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Getting the full picture

By Retail Technology | Friday June 5 2020

COVID-19 has thrust video conferencing into the spotlight, but how important can it be to retailers? Jens Vang Lauridsen, VP of UK and Ireland at Lifesize, examines the benefits

For modern retailers trying to stay competitive in an uncertain market, communication is key. A sound communication system is essential when building internal strategies, coordinating operations across branches or staying in touch with suppliers.

Why stick with audio alone? Video conferencing lets retailers hold richer remote conversations that can bring several unanticipated benefits to the business. This article highlights five benefits that a video conferencing system can bring to a retail company.

Crisis management

Retail was one of the hardest-hit sectors when COVID-19 developed into a full-blown crisis. The lockdown has made it difficult for many companies to plan their management strategy and coordinate staff during an unprecedented, once-in-a-generation event.

A health crisis isn't the only emergency that can de-stabilise a retail operation. Fire, flood, power outages or even international conflict can all leave a company on the ropes. Video conferencing offers a way to quickly bring emergency teams together and coordinate a response effort across many locations to minimise disruption.

From the vantage point of business preparedness, it's easier to install and test a video conferencing system and service now rather than try to do it in the midst of a crisis that is disrupting your business. A small investment now can prepare you to hit the ground running when an emergency happens and avoid being caught out again during another crisis.

Seamless communication

Installing video conferencing infrastructure doesn't just prepare retailers to handle a crisis. It enables them to communicate more effectively each and every day. Video calls between individual locations from any device are easy through the cloud and provide a higher-quality experience than a phone call, especially when talking to multiple people at once. It means a workforce that stays more connected with minimal friction. A regional manager can use this to organise meetings that would not have been easy before, such as weekly huddles with store managers in the area to brief them on the latest developments. According to the Lifesize 2019 Impact of Video Conferencing Report, 41 percent of people believe that companies using video conferencing have more engaged employees, so using this technology will help you to bring together your crew, enhancing their team spirit and ensuring that they feel fully included in what’s happening at head office.

More efficient supply chain management

Video conferencing is an excellent way to evaluate products or materials quickly without having to ship them over long distances. Modern broadband connections make ultra-high definition 4K video links possible so that buyers can look at products in intricate detail. At Lifesize, we work with some fashion houses that use these 4K sessions to evaluate fabrics directly from the factory, often a continent or two away. This lets them see every fibre and colour in eye-popping detail, accelerating supply chain and manufacturing decision times and reducing the need to manage samples and shipping costs.

Superior training

Retailers rely on staff education to ensure smooth back-end processes and a consistent customer experience. In practice, it can be difficult to organise training for employees spread around the country or even the world. Video conferencing offers a way for retailers to conduct virtual training and make better use of employees' time and HQ's budget.

Video conferencing can deliver training directly to employees' desks, enabling them to learn while minimising disruption and travel. Retailers can use this opportunity to offer more frequent, shorter courses that keep employees more up-to-date on best practices and brand guidelines. They can even record and share training courses, turning them into evergreen resources made available to each new employee.

Reduced travel expenses

Finally, video conferencing lets retailers save costs while being more environmentally friendly. The days when a manager had to spend days on the road visiting branches and regional offices are over. Instead, they can supplement some of that travel with sessions from a desktop or mobile device. A third of the respondents in the previously referenced Lifesize study said that video conferencing has helped them travel less for business.

Reducing business travel isn't just cheaper; it's more sustainable. Consumers increasingly value businesses, including retailers, that demonstrate sustainability. According to the State of Sustainable Business 2019 report from non-profit BSR, customer demand is a driver for 43 percent of companies' sustainability efforts. Nevertheless, many companies still find sustainability difficult. The BSR report also revealed that only 66 percent of companies integrate sustainability fairly or extremely well into the core of their business, and this figure has barely moved since 2016. Video conferencing represents a quick win for retailers hoping to make an environmental difference.

In 2020, the old excuses for not using video conferencing no longer apply. It is no longer difficult to install and configure, off-the-shelf solutions won't break the bank, and quality is no issue as broadband links make high-definition sessions the norm. For retailers hoping to stay nimble in the face of growing competition and economic uncertainty, it's about time to make the leap.



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