While sales are expected to increase during this time as retailers try to capitalise on the annual tradition of frenzied buying, there are a number of areas to troubleshoot to prevent retail disasters.
For bricks-and-mortar retailers, challenges include crowd control is ensuring their tellers stay online. For online retailers, their priorities lie in the need to prevent overcrowding on their servers, system crashes, and orders getting lost in cyberspace.
One critically overlooked value driver in the retail mix is skilling their employees with basic network system skills, says Alfie Hamid, Regional Manager for Corporate Affairs for Cisco Africa. “Many retailers have missed empowering their own workforces with, for example, digital collaboration tools, real-time customer insights, and virtual assistance. A workforce that is armed with relevant knowledge and insights is also essential to improving the in-store customer experience, a key differentiator for bricks-and-mortar retailers over their online rivals,” says Hamid.
According to research from Cisco, employee productivity technologies can deliver the greatest value for increasing efficiency, optimising the checkout process and improving worker collaboration. Investments in these areas also contribute to improved shopper experiences and increased loyalty. Just 6% of retailers’ 2016 investment priorities were focused on employee productivity use cases, despite research indicating that use cases deliver the greatest return on investment for retailers; in other words, digitisation is a $187 billion (roughly R2,6 trillion) opportunity, according to Cisco.
“The key initiatives that improve employee productivity all rely on a network that understands how people interact, can be customised easily, and can control access irrespective of the device that the employee is using – all things that today’s retail employees demand,” Hamid says.
In retail, investments in workforce digitisation deliver value to operations, the labour equation, and talent retention. Since all of these support new and compelling customer experiences, digitising the workforce enables a value chain that is critical to retail success.
“A focus on technology investments that empower employees takes on a whole new meaning in Nigeria, which already struggles to overcome education and training challenges,” Hamid says. “With digitisation, companies have an opportunity to improve skills across the board in the retail industry, which will contribute hugely to the growth of the country’s economy, whether on Black Friday or throughout the year.”