Technology to counter the labour shortage?

It’s no secret that the labour shortage is hitting many retail business owners in Quebec, hard. Unfortunately, according to many experts, this shortage is expected to continue for several years to come. Some businesses are reducing their opening hours and even closing on Sundays to give their current employees a break. Retailers must find solutions to reinvent themselves in order to counter this shortage.

Is innovation the solution?

According to a Léger survey, technology has become retailers’ most prioritized solution, ahead of recruiting staff from among retirees, immigrants, and young people. Technological innovations can speed up the process of certain tasks, lighten the workload of employees on the floor and thus alleviate the lack of manpower. Merchants must review and adapt their business model to stand out from the competition or to seek new markets. Investing in new automation or information technology tools is becoming a necessity for some.

caisses libre-service

Self-checkouts

Retailers are increasingly adopting self-serve checkout terminals as they go a long way in offsetting the growing labour shortage while increasing operational efficiency. Self-service checkout machines typically require only one person to monitor from 4 to 10 checkouts, depending on location and frequency of use, reducing the number of checkout staff without slowing down customer service. As self-service machines reduce the need for cashiers, scheduling becomes a little easier, and employees can be reassigned to more strategic tasks in the store such as replenishing items and directly assisting customers.

Self-service checkout kiosks have become increasingly popular, especially in the wake of the pandemic. In fact, they accounted for 30 percent of grocery store transactions in 2021, according to a report by FMI-The Food Industry Association. Due to labour shortages as well as high employee turnover, companies have relied on technology to meet customer needs and stay afloat. There’s no telling when the labour crisis will end, and self-serve checkouts allow employers to have fewer workers on site while maintaining transaction volume.

The result: a well-organized store, available staff and products, a welcoming environment for customers and a quick checkout experience.

Étiquettes électroniques

Electronic labels

Changing price tags and labelling is a challenge when there is a labour shortage. With various promotions changing weekly and inflation driving many increases, the frequency of changing prices is very high in the retail market, which increases the risk of errors. 

Digital signage technology allows store employees to perform essential tasks instead of spending hours relabelling multiple products. In some retail sectors, price changes and promotions require a dedicated resource, which is not easy when the store is small. In the Quebec retail sector, there is a law regarding price labelling and accuracy. This law obliges the merchant to compensate the customer if the price displayed is incorrect.  With a reduced staff performing the same tasks as if the store was fully staffed, the risk of display errors is higher, which means that customer complaints can also be higher. This has the effect of directly reducing the store’s profit margin.

Electronic label technology allows retailers to change label information simultaneously with all cash registers directly through their point-of-sale software, instead of having busy staff manually replace each label individually.

The result: elimination of in-store pricing errors as well as improved task management, freeing up your employees to focus on value-added tasks like customer service. In addition, customers are guaranteed to arrive at the checkout with no surprises regarding the price displayed per product. So, a better experience for the customer.

commerce en ligne

E-commerce

Having a physical store requires having several employees, some of whom are only available on a part-time basis, which makes managing work schedules very complex and even more so in times of labour shortages. In order to grow, some retailers are considering opening more stores, but this requires recruiting more employees, which is not easy.

The option to grow via an online shopping platform becomes a good alternative for retailers who are struggling to recruit staff for their new store. Online commerce allows for growth without adding a new physical location and the costs associated with that location. Obviously, an online commerce platform requires a dedicated employee or team to launch, but with a long-term vision, the e-commerce platform can bring in significant revenue with significantly less investment compared to a new physical store.

To make the management of this platform as efficient as possible, it is recommended to integrate this platform directly with your point-of-sale software. The advantage is that when you make changes to prices, promotions, product descriptions and/or inventories in your software, they will automatically be transmitted to your virtual store. This two-way communication between the physical store and the virtual store increases operational efficiency and speed of execution, while using the same platform for both. Some employees can be dedicated to preparing online orders that can be delivered or picked up in-store by the customer. The customer experience is an important element in the success of a business today and online shopping is now a must for any retail business.

The result: the addition of a store without the constraints and high costs of a physical location, which increases visibility, customers and of course sales.

Obviously, technology alone is not enough to counter the labour shortage that is plaguing retail businesses in Quebec and Canada. For it to be effective, it must be coupled with operational efficiency and standardization. A great visionary once said “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates –

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