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How the Retail Lessons of 2023 will Shape Trends in 2024

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What lies ahead for retail in a world that smells faintly of recession with whiffs of economic depression but is driven by the overwhelming scent of innovation and emergent technology? The answer is…people.

Riyaat Phillips, Senior Presales Manager at Altron Systems Integration, delves deep into the insights he gained from lessons learned in the retail sector in 2023 that he believes will possibly shape the trends that are yet to emerge in 2024.

He believes that it will be crucial for the retail sector to prioritize key efficiencies within the business, leveraging technology and analytics to streamline decision making. Here are his main recommendations for the retail sector to hone in on for 2024:

Workforce Management

It will be key that retailers can solve for demand, building staffing efficiencies to ensure stores deliver customer service and manage demand effectively.

A commitment to optimising the workforce and its efficiencies will result in measurable growth and this can be seen in the current South African retail landscape with some chains showing steady growth and expansion while others are cautious.

Shift Towards Technology

Another trend, particularly in the local retail environment, is the move to technology. Companies are increasingly recognising the return on investment that comes with investing into technology tools that allow them to optimise their approaches and operations.

Overtime, management, employee attendance, and scheduling – can all be tracked with software that can then provide retailers with visibility into their overall staffing performance.

Tools with built-in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and analytics are improving reporting versatility and allowing for retailers to better recognise problems and implement preventative measures before they happen, or in time to mitigate the damage.

Employee as a Leader

Happy, engaged employees can determine a retailer’s destiny. Shoppers will return to a space where the people who greet and help them are passionate about their jobs and making a difference. The impact of apathy and antipathy on a customer’s experience cannot be understated.

In fact, the fifth South African Customer Experience Report found that apathy is on both sides of the South African fence as customers expect less and less from their shopping experiences and brand engagements. In fact, only 14% of brands cited customer retention as an important metric.

Why? When retention is the least expensive route to growth it seems odd that grabbing the next customer has become more important than holding onto existing ones. The country, says the Report, needs the next YuppieChef with such a startling commitment to customer service that it makes people come back time and again.

Riyaat emphasizes the need to invest in people, and believes that the local sector’s resistance to change will crumble over the next year or two and that it will soon adopt technology to clamber over these barriers.

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