The unofficial beginning of summer is coming up next week, when the long Memorial Day weekend opens the season for outdoor grilling, swimming and sunshine. For retailers, it's it's also the first major sales weekend of the vacation season - and the first major strain on their business communications systems.
Aside from President's Day, Memorial Day weekend represents the biggest shopping event of the first half of the year. So while office workers are enjoying burgers and beer, it's all hands on deck for retail employees—and unified communications (UC) can go a long way to making it a more pleasant experience for everyone.
"The vast majority of retail chains like Target, Walmart, and Macy's are preparing their staff for some of the biggest sales of the season and a surplus of customers crowding store checkouts to match," according to employment website Monster.com.
Gearing up for a big sales weekend has myriad dimensions. For instance, retail employees need to know how their employer is promoting its sales—is it social media? In the local newspaper? An app? Customers will be bringing coupons and promotion codes to the store from all of these sources. Employees also need to be familiar with in-store pick-up policies, stock levels and the like.
Business communications provided through UC can offer centralized access via mobile phone or tablet to all offer details and inventory lookup, so that employees have the information they need at their fingertips, even while out on the floor. UC also can be used alongside the retailer's inventory management system, with automatic triggers set for low stock levels. In the event of an alarm, the UC system could then alert the right stakeholders dynamically, to take care of the shortfall.
"The system could start by sending out text messages, but the individuals can easily escalate to voice if they need to talk, or even video if they need to speak face to face," according to distributor Ingram Micro. "The result is an automated process improvement that can ensure the right people are communicating so items don't fall out of stock—thus improving customer experience."
From an operational perspective, stores need to ensure that its team is properly staffed during a sales event. Some workers might be multi-tasking between departments. There might need to be more people on the returns desk and in customer service. Not only does cloud-based business communications allow stores to staff up and down quickly, but a range of anywhere, anytime features, including text messaging, voice communications and video, allow sales associates to communicate with other departments about item availability and pricing while staying with the customer. Managers also can use the full cadre of collaboration features to communicate with employees about scheduling and hours.