Reducing Labor for Retailers!
The technology company is providing four new tools in its Clarity software aimed at automating the process of identifying and routing inventory for sale to customers, as well as marking down prices as stores reopen during the pandemic.
As retailers return to a new normal related to serving customers during the pandemic, SML has added four features to its Clarity software intended to make that process easier. The features focus on enabling more efficient picking processes for “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS) sales, as well as offering a less labor-intensive way to accomplish markdowns, a store-to-store and store-to-DC transfer tool, and an integrated task-management system to aid workers in locating and managing their tasks at hand via an app.
The technology company had already been in the process of developing or releasing the tools earlier this year, but it accelerated that effort to meet the unique demands retailers face as shoppers return to stores or adjust their buying habits during the COVID-19 pandemic. These features are part of the existing Clarity technology stack, according to Dean Frew, SML’s CTO and senior VP, who adds that the company’s solution is already managing billions of goods in apparel and other markets, and the rate of deployment has been accelerating, before and during the outbreak.
Since the initial quarantines were at least partially lifted in the spring, Frew says, retailers have had to adjust to unique challenges. For one thing, retailers must adjust inventory that has been accumulating at stores or in the supply chain. But additionally, he notes, purchasing behaviors have changed with an increase in online orders. While there has been a transition toward BOPIS purchasing, that has increased with the pandemic. According to Frew, retailers often serve customers with fewer staff members, due to COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.
The company says it is releasing the tools to help retailers adjust to the changed market. One challenge for retailers has been selling existing inventory while providing goods to buyers who prefer to shop online. While stores have already been seeing the need for BOPIS services, Frew says, “Every retailer that has come out to reopen stores has found the challenges of using their store inventory as replenishment sites,” meaning in-store products are being purchased online.
BOPIS’s success, Frew maintains, is limited by inventory accuracy confidence. “They need a high level of confidence in what they have in their store,” he states, in order to provide those goods for sale online. The software will identify inventory availability and display where those goods are for the retailer, so that workers can most efficiently forward them to the location where a customer needs them. The new tool serves as an app on a handheld terminal, such as a UHF RFID reader, employed by store personnel to locate specific products.
An order is provided via a drop-down on a worker’s device, and the system will display where the products are located in inventory. The handheld can be used to locate each item via RFID tag reads, and to update the inventory status to indicate each item has been picked. Clarity can forward the collected data to the retailer’s online order-management system in order to alert a customer that a product was successfully picked and is ready at a specific site for pickup, or that it has been shipped.
Ultimately, Frew says, with more accurate picking, the system minimizes the cancel rate for BOPIS orders—which he says improves customer satisfaction—and the feature offers labor efficiency improvements so that fewer work hours are required to accomplish the picking of products to fulfill such orders.
The second new feature is intelligent markdowns. Currently, Frew reports, the markdown process requires some manual effort, which can be labor-intensive. Typically, markdowns require that sales associates walk around a store viewing merchandise and prices, using a manual pen-and-paper method, then leave the sales floor to create price tickets, often with color codes, to indicate how much each product is being marked down.
“The big challenge,” he states, “is managing the list of SKUs to markdown, finding each item and then printing labels while in front of the item.”