Guest Column | July 18, 2022

Top Retail IT Issues Getting In The Way Of Retail Workers And What To Do About Them

By Joel Stocker, ControlUp

Retail Leadership Driving Sales

As technology has become front and center in life and business, it is easy to see how it has reshaped today's retail landscape. Digitized consumer interactions find customers demanding first-rate operations for both online and in-store experiences. Simultaneously, frontline and digital workers live in a new reality where technology drives their day-to-day interactions and productivity.

Finding and hiring the right workers to meet today's new demands is harder than ever with the many retail job vacancies brought on by The Great Resignation. Retail leaders are getting creative with salaries, career paths, and flexible scheduling, while prospective employees evaluate the type of digital employee experience (DEX) each employer provides. DEX has become a key workplace differentiator that didn't exist until recently, especially in retail, where both the employee and customer experience make up a retailer's brand.

With so much of the retail experience dependent on technology, employees working in stores and remotely need frictionless experiences that let them be more productive and flexible. Employers who do not address this need are opening their in-person and virtual doors understaffed. The current scenario provides an impetus for retailers to address and solve the common problems employees experience to ensure fewer headaches, lower costs, increased productivity, and positive user sentiment scores.

While many studies have shown that unmotivated employees affect a company's profitability, several critical retail IT issues contribute to decreased productivity and engagement for those on the frontline and remote workers. Let's look at the five most common problems and touch on ways to solve them.

  1. Slow logon duration: The problem most frequently reported and experienced on virtual desktops and apps involve laboriously long login times. With shoppers and retail workers expecting technology to load immediately, Auth0 found that  86 percent of U.S. consumers report a great need to end increased frustration and cart abandonment. Since various factors can cause this to occur, isolating and troubleshooting can be extremely difficult and time-consuming.

Questions to consider include: What factors affect the logon duration? How can logons be made faster? How does my environment compare to others? IT teams will want to review the entire logon process to pinpoint the root cause of the delays.

  1. Application performance issues: The bottom line for every retailer hangs on how well their applications perform. If a website, shopping cart, or app falters, stalls, or renders slowly—retail customers and employees become frustrated and disengage quickly. found that 62 percent of people uninstall unreliable apps that crash, freeze, or create constant errors. Unbounce found nearly 70 percent of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer. Using an array of applications–e.g., POS Systems, Augmented Reality for fulfillment, navigation, and virtual fitting rooms, Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Inventory Management, Amazon Workspaces, and more–can find performance overloaded, authentication problems, and under-resourced virtual machine issues.

Questions to ask include: Are my applications available when my customers and employees need them? Are the apps loading fast enough to meet business needs and increase productivity? IT teams will want to observe the availability of the applications and monitor application-specific metrics.

  1. Work-from-anywhere issues: Until COVID hit, retail brands were traditional about where and how work happens. Then working from anywhere became an integrated part of retail as Deloitte and other industry analyst firms like Accenture and McKinsey report how digital impacted the entire retail organization, including back office operations. This shift is compounded with hybrid workers sharing they waste an hour or more per week due to technical issues. With challenges unique to every user's remote environment, from NIC speed to Wi-Fi signal strength and latency–observing key metrics in real-time is the best way to resolve these matters. Once data is analyzed against averages, bottlenecks become easier to remove.

Questions to consider include: Are there performance issues with the user's home Wi-Fi? Is there ISP bandwidth or connectivity issues impeding performance? IT teams will want to monitor remote retail workers' networks from each physical endpoint.

  1. Unified communications issues: With 86 percent of consumers willing to pay more for products in exchange for good customer service, collaboration tools that help retail workers surprise and delight customers are critical. Different communication systems like Zoom, Skype, WebEx, MS Teams, and more facilitate voice calls, video conferencing, instant messaging, etc., with 33 percent of organizations frequently getting reports of poor video quality, delays, poor audio quality, and the inability to log in. Overused resources, latency, and bandwidth consumption are just a few potential performance suspects that might impede optimization and create a less-than-desirable experience.

Questions to ask include: Are the SaaS-based services Unified Communication (UC) users need to communicate available? Are your virtualization platforms optimized for UC? IT teams will want to test UC applications proactively to ensure they run efficiently and deliver the best possible digital experience.

  1. Slow virtual sessions: Slow technology disrupts everything in today's fast-paced world. With 73 percent of customers preferring to shop online through multiple channels, retail customers and workers expect fast online experiences that flow smoothly. When online experiences slow down, engagement and workflows decrease. Virtual machines that perform slowly are typically the result of a deeper cause, e.g., bandwidth issues, Wi-Fi signal strength, fragmented disks, virtual machine sprawl, CPU limitations, or out-of-date tools. Troubleshooting to find the problem can be equally time-consuming and frustrating for retail IT teams.

Questions to consider include: What could be hogging resources? Are hosts or clients misconfigured? Are logon scripts or group policies slowing down sessions? IT teams will need a holistic view of a retail worker's digital experience to drill down into system performance.

Creating Better Digital Experiences For Frontline And Digital Retail Workers

Retail IT teams can capture detailed information, including NIC speed, Wi-Fi signal strength, and LAN latency, to determine the location and remediation needed for each problem with the proper monitoring tools in place. With improvements to virtual desktop infrastructure environments, monitoring and optimization must become part of the ever-evolving omni-channel retail IT infrastructure to create great customer experiences while empowering employees.

Understanding how everything works together will find retailers making great strides in reducing logon duration and cutting login times from over a minute to ten seconds. With near-instant insights simplifying their ability to find and fix problems, frontline and digital retail workers will stay productive without friction. In turn, getting the formula right for new ways of working will attract and retain the right retail workers to unlock greater revenue opportunities as they interact with customers without technology getting in the way.

About The Author

Joel Stocker is a Technology Philosopher at ControlUp. A veteran of the tech industry, he’s a student of human behavior and an avid technologist. Even when he’s not on the clock, Joel has a deep understanding of the links between technology and the way it affects people’s day-to-day lives. He strives to bring this insight to ControlUp, its solutions, and how they enable people to do their best work.