terms of softer measures of brand health, not least loyalty and the overall customer experience journey.

Today, retailers need to rethink traditionally held ideas around assets and operations: it’s not simply a matter of digital vs. physical anymore; rather it’s about how a brand can leverage all the stock and channels at its disposal to deliver that truly remarkable customer experience journey.

The key to this lies in not being distracted by the minutiae of how an order is necessarily placed, but rather, concentrating on where it ultimately gets fulfilled.

For example, Target recently reported that as much as 75% of its online orders involved their stores in some capacity: be that buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, ship from store, local home delivery from store stock, or even buy online, return in store (BORIS).

As a result of (rather than in spite of), the rapid growth of digital channels in 2020 and 2021, 21st century retailers need to understand that the store will remain a significant channel for generating revenue, customer engagement and fulfilment opportunities.

This rapid evolution has led to an increased awareness and reliance on dynamic and resilient in-store systems, critical to modern retail ecosystems – systems like modern Point Of Sale (POS).

POS has certainly come a long way since the rather perfunctory function of previous generations: no longer is POS simply a tool to complete a transaction (sales or returns) and the associated reporting; modern POS today represents the key to unified commerce, enabling activities such as endless aisle, click and collect, store fulfilment of online orders, clienteling and loyalty.

While the store may no longer be the sun around which all retail offerings orbit, a compelling bricks and mortar presence that works in harmony with a unified, smarter digital offering, could well be the answer to the question on the lips of so many retail leaders right now: ‘how do we create a compelling competitive advantage against such a significantly changed industry landscape?’

The role of the store has changed and so too has the in-store technology that supports it. This however, should not come as a great surprise as the history of the retail industry has always been one of change, evolution and progress – today’s environment, accelerated by the pandemic, is no different.

With greater emphasis on the need to fulfil, execute and optimise against ecommerce and e-fulfilment, it’s clear that the physical store, supported by modern POS systems still has a significant (if not changed), role to play when it comes to being able to commerce confidently.

While the store of yesteryear is well and truly dead, the store of today is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. The challenge now falls to retailers to realise the true potential of their marquis bricks and mortar assets by pairing them with the right future-ready, in-store systems like modern Point Of Sale.

Wellbeing strategies: Why retail leaders need to act now

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As Covid cases hit their highest levels for months, the pandemic is exacerbating staff shortages in retail. According to ONS figures, infection rates in retail almost doubled between the start of March and mid-March. Against this backdrop of chronic absences, there were almost triple the number of vacancies in February 2022, when compared to February 2021.

Now more than ever, retailers need to show they’re putting employee health first, by developing sound wellbeing strategies. According to Retail Trust, some 91% of retail managers said they’d noticed more mental health issues among staff. However, 28% of these managers said they didn’t have enough support from higher-ups to combat the issues.

Tony Gregg, Chief Executive at retail executive search firm Anthony Gregg Partnership, highlights how retailer leaders can develop wellbeing strategies that respond to workforce needs. He also explains how these strategies can enhance productivity, engagement and happiness – and how often they should be reviewed and updated… 

What are wellbeing strategies?

Wellbeing strategies are carefully formed plans of action, intended to improve the health and happiness of a workforce. They string together employee benefits into a cohesive policy with well-defined goals. Effective wellbeing strategies can reduce absenteeism, stress and general ill health.

Unfortunately, not all companies follow a wellbeing strategy. At many organisations, benefits and wellbeing initiatives are not rolled out in a planned manner.

Develop proactive plans and lead by example

Widespread staff shortages and mixed messaging around Covid policies are creating the impression that the retail industry is not putting employee wellbeing first. If this notion is allowed to fester, staff shortages will only get worse.

If, on the other hand, preventative care is introduced, retail businesses could improve retention rates. Whether it’s health screenings or encouraging healthier eating, enabling employees to improve their wellbeing shows them that the organisation cares. Of course, healthier staff are also absent less often.

Those at the top can also lead by example, contributing to a trickle-down effect. Looking after their own wellbeing can be something as simple as leaving the office on time or participating in mental health awareness training.

Listen to people to create a tailored approach

It can be daunting when setting out to formulate a new company-wide strategy. Yet part of the answer is the employees themselves. They can provide key insight into what they want and what might work. An anonymous survey, for example, will supply ideas and direction for a wellbeing strategy.

Paying due consideration to objectives is also vital. For instance, if the main goal is to reduce absenteeism, the focus might be on wellbeing initiatives that encourage healthier lifestyles, as well as support for mental health.

Externally, executive coaching can enable leaders to become more receptive to what employees need – and support them with their planning/strategy skills. They will learn to pinpoint challenges facing employees, helping them to create more complete and more effective wellbeing plans, and benefitting people throughout the business. And once one effective wellbeing strategy has been implemented, it will become the benchmark for all future plans, raising standards for good.

See which retailers get wellbeing right

Sainsbury’s has an extremely well-developed wellbeing strategy, which focuses on mental, physical and financial wellbeing. With rampant cost of living rises, financial wellbeing will increasingly become part of wellbeing strategies.

In terms of mental health, meanwhile, more than 12,000 Sainsbury’s line managers have completed mental health awareness training. They also estimate that over 10,000 employees use the Unmind app, which the company has provided free access to.

Yet one of the most important aspects of Sainsbury’s strategy is that they run regular campaigns to remind staff of the tools and support they have available.

Another retailer taking wellbeing seriously is John Lewis, which introduced free healthcare for its people back in 1929. Their Partnership Health Services provide employees with everything from physiotherapy and podiatry to hearing tests and therapy sessions.

Meanwhile, over 8,000 John Lewis employees take part in the retailer’s clubs and societies, which enrich their lives outside of work.

Be aware of changing employee sentiment

Just as companies might use surveys or focus groups to establish their wellbeing strategies, the same techniques can also be used to review their success – and the level of wellbeing in the company.

As a minimum, integral changes to the working environment or organisational structure should herald a review of wellbeing programmes. While an influx of new employees might also change the dynamic and the balance of what people want from their benefits.

And since strategies will be closely linked to company-wide objectives, once those goals have been reached, the shape of the wellbeing strategy may have to change. For example, if staff absences are brought down to the desired level, leaders may then want to concentrate on how they can engage employees further.

Summary

As the retail industry continues to battle with staff shortages, now is the time to implement wellbeing strategies or review existing ones. Working patterns have changed dramatically since Covid-19 hit – and employees realise they now have more choice and power.

Employee expectations have shifted, forcing employers to shift in response. Those that don’t react will be left behind, losing out on the most talented individuals and, even worse, potentially becoming known for outdated attitudes to employee wellbeing.

Retail leaders must spearhead changes, prioritising employee wellbeing and presenting it as a solution – and not a distraction from – the ongoing staff shortages.