Last week, we were lucky enough to attend Groceryshop 2023 in Las Vegas. We may have been there to showcase our new Series 5 Pro headset, but it was also a perfect opportunity to assess the state of the industry as a whole. There was much cause for optimism, but also a sense of frustration.
While overall trends are positive, stores are being hamstrung by a handful of persistent problems. Labor shortages, shoplifting and an increase in abusive customer behavior are putting unprecedented pressure on grocery associates. This is causing many to quit, making things even tougher for those that remain. Things can’t go on like this, and we want to help.
By providing instant and reliable communication, our devices create a much needed support structure for grocery stores. Here’s how they work, and why our ecosystem is perfectly suited to a grocery environment.
Bad news comes in threes
Grocery associates are facing many challenges, but three in particular loom large:
1. There are still as many as 800,000 unfilled jobs in the retail sector, and these shortages are affecting grocery stores in particular. Indeed.com is currently listing almost 120,000 grocery jobs, and this is likely to be only a fraction of the total vacancies.
With labor in short supply, three quarters of associates are juggling multiple roles. This makes it only too easy to forget time-sensitive tasks such as restocking shelves or removing expired produce. Fewer team members also makes it harder to attend to customers in a timely fashion, leading to frustrated shoppers and a stressful environment for everyone.
2. Labor shortages are also having an effect on security. Shoplifters are becoming more organized, and criminal gangs are capitalizing on understaffed stores. Organized retail crime grew by a quarter last year, and shoplifting now accounts for almost 40% of all losses.
As well as costing money, shoplifting incidents have the potential to escalate into violent confrontations. 80% of stores have reported a rise in aggression linked to shoplifting and, with fewer associates on duty, the possibility of facing this behavior alone is very real.
3. Shoplifting isn’t the only trigger point for abusive behavior. In recent years, there has been a worrying rise in verbal and physical abuse from impatient or aggravated customers. 90% of associates have experienced verbal abuse at work, while assaults in grocery stores have increased by over 60%.
This combination of stress and danger is having a serious effect on mental health. A 2020 study found that one in five grocery associates were suffering from severe anxiety, while up to 40% didn’t feel safe at work. With a quit rate already 70% higher than that of other industries, retailers need to address these issues before it’s too late.
Many problems, one solution
These problems are not mutually exclusive. When stores are short-staffed, associates find themselves manning large areas on their own. This leads to longer waiting times, increasing customer frustration and making abusive behavior more likely. At the same time, this chaos creates a golden opportunity for criminals to operate unnoticed.
In a perfect world, grocery stores could simply hire more associates. However, with budgets stretched to breaking point, a more creative solution is needed. This is where we come in.
Our devices act as a bridge between associates, plugging gaps in your communication and allowing a small team to go further:
- Headsets allow associates to communicate instantly from anywhere in store. If an associate needs information, they can ask a fellow team member without having to track them down. This reduces unnecessary walking by up to 1600 yards a day, giving associates more time to focus on helping customers.
- Headsets are hands-free, allowing associates to perform manual tasks while they talk. This improves task efficiency by 105 minutes a day, creating more time for essential jobs.
- Keypads can be placed on checkouts and linked to headsets on the shop floor. This allows associates to call for help without leaving their position, preventing delays and providing support in what can be an isolated part of the store.
- Our message cast feature lets you send automated alerts to your team’s headsets. These can be used to remind associates of time-sensitive tasks, ensuring these aren’t forgotten during busy shifts
- Headsets put associates in constant contact with in-store security. They can report shoplifting incidents without the need for a PA announcement, allowing them to raise the alarm without putting themselves in harm’s way.
- Telephony integration allows associates to make external calls from the shop floor. If a violent incident occurs, they can call the police without having to find a phone.
Our devices have always provided these benefits, but the Series 5 Pro headset takes things even further:
- Digital signaling technology quadruples the clarity of messages, ensuring that every one gets through on the first try
- Intelligent power management boosts the headset’s battery life, allowing it to last multiple shifts on a single charge.
- A noise-canceling algorithm filters out retail-specific background noise, easing communication during busy periods.
These are just some of the ways that we can make life easier for grocery associates. For specific advice tailored to your store, don’t hesitate to give us a call.