The recently released annual Wunderman Thompson Future Shopper report confirmed that Australians have some of the highest expectations of retailers post-pandemic. It also showed that almost half of Australians (47%) expect to move away from their favourite brands due to rising costs of inflation, retailers need to be on the front foot to ensure that their business doesn’t suffer. 

So what does that require? The survey identified that nearly two thirds (61%) of consumers want retailers to get better at giving them the products, services and experience they want in online shopping. Winning both online, and in store, means getting the service right.

But it’s not just customers that need the attention.  It’s employees too.

According to the ABS, there were more than 40,000 retail vacancies in May this year, up 38.5 per cent from February — the highest increase of any industry.

Given the ongoing labour shortages, especially in the lead up to the holiday shopping season, retailers recognise they need to work hard to attract new employees, and improve the experience for existing staff.

So what quick wins can retailers make, particularly bearing in mind that when the employee experience suffers, so does the customer experience.

Break down silos to keep customers and employees happy

One of the most common challenges faced by the retail workforce is organisational silos.

Cross-departmental teams are not always on the same page about what’s happening in the business, which creates avoidable problems and delays.

For example, let’s say a marketing team decides to run a weekend campaign offering a discount to customers, but the technology team doesn’t know about it. That kind of knowledge gap can be detrimental to a business, like its website crashing due to the high volume of traffic the tech team wasn’t prepared for.

The flow-on effects include loss of sales, reputational damage and employee burnout — something that could be avoided if teams could communicate and collaborate better.

One way of overcoming this is demonstrated by ethical toilet paper selling, Who Gives A Crap, whose sales increased by 1,000% during Covid-19. To help its team stay connected and efficient it used Slack as its digital HQ, as the centre of all its team communications to collaborate cross-functionally and align on goals. The ability to initiate workflows and automate repetitive tasks means human error can be reduced.

Rapid resolution requires alignment

Misalignments also stretch the time it takes to resolve complaints. And the closer we get to the holiday season, the less patience customers have towards issues like delivery delays, stock shortages and payment glitches.

Some companies have gotten ahead of this challenge with automated workflows. For example, Shopify, the ecommerce platform used by over 1 million businesses globally, created a bot called Spy. Team members now receive customer support status updates and can query information (for example, about shops, traffic and checkouts) directly in Slack — the collaboration platform bringing people, apps, files, and information together into one place.

“The main reason for building this Slack tool was to operationalise it, make a very consistent flow that all our incidents go through. The tool helps us make sure we do all the right things,” said John Arthorne, Production Engineering Lead at Shopify.

Stay in sync with partners

It’s not just internal silos that retailers need to break down, it’s also external ones. Today, success in retail requires strong relationships with supply chain partners and other third-parties, like logistics companies, as well as with creative agencies given that fewer retailers have all the skills this requires in-house.

Unfortunately, one of the key reasons partnerships fail is that the parties were unable to find effective ways to stay in sync. With information scattered across multiple platforms, they can’t communicate and collaborate with each other based on a single source of truth.

Who Gives a Crap overcame this challenge using Slack Connect, as a faster way to work with its partners and customers, switching to real-time messaging in Slack channels from cluttered inboxes and long email threads. This helps its staff tap into other peoples’ knowledge, ideas, and recommendations to drive results – and do so securely, as Slack’s security and compliance tools help companies safely join forces with external vendors so that all shared data stays protected, secure and confidential.

As an example, it was able to quickly and easily track real-time data with its US-based, direct-to-consumer, data analytics agency, Daasity when it noticed product orders spike during Covid-19.

Simple quick wins help overcome the crunch

As the end-of-year shopping season creeps closer, now would be the time to double down on new ways of work to keep staff prepared for crunch time.

Arturo Arrate is head of enterprise – Asia Pacific at Slack.