We’re designing an app to make stock checking more efficient

We’re piloting an app which aims to make it more efficient for our colleagues on the shop floor to find out what stock is available on site, and for our colleagues in the stockroom to get products into customers' hands more quickly.

We’re starting small: store colleagues in 5 of our stores will have access to the app for 2 weeks.

A note to our store colleagues in pilot stores

We’re doing this piece of work to test our app designs, and to see how well they meet your needs. We are not testing you or your ability to use the app. If you are confused or you’re finding something difficult, it’s our job to fix our designs – it is not down to you to change your behaviour.

Be brutally honest with your feedback as this will help us find out what we need to fix – there will be no hurt feelings on our part.

How things work at the moment

The Footasylum Tech team has spent time with our colleagues in stores and we’ve worked with them to map out exactly what’s involved in their daily processes. From this work, we identified pain points together – things that could be more efficient for colleagues, customers and ultimately be of value to the business. One of the areas we identified was the process of checking what stock is available in their store’s stockroom.

There are many slight variations on this but here’s how the stock checking process tends to work at the moment:

  1. A customer comes in.
  2. They find a product.
  3. They find or wait for a colleague on the shop floor.
  4. They ask the colleague whether we have the product in stock in a certain size.
  5. The colleague radios colleagues in the stockroom to find out (unless they can locate a scanner – if they can, they can use it to check if it’s in stock but there is little trust in how accurate scanners are).
  6. A colleague in the stockroom searches for the item.
  7. They then report back on the availability through radio to the colleague on the shop floor.
  8. The shop floor colleague relays the information to the customer.

What we’re trying to improve

We initially heard that using radios to communicate between the shop floor and stockroom isn’t particularly efficient. When multiple radios are added there’s interference not only between shop floor and storeroom, but some shopping centres end up using the same channels too. This means at times, Footasylum colleagues have to wait for a gap to communicate with their store colleagues – and the more people out shopping, the worse the delay is. Not great for busy days.

Quick research: timing the process

We timed a range of colleague ‘shouts’ from shop floor to the stockroom to see how much of a problem this is. We timed the shouts at different times of day, and on different days of the week, in 3 stores.

The infographic shows the length of time between a customer requesting a shoe, and it is handed over to them. The pale green lines show the length of time it took to confirm the product and size was in stock. The green line shows the length of time between a colleague confirming the product is in stock and it arriving on the shop floor with the customer.

We found that checking stock availability accounted for at least a third of a customer’s wait time. We then compared this to some other retailers to see if they were encountering the same issue. We also looked at what tech they were using to check stock.

But why bother speeding this up though?

Five minutes might not seem like an unreasonable amount of time to wait for the privilege of buying new trainers. True. But we know the process could be much more efficient too.

We believe that if we can improve the selling process for our colleagues so they quickly have the information customers ask them for, we will:

  1. Improve the chances of customers choosing to spend their money with us.
  2. Free up colleagues’ time so they are available to help more customers.
  3. Help colleagues appear more approachable – they’ll no longer be glued to their radios.

The questions we’re trying to answer during the pilot

This is a pilot. The reason we’re testing the app in only 5 stores is that we don’t yet know how well our designs will work. It is much easier, cheaper and less confusing for colleagues if we start small, test in a few stores, listen to and analyse feedback and make improvements based on it, rather than trying to retrospectively fix a load of problems after a huge rollout.

We’re trying to find out:

  1. If the app can improve the time and accuracy of checking stock from the shop floor (and if so, can we move towards removing the existing scanners and radios?)
  2. How we can collect and use data to ensure we have the right stock availability in store for our customers.
  3. What’s missing from the app. We’re testing what we’ve created and will compare it to the existing radio process.

We’ll use 3 research methods

Over the 2-week pilot, we’re using 3 ways to find answers to our questions. The mix of methods will give us a combination of qualitative information (opinions and observations) and quantitative information (data) – a balance of the 2 will help us make better-informed decisions about how to improve and iterate.

1. Diary studies

We’re asking 20 colleagues to use the Indeemo app to take pictures and record the screen of the device whilst they perform specific tasks and make notes about the new processes. From this, we will hope to find out how intuitive the app is, what problems colleagues are finding, and what the radio helps them do that we may need to incorporate into the app. The best bit about diary studies is that the colleagues involved in the pilot don’t feel as if they’re being watched and will record their actual actions and not just what they remember about them.

2. Interviews

These will be adhoc with colleagues throughout the trial period to find out what problems they’re having on a regular basis if using the app has improved their experience.

3. Data

As colleagues use the app, we’ll collect data, for example, what’s in or out of stock, if the app crashes, and how long it takes for the item to show up on the app.

Where we’ll go from there

After the 2 weeks pilot we’ll have a wealth of research to analyse. The team will iterate and improve the service and get it back in front of store colleagues as soon as we can.

We’ll blog when we have updates.

Emma Wailes Product manager