Exclusive Q&A: Compucom gets up-close with retailers’ remote needs

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology

Office Depot’s business services sister company is supporting explosive growth in contactless shopping and working from home for its retail clients, in time for the holiday rush.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Mick Slattery, president of CompuCom, about how the business services provider is helping retailers adapt to COVID-19-related shifts in shopping and working, as well as deal with the annual pressure of the holidays. 

How has CompuCom prepared for the holidays from an infrastructure perspective?
With the holiday shopping season upon us and the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasting a strong sales finish for retailers due to increasing consumer spending, many retailers are quickly scaling-up their buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) operations. We’ve seen an increase in demand from our customers for more online and in-store IT infrastructure support. 

We’ve particularly experienced a surge in technology support requests as many retailers hired more temporary staff to augment their existing employees. Luckily, our customer support service centers had already scaled up their operations due to the pandemic, so we are adequately prepared to meet the surge in demand.
Did CompuCom deploy any new technology solutions or services for customers and/or employees as a result of COVID-19?
The pandemic and mandatory shelter-in-place work orders drove a rush by companies to get their employees the basic equipment they needed to work from home. Our New Jersey-based device configuration center for example, substantially increased its technician staff to accommodate the surge in customer demand and added additional weekday and weekend shifts. At the beginning of the pandemic the center almost tripled its daily and weekly device shipments and modified its delivery processes to enable home delivery for a large segment of customer employees working from home.

Many of our retail customers experienced a significant surge in their online and BOPIS sales. We helped them to quickly modify and ramp-up their IT hardware and software, as well as the services needed to support new contactless shopping experiences. Now moving in to the 2020 holiday shopping season, IT infrastructure remains a key area where our customers continue to invest in onsite and remote workplace transformation to scale their businesses to support growing consumer demands.
How is CompuCom responding to the steady growth in mobile commerce?
As retailers move from temporarily imposed business operations to more permanent post-pandemic workplace structures, they are beginning to realize that the challenges that prevented them from doing business differently have evaporated overnight. This means for many the ‘future of retail’ is no longer somewhere over the horizon, it’s here now. CompuCom intends to remain at the forefront of delivering workplace transformation and in 2020 we removed some of the complexities from our retail offerings to allow for quicker and easier customer deployments with lower levels of customization.

Now as our retail clients begin to contemplate their post COVID journey, they are moving from their ‘remote light’ approach to IT, which encompassed a highly reactive stabilization of their IT environments to ensure business continuity; to ‘remote right,’ which embraces familiar e-commerce solutions as well as new and more secure, seamless and scalable mobile commerce investments. 

We are advising our clients that now is the time to embrace mobile-friendly apps that enable both physical and digital experiences – from online shopping that provides local store inventory visibility for same-day purchases, to in-store item location finders and mobile digital promotions based on customers proximity to items.
What do you see as the two or three biggest tech-related trends in retail for 2021?
First, we view contactless BOPIS as a retail sales trend that will continue through 2021 and beyond. Secondly, we think the introduction of digital lockers and vending machines to facilitate contactless sales will also likely grow both for the sale and return of items, purchased either in-store or online. 

Finally, we view robotics, both in-stores as well as in warehouses, as a growing trend to watch. Depending on a retailer’s size and supply chain workflows, item storage, picking and shipping can be automated for increased speed, order accuracy and improved inventory management. Although robotics in retail isn’t new, the extension of robotic usage to the last mile in the supply chain could prove to be valuable for social distancing and the reduction of potential germ contamination.

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