Retailers should digitise to ensure compliance - and reap the rewards that come with it

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This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: Retailers should digitise to ensure compliance - and reap the rewards that come with it.

Retail compliance is a necessary evil for businesses to get to grips with quickly if they want to stay profitable, resilient and away from any lawsuits – but going digital to stay compliant also brings a myriad of benefits; says Sam Roberts, Retail Sector Director at mpro5.

From recording visitor numbers and fire drills to checking the in-store toilets and monitoring food temperatures. These duties help to keep both staff and customers safe and uphold the brand’s reputation. Not only that, but the accompanying records are essential for demonstrating compliance with the relevant legislation.

For most people, just the thought of recording this volume of data is daunting, but when you consider that many retailers are still relying on paper logbooks to document these actions, the prospect of maintaining retail compliance becomes even more challenging. Those stuck in the past simply aren’t in a position to manage an ever-increasing backlog of documentation and reports. 

Yet, taking the plunge also gives you the chance to transform your operations and deliver a consistently high-quality customer experience. It means more consistent remedial actions; higher brand standards that you know are being followed at all times; more efficient use of staff and management’s time - which reduces the impact of understaffing and mass vacancies and increases morale; better quality products; and in ultimately more loyal customers and a more profitable and resilient business.

Compliance failure is incredibly costly

In 2017, one major supermarket was fined an eye-watering £7.5 million for selling out-of-date food at three of its stores between 2015 and 2017. Additionally, another was fined £55,000 for selling mouldy porkpies in its Fleet store in 2017. Environmental health officers found that a particular branch had been storing its goods illegally at temperatures of up to 12.5C (54.5F).

These may be recent lapses, but it’s an old story. In 2008, a branch of a third supermarket was publicly criticised for its lack of cleanliness and general health and safety record following several incidents, with one case even resulting in a customer being awarded £10,500 for injuries they sustained after slipping on a grape while shopping in-store.

It doesn’t just cost money – lives have been and still are lost due to allergens in food. Last October, the UK Government introduced Natasha’s Law - creating new, strict regulations on allergen labelling to avoid any more tragic deaths due to allergy reactions.

In the future – we are bound to see new and strict rules on sustainability initiatives and net-zero, and lawsuits should they fail to comply. For example, in September, Client Earth warned ‘Big Food’ that many are failing to disclose the financial impacts of their reliance on plastics. 

Each of these examples represents a risk of failing to comply – and an example of when going digital can embed the solution, and therefore resilience, into the fabric of the day-to-day work.

The problem with paper

Major retailers can amass hundreds of different physical logbooks, all needing to be filled out regularly – a laborious, time consuming and ultimately inefficient task multiplied across thousands of stores around the country.

There are additional challenges posed just by the retail environment itself. The reality of working on a busy shop floor often means compliance-related tasks aren’t completed or recorded on time – or else not carried out at all. Even when procedures are followed and documented, paper-based records can be filled out incorrectly, easily falsified or even lost.

In many cases, these files just aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. This leaves retailers with very little protection should they ever face an injury claim or an investigation – a compliance officer’s worst nightmare.

It’s time for a digital solution

Many businesses are now moving away from paper logbooks in favour of digital reporting software. Unlike paper records, which can be easily backdated, digital logbooks are date and time-stamped when the user completes the check.

Not only does this provide tangible proof that the necessary steps have been taken, but it encourages workers to complete the required action on time. It also gives businesses more confidence that they’re complying with the relevant legislation. But perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates that a business is truly committed to keeping its customers safe.

Digital compliance can bring about transformation

Waving goodbye to paper logbooks has obvious advantages, but that’s not to say this transformation is just about compliance. Digitisation will bring about cultural change, making compliance a central task rather than a peripheral chore.

Your operational teams will appreciate the increased accountability and clarity around compliance. Optimising processes and freeing-up your colleagues' time so they can better focus on delivering great service is one benefit, as are the cost savings and better protection against litigation and for customers and staff. 

It's the improved customer experience that makes a digital solution so compelling. Going digital enables retailers to deliver a consistent, safe and high-quality shopping experience that will stand out from the crowd. While adoption can be daunting, the benefits of moving to a digital management platform ultimately make the journey worthwhile.

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