Research Hub > 3 Challenges In-Store Retailers Face in 2024 and How to Solve Them

February 12, 2024

5 min

3 Challenges In-Store Retailers Face in 2024 and How to Solve Them

Strategies and technologies to alleviate buyer friction in an evolving retail landscape.

The numbers are in — sales for the 2023 holiday season rose 3.1 percent according to Mastercard’s holiday retail sales report. As some retailers wipe the sweat from their brows in the face of inflation after the whirlwind of the holidays, in-store retailers must continue to tackle persistent challenges.

Mastercard reports that online retail sales were up 6.2 percent where in-store sales rose just 2.2 percent. And while the majority of retail sales are still happening in-store, a significant transformation in retail is being propelled by technological advancements and changing customer expectations.

There are many reasons why retailers want to make sure buyers keep coming into their physical locations. Primarily, buyers purchase more products when they are in-store, and people are more comfortable making a purchase when they’ve seen the product in person. But in-store retailers continue to face many challenges, specifically related to staffing shortages, inventory visibility and data quality. How do we address these challenges? Leveraging best-in-class technologies and strategies may be the key to enhancing the customer experience, improving operational efficiency and driving long-term growth.

Top 3 Challenges In-Store Retailers Face

1. Staffing Shortages: Thriving in a Remote World

The COVID-19 pandemic created a remote workforce landscape where work-from-home jobs became more prevalent, attainable and preferable over traditional in-store retail positions. Consequently, retailers struggle to hire and retain in-store personnel to this day. This shortage impacts various areas of retail operations, including customer service, inventory management, loss prevention and overall store experience.

In many shops, self-checkout is helping to compensate for the labor shortage, but it has also given way to new challenges including an increase in retail crime. Unintentional theft and “sweethearting” are on the rise.

Technologies like radio-frequency identification (RFID), smart shelves with electronic labeling, AI and immersive shopping are trending and can help retailers like you curb your labor shortages while enabling an improved customer experience. But your organization may still need help with deploying and implementing these technologies effectively. Partnering with technology integrators like CDW can help. 

2. Inventory Visibility: The Key to Meeting Customer Expectations

How often are retailers missing a sale because a product is still in the stockroom and not on the shelf? Or because shoppers can’t find the item they’re looking for once they get to the store, even though the website told them it was available? The path forward for retail is certainly omnichannel, but getting it right is the crux of the issue. Unpacking your curbside groceries only to find a “substitution” that is not at all what you ordered is frustrating. These challenges can really make or break a customer experience and deter them from being a return buyer.

Accurate inventory visibility plays a crucial role in meeting customer expectations and delivering a seamless shopping experience. However, outdated technology and poor data quality can hinder the ability of retailers to have real-time visibility into their inventory. Investing in advanced technologies like RFID, Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced analytics platforms can enable more accurate inventory management and tracking. They can also help your organization leverage data insights to ensure the availability of products, streamline operations, improve customer experience and reduce shrinkage.

3. Data Quality: The Foundation for Effective Decision-Making

Clean and accurate data is vital to understanding who your customers are, what your products are, where those products are and where they should be. Data quality is the foundation for effective decision-making in the retail industry.

The sheer volume of data generated from various sources, including customer interactions, sales transactions and inventory management, can be overwhelming. Without proper data management practices and quality control, it is difficult to accurately identify customer preferences, optimize inventory volume and placement, and implement targeted marketing strategies.

Partner with technology integrators like CDW who offer expertise in data analytics and can help you clean and optimize your data for meaningful insights. A strong data strategy is vital to improving inventory visibility, streamlining operations and reducing buyer friction.

Leveraging Best-in-Class Technology Solutions

Here is an overview of some of the technology solutions that are helping retailers tackle persistent challenges with renewed confidence. 

Checkout modernization: CDW understands the importance of seamless and efficient checkout experiences. By leveraging best-in-class technology solutions, you can enhance the customer journey at the point of sale, reducing wait time, and improving overall satisfaction.

AI and RFID: Artificial intelligence (AI) and RFID technology have transformative potential in the retail environment. AI can help retailers analyze large volumes of data and gain actionable insights into customer preferences, buying patterns and inventory management. RFID technology can enable accurate inventory tracking, reducing stockouts, improving operational efficiency and creating more interactive customer experiences.

Smart shelves with digital signage: Smart shelves use weight sensors and RFID technology to monitor stock levels in real time, ensuring timely replenishment. Digital signage like electronic shelf labeling (ESL) allows you to update and display real-time pricing and product details seamlessly. CDW understands how these technologies can work together to enable a much smoother shopping experience for customers, enhancing customer satisfaction while reducing operational costs and allowing for dynamic inventory and pricing strategies.

Data analytics and infrastructure: CDW provides expertise in data analytics and infrastructure, enabling your organization to gain meaningful insights from your data. By optimizing data quality, retailers can make informed decisions, improve inventory visibility, and implement targeted marketing strategies to drive business growth.

Architecting Long-Term Success for You and Your Buyers

Overcoming the challenges posed by staffing shortages, inventory visibility and data quality is no easy feat, but doing so is key to thriving in the evolving retail landscape. Partnering with technology experts like CDW can make all the difference. We help you build a plan to help you achieve short-term wins while working toward your long-term vision and transformation.

CDW can help you at every step of your journey — from technology selection to implementation, so you can modernize operations, minimize buying friction, and deliver a seamless shopping experience that exceeds customer expectations.

Andy  Szanger

Andy Szanger

Director of Strategic Industries
Andy Szanger, CDW's director of strategic industries, leverages over 27 years of IT industry experience, particularly in retail. He assists high-profile retailers in implementing solutions to enhance customer experience, gain business insights and utilize technology as a competitive advantage. Previously, he held operational roles in the retail industry, overseeing loss prevention teams.