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Remove tech hobgoblins from your retail enterprise this Halloween

Consumers plan to spend $100 on average for Halloween candy, décor, cards and costumes.
This Halloween, confront your enterprise fears.

Halloween is the perfect time to exorcise technology-related “hobgoblins” that are causing mischief in your retail operations.

Every year at Halloween, I like to write a special column focused on some of the figurative monsters lurking in retail enterprises, and the technology solutions that can serve as the silver bullet to remove them.

This year, I’m zeroing on some hobgoblins hiding in too many retail environments – vampire apps, supply chain gremlins, and phantom customer service.

Vampire apps
Most consumers – including the ones you call your employees – have smartphones filled with apps. Many of these are “vampire apps” – mobile applications that provide no real value and instead simply haunt the phones of customers and workers, sucking up space and power.

How do you ensure your consumer and employee apps are not of the vampire variety? By taking advantage of unique capabilities of smartphones (such as scanning and communications) to offer a tailored experience that isn’t simply a smaller-scale replica of your online e-commerce site or associate portal.

For example, value home décor retailer At Home is launching a new mobile app designed to let customers quickly obtain access to their orders and order status and checkout. In the store, shoppers can scan a tag with the app to see availability and product reviews. It also enables customers to link to their loyalty accounts and coupons, and see their progress toward becoming a VIP loyalty member.

On the employee side, apparel and accessories retailer Francesca’s is deploying Yoobic One, an all-in-one digital workplace platform, to give its 3,000 frontline employees new app-based two-way communication, learning, and productivity optimization tools. App features include automation to handle simple or repetitive tasks, as well as real-time learning, collaboration and communication capabilities.

Supply chain gremlins
The supply chain has always been filled with “gremlins” – mischievous, invisible creatures that hide items, divert shipments, pick and pack the wrong goods, and wreak general logistical havoc. Supply chain gremlins have been especially busy the past couple of years as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global flow of goods.

However, if there is anything supply chain gremlins hate, it is advanced technologies that can follow and locate products, or accurately forecast when and where items will arrive. Solutions such as track and trace, RFID, and predictive analytics can go a long way to banishing these little imps from your logistics operation.

Leading denim brand Levi Strauss & Co. is launching an internally developed, patent-pending platform called the Business Optimization Of Shipping and Transport engine, or BOOST. The BOOST platform is capable of streamlining e-commerce fulfillment via functions such as locating and making available a specific product that may be out of stock at distribution centers in a nearby store.

In addition to opening up more inventory to consumers, BOOST is designed to employ AI capabilities to improve operational efficiency, such as by eliminating split shipments.

Phantom customer service
Everyone has at least one horror story about a negative customer service experience. Usually they result from “phantom” customer service – endless hold times, being repeatedly transferred among different agents, speaking with representatives who are unwilling or unable to resolve the issue.

To banish phantom customer service back to the shadows, retailers should investigate the potential of artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions that can automatically fulfill lower-level customer service requests and/or aid live agents with more complex inquiries.

Leading meal kit provider HelloFresh is implementing the Medallia Contact Center suite in an effort to improve its U.S. contact center experience and ultimately, the overall customer experience. Employing AI-based speech analysis, HelloFresh can now automate quality monitoring across all frontline agents and identify high-impact calls for manual reviews, instead of randomly selecting a small subset of calls for manual review.

This comprehensive monitoring helps the Hello Fresh contact center more proactively identify emerging issues across all business lines act quickly to resolve them. By understanding the reason for calls alongside more focused, insight-driven frontline coaching, HelloFresh intends to enable agents to solve issues faster, thus lowering call volumes and duration.

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