Almost a year ago, we announced the launch of our new EcoXpert Retail Specialization and started training partners to address the needs of stakeholders in retail chains with our offering.
While those needs are still vital, some have become even more important as the retail industry faces the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. In countries where retail stores are opening again, we see different patterns in consumer behavior and changes in retail business models. Retailers face more challenges than ever before, and the current crisis will have long-term implications.
As an example, in early May, the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank estimated that retailers in the UK would need to realize operating cost savings of around 30 percent. In other countries and regions, cost reductions are among the top priorities of retailers as well. Nevertheless, there are significant differences depending on the type of retail business, geography, and with regards to how companies were doing before the pandemic hit.
We’ve been working on retail solutions in the context of, among others, physical distancing, safety, health, and hygiene, as you can read in a recent i-SCOOP interview with George Das and across our EcoXpert Partner Program channels (feel free to get in touch to learn more).
Boosting efficiency of stakeholders in the retail ecosystem
At the same time, myself, overseeing the Channel Strategy for our Retail Segment, and my colleagues developed a digital training curriculum enabling you to help retailer chains with pressing challenges in a fast, easy, and cost-efficient way.
Now that ‘remote’ is the norm, resources are limited, business continuity and loss avoidance are essential, costs matter even more, and operational insights are crucial in retail, the team decided to focus on EcoStruxure Facility Expert Multi-site.
It’s our IoT cloud-based solution that enables remote maintenance and operations, helps realize cost and energy savings, serves multiple stakeholders in smaller stores and chains, and allows store managers to concentrate on their core tasks.
These goals were already crucial before the crisis but are even more so today. Take the shopping experience, for instance. As the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank states, technologies aimed at making the shopping experience easier, safer, and more efficient, all likely will be focuses for forward-thinking businesses. And that, along with the safety of staff, indeed requires the full attention of store managers.
The EcoStruxure Facility Expert Multi-site training consists of several parts, each for a different group of stakeholders with different needs in smaller types of retail facilities/chains such as small stores, convenience stores, small fast-food chains and gas stations.
The training explains the offering, the needs of these groups, the benefits, and the ways to commission the system, which is easy to do for all our business partners since it’s a simple, plug-and-play, and easy to install solution that offers essential benefits for retailers.
The groups of stakeholders are:
- Store managers, whose priority as just mentioned are customers and staff, want to spend as little time as possible on technical or equipment failures, need to be informed when one does occur, and are responsible for compliance reports, especially in food retail.
- Energy managers or heads of facility operations of the chain who want to keep their budget under control, mainly by identifying further savings on energy and maintenance costs. They also need to get the overall status of the entire portfolio of stores and quickly identify poor performers. As we’ll see below, this will prove to be essential in retail in the longer term.
- Regional facility operations managers that coordinate the operational aspects with maintenance teams or external services contractors, which could be EcoXpert partners as well. They need to follow up on the building maintenance plan, report, and make sure that staff is safe and business continuity guaranteed.
- External service providers and contractors. Working together with the operational manager of the retail chain, their job is to make sure energy consumption is reduced upon, costs are optimized, repairs happen in efficient and fast ways, and that the retailer is compliant.
It’s clear that for several of these segments, the importance of remoteness can’t be underestimated in the context of the crisis. Moreover, with even stronger cost pressure and a clear emphasis on resilience, business continuity, efficiency, and control, the need for data regarding essential assets such as fridges and fryers or important parameters such as energy consumption and costs per store will remain crucial.
The actions retailers will take and what you can do
While EcoStruxure Facility Expert Multi-site doesn’t offer the same functionalities as a full-fledged Building Management System (BMS), it provides everything many smaller retail chains need, now and long after the crisis.
In a report, ‘How retailers can manage and recover from COVID-19’, strategy and part of the PwC network, looked at some of the key areas for action for retailers in the longer term. Among them:
- Re-aligning the organization, which includes accelerating automation and outsourcing. As the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank says, cost savings, unfortunately, will come with job losses in some cases since that’s still the highest cost. One can, for instance, imagine that this also includes a shift of maintenance from internal teams to contractors.
- Go asset-light, among others, again including outsourcing and, where possible short term rent obligations.
- Accelerate cost and cash containment, among others, including assessing the location and profitability of the store network. It’s another reason to enable facility managers to have an eye on the performance of various stores.
- Implement continuous cost improvement: that doesn’t need too much explanation. Implementing processes to ensure a strong focus on controlling costs and expenditures across the organization will remain paramount.
Adding the importance of the shopping experience and how essential it is to make sure that all systems are optimally up and running, avoiding losses, for instance, when fridges stop working, the opportunity for retailers and EcoXperts is clear.
You can take the training here and get in touch if you need more guidance on ways to optimize retail operations in these tough times.