With the current labor shortage being attributed to a number of factors, many grocers have started to accept that there are just fewer workers in the workforce than before the Covid-19 pandemic. With fewer workers, you might think that grocery stores have been taking a hit by increasing wages, having lower quality customer service, and generally having staffing issues. However, we have started to see many savvy grocers turn their acceptance of fewer workers into increased margins in their stores. How? By implementing just a few key technologies. Here are 3 technologies to optimize labor spending in your grocery store:
While self-checkout has been around for decades, it has just recently become more prevalent with smaller supermarkets and even smaller stores like pharmacies and gas stations implementing them to great success, with self-checkout now comprising of nearly 40% of checkout options. The reason self-checkout cuts down on labor costs is simple: one employee can manage 4-6 lanes by themselves.
While installing self-checkout can have retailers see an ROI within nine to fourteen months, clever retailers can come up with methods to see it even sooner.
Self-checkout takes up less space than traditional belted lanes. Because of this, some smaller, 5-lane stores remove two of their lanes and then use that space to install 4 self-checkouts. This of course means the store goes from 5 lanes to 7 total lanes. More lanes mean that the store can get more customers in and out quicker, providing increased customer service.
I have also seen stores that will install six self-checkout machines and only have those lanes open in the morning with no one manning the belted lanes. This meant that one person was running six lanes by themselves until the lunchtime rush. Most shoppers are used to using a self-checkout lane, so it isn’t much of a problem, but if any shopper didn’t know how, then the employee would check them out on the self-checkout lane. This quietly teaches the shopper how the lane works while still providing great customer service and promoting the use of self-checkout in the future. With this method, the store can use only one cashier for the entire morning.
The Covid-19 pandemic and related worker shortage have helped push the importance of self-checkout to retailers for more reasons than just having one cashier manage six lanes. Another major factor is the increased importance of social distancing and generally having less interaction with strangers. With self-checkout, the customer does not have to interact with anyone if they choose not to. With this new importance in the current zeitgeist, many customers have come to expect a self-checkout option when they do their weekly shopping. Just having a self-checkout can increase customer retention, provide excellent customer service, and provide a better option for health-conscious shoppers.
While Electronic Shelf Labels have actually been around since the 1980s, they have not been very appealing to retailers until the last few years. With recent technological advancements, electronic shelf labels are becoming more and more mainstream with grocers as they have proven to be an increasingly valuable tool for grocery stores looking to save not just money, but also valuable time. The main reason that Electronic Shelf Labels cut down on labor costs is that it saves the retailer from hanging new labels every time there is a change in price
By cutting this entire process out, the store can save dozens, if not hundreds of hours each week from employees that have the tedious task of checking what the new prices are, printing a label, and making sure it goes to the right location on the store shelves. This is a long, arduous process that can be riddled with human error. With electronic shelf labels, this process can be instantaneous with no errors.
While the grocery store is saving on the hours it takes for employees to print labels, they are also saving on materials. With electronic shelf labels fully implemented into a store, they would no longer need the printers, paper, ink, etc., required to print physical labels. While this may not sound like it would save that much in the long run, with rising inflation affecting both the cost of materials and the rate that the store is changing its prices, savings can add up very quickly.
One clever way a store could fully embrace electronic shelf labels is by utilizing the programmable flashing light that sits in the frame to help fulfill online orders. By triggering the light to flash, it helps immediately find the item the employee is looking for without having to look through the shelves with various other brands. This allows the store to complete online orders quickly, efficiently, and potentially with fewer employees.
Online sales have skyrocketed in the past few years, with the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic alone having e-commerce sales grow by 43%. Having an e-commerce solution has become a necessity in 2023, and with the heightened importance of online ordering increasing each year combined with the labor shortage, having a seamlessly integrated e-commerce solution is the next step in grocers' vitality.
With this in mind, TRUNO’s own TruCommerce is a powerful tool for grocers looking to save on labor costs, while also making their store’s online presence run much more efficiently. TruCommerce provides the ability, without human interaction, to automatically send item and pricing information to the store's e-commerce provider. It also enables multiple item/price updates during the day when needed.
Similarly, TruCommerce allows for any orders created on the store’s e-commerce site to be automatically sent to the store for fulfillment. The transaction is automatically added to the other sales transactions for the day. Simply put, an employee does not have to manually enter any online sales. The savings from this feature alone provide retailers with a complete return on investment in TruCommerce.
Invest in the Technologies That Can Adapt to the Job Market
While there are certainly other technology solutions that can help optimize labor spend, these three are crucial first steps that retailers can take. The job market will always be changing, and having technology that can adapt to the times is becoming increasingly important.
While stores may opt for just one or two of these solutions, all three working together could mean that a customer checked the price of an item online, went into the store and saw the in-store price was the same on the shelf, and then checked themselves out. All of this could be done with minimal to no labor costs while still providing customers with an excellent frictionless shopping experience.