Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital outlines the benefits of digital communication within a convenience store environment and why it’s the way forward for a new generation of local businesses.
The way we shop has changed dramatically in the past 18 months. The pandemic meant many shoppers changed their shopping habits and opted for nearby alternatives to the big supermarkets they would normally visit and were pleasantly surprised by their experiences. Suddenly, the local convenience store became a vital part of the community and it seems this shift in behaviour and attitude is here to stay. A recent report by Subscribbe confirmed this with 70% of consumers surveyed saying they would ideally like a good local shop within 200 metres of their house ahead of other amenities including a pub (48%), park (63%) or a supermarket (57%).
It is understandable then, why many national food giants including Co-op, Waitrose, M&S Food, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Iceland and Spar are opening their own convenience store formats to gain a foothold in this now lucrative market. This new focus on local convenience has seen the market more than double in size recently with sales in excess of £44.7m, driving larger basket demand and a new-found respect for shopping locally. These stores have used this increased income to re-invest and upscale their businesses to secure long-term community dependency while improving their offering. This re-investment includes store re-fits, improved access, extra parking facilities and even air conditioning installation. Many stores have also added additional services including dry cleaning, prescription collection, Click and Collect and home delivery. Investment in technology has also increased with new till systems, crime prevention equipment and of course digital communication capabilities for enhanced customer service.
Transforming customer experience
Many stores have discovered that the key to an efficient, customer centric business is in fact, the use of digital headsets. From managing queue systems and enabling quick stock checks to ensuring unified team communication, rectifying click and collect anomalies and deterring criminals, digital wireless headsets are a transformational step in improving the overall customer experience and importantly ensuring the safety of both customers and staff.
With a limited number of employees often working within a local convenience stores, the headset is invaluable. With one staff member behind the till, another replenishing shelves and a handful in the warehouse, the headset allows the team to stay connected at all times without having to leave their work stations. If a customer requires an item that is unavailable within the store, the employee on till can check with the warehouse without the use of loud, encroaching bells or tannoys and the turnaround time is almost instantaneous for customers with limited time and patience.
As Harj Dhasee, Simply Fresh Stores in Mickleton highlights: “Having digital headsets means we’ve been able to implement so many efficiencies and time saving solutions because of our improved communication capabilities. For example, instead of writing lists to give to staff members so they can go into the warehouse to collect stock, we use the headsets to streamline this process by communicating directly with them while they’re out there. We used to have a bell in the store, which meant that staff had to keep going back and forth to the counter, even if it was for something as simple as a question, but now we have the headsets, communication between staff members is much quicker and we’ve been able to provide a much better service. Lots of customers have commented on it.”
Helping to combat theft and make staff feel safe
Better communication is also proven to deter crime, with retailers providing staff with wireless headsets reporting a 25% reduction in shrinkage due to petty theft. Shoplifters are also deterred by the fact that staff can immediately communicate their concerns to colleagues and gain instant support reducing the amount of in-store conflicts. Extending the headset communication to include a 24-hour monitoring service can deliver essential real-time support and expertise for staff when a dangerous situation occurs.
Jordha Sanghera, Bells Nisa in Kidderminster believes the digital headsets have boosted staff morale by making the team feel safer while also deterring thieves: “Since we’ve had the digital headsets the team don’t feel alone when working on the shop floor by themselves. They feel confident to work independently knowing they have a member of staff always in their ear. We have a lot of blind spots in the store that are ideal for theft but we’ve also been able to prevent a lot of it with the headsets even with reduced staff numbers.”
The growth the convenience sector has experienced of late and the fact that large supermarkets are now launching their own local store formats demonstrates the integral role these stores play in the community. Their position remains strong as consumer habits embed and customers continue to visit their local store two to three times a week.
Furthermore, it could be argued that as customer demand has increased, there is now a real opportunity for innovation within the sector – ensuring that good communication tools are put in place not only helps staff to cope in peak trading times, but ensures improved customer experience all year round and importantly helps to safeguard employees.