With much recent activity and investment being focused on online, the c-store industry is catching up with other sectors at speed. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski spoke to four retailers who are already improving their stores with the web.
A week doesn’t go by in the RN newsroom without a story appearing from a symbol group, cash and carry or wholesaler that has developed an app, built a website or are accepting orders online. Recently it was the turn of Nisa, which announced two apps for retailers that will enable them to manage their stores remotely and order online with up-to-date product information. IT director Wayne Swallow says the innovation proves the company, “constantly strive[s] to provide our independent retail members with the latest in retail technology”.
Yet, the cynic will ask, is having the latest retail technology really all it’s cut out to be? Are these apps more for the supplier than the retailer?
RN decided to find out by speaking to four top class retailers to see how they are developing their businesses and their staff with the power of the internet. Can you match their online activity? These retailers have provided top tips to help you get the best out of the web.
THE SOCIAL NETWORKER
Christine Hope, Hopes of Longtown, Herefordshire
One of the things we’ve done is invest in an iPad. Using an app called Instagram, we take photos of promotions, customers or events that we then upload to Facebook and Twitter. Instagram really helps because I’m rubbish at taking photographs and you can use filters and light detectors to improve picture quality really easily. We can use it for anything – last week I just sent an image of a sign saying “you can’t buy happiness but you can buy ice cream and that’s kind of the same thing”. The benefit of using social media and websites like Instagram and YouTube is that you can have links to pictures and videos without hosting them on your site, slowing it down.
THE ONLINE ORDERER
Kay Patel, Global News & Sandwiches, Stratford
We do a lot of ordering for our store through the Best-one website using smartphones. It’s been mobile-enabled for a few years now and that means that the staff can scan things we need through to the main office where I or a manager can log on to the PC and send the order through without needing to spend ages with a notepad.
The amount of time this is saving the business is immeasurable because there’s no need to submit a long written list to the website – it’s all automatic. The next advance will be an app where the website records which member of staff has ordered a particular product. That will really help, because if I know a strange-looking order has come through, but it’s from a manager, I don’t need to spend time querying it.
THE STAFF TRAINER
Julian Taylor-Green, Taylor-Green’s Londis, Lindford
We use the Musgrave CPL e-learning training system for our staff. It has a number of options including fire safety, licencing and food hygiene. Before we were able to do this kind of training and carry out the refreshers online it used to be a major investment to have to take a member of staff to wherever the training was happening and give them the day off. This meant we only trained a few staff in some things, such as food hygiene, but now they can do it anywhere, in their own time without leaving the sofa.
This still means staff can see the investment you are making in them and it does help with staff retention. They also receive a certificate that they can keep and show to any future employer. From a store owner’s perspective it also has an in-built hierarchy that means I can see how each staff member has done.
THE SUPPLIER SITE VISITOR
Bintesh Amin, Londis Blean, Kent
The JTI website has been good because it has a lot of legal information and training tools which fit together with what we do in store, in terms of training and developing the category. There are planograms, prices, stock codes and other bits of general information. If you don’t get a visit from a rep, the information here is a one-stop place. The most important thing is that no one knows more about the products than the manufacturer and this is also goes for big companies too – the P&G Shelf-Help site is also really good