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5 Ways Digital Technology Can Alleviate Retail Staff Shortages

Staff Shortages

In industries such as retail, staff shortages and resulting complications have raised new challenges for businesses. Brought on by COVID-19 isolation requirements (among other factors such as supply chain issues and the “great resignation”), workforce shortages have resulted in worsening customer experience, as well as causing some businesses to trim trading times or close entirely at a great loss. However, there are solutions to these new-found roadblocks.

Here are a few ways digital technology can help.

Digital Concierge

A retail concierge can be either a staff member greeting your visitors at the door, or a kiosk which can put them in touch with the right member of staff for what they’re looking to do. In times of staff shortages, however, making this role digital frees up a staff member to redirect their time to another critical area.

A digital retail concierge can take the strain off an already-stretched workforce, allowing staff to focus on other areas of the store, even if only while the workforce is experiencing shortages. Alongside this, kiosk software facilitates “self check-in”, where customers can be directed to the right area or staff member to suit their needs, further easing the need for staff in a solely meet-and-greet role.

Wayfinding and Interactive Product Catalogues

Wayfinding is best suited to retail settings with larger floor space, particularly department stores. Wayfinding is often deployed to great success in settings such as hospitals and larger shopping centres, but can be equally as effective in single department stores which have multiple sections or levels or that are generally difficult to navigate.

Aside from wayfinding, kiosks can be deployed for purposes such as “endless aisle” and interactive product catalogues, which affords the customer the ability to browse, find and compare products – even those not in-store. These technologies allow the customer to explore by themselves without the assistance of time-poor staff.

Payment kiosks are another use for this technology, popularised by high-turnover fast food restaurants. They allow customers to select and pay for their items contact-free, further easing strain on already stretched customer service staff. Increasingly, many customers prefer this “self-service” way of operating.


Click & Collect

Click & Collect has been around for a while now, further amplified by the pandemic as a way to reduce contact with other members of the general public, and as a way to pick up shopping while physical stores were closed during lockdown.

Click & Collect can ease pressure arising from staff shortages through giving customers an alternative way to shop and collect their purchases. In turn, this reduces the number of people in-store at any given time, reducing the demand on customer service staff in physical retail stores.

Virtual Store Tours & Video Conferencing to Stores

Virtual store tours and video conferencing are two ways for customers to interact with stores remotely. Many companies are already employing virtual store tours as a way to familiarise their customers with store layout and product displays before their visit, or to facilitate shopping as it would be done in-person, thereby eliminating the need for a visit while still being able to experience the store virtually.

Video conferencing systems allow visitors to “dial in” and speak to a customer service representative remotely, either conferencing to a team member in-store via an appointment, or visiting the store and using a dedicated conferencing space to connect to a team member working remotely.

These solutions both make the most of the technology available and offer customers alternative ways of engaging with retail settings, all while easing the strain on stores experiencing staff shortages.


For more on Engagis’ work using smart technology solutions to aid retail businesses, contact us today.

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