There’s no question that technology can help us do our jobs faster, more efficiently, and with fewer mistakes. But poorly implemented and badly designed technology can be stressful, confusing, and overwhelming – in fact, it can lead to lower productivity and more mistakes.
So how do you ensure that when you introduce store digitalization, you’re going to be making things better for your staff, not worse? Partly, it’s about the design of the software. However, the main element, as we’ll see below, is about how that technology is integrated to provide seamless processes that don’t require the user to keep moving from one thing to another. We call this the “fifteen tabs” problem. Let’s break this down into two elements: multi-tasking and multiple data sources.
Cognitive overload and context switching – the myth of multi-tasking
Most of us like to think we’re good at multi-tasking. We’re not nearly as good as we’d like to think. Research has shown time and time again that hopping between tasks is far less efficient than doing one thing at a time. According to a joint report by Qatalog and Cornell University’s Idea Lab:
- On average, people take nine and a half minutes to get back into a productive workflow after switching between digital apps.
- 45% of people say context-switching makes them less productive.
- 43% of people say switching between tasks causes fatigue.
The more things that are clamoring for our attention, the harder it is for us to focus. We’re constantly getting notifications from email, text, Slack, Teams, and countless apps. We don’t even have to look at those notifications to get distracted – just knowing they’re there is enough. Oddly, it’s not just the number of notifications that causes the problem – it's also the number of sources. It’s far less distracting if all your notifications are coming from just a few places.
Browser tabs are another example of an overloaded work environment. Having lots of tabs open may make you feel you’re being super productive and keeping track of many things at once. In fact, it’s just overloading your brain and making it harder for you to focus on your current task.
If your work environment is cluttered with too many apps, notifications, and browser tabs, your brain will find it hard to focus. To be efficient, you should reduce those to a minimum. A single app that provides you with everything you need to do your current task is the ideal solution. If you need to keep track of several different things, it’s much more efficient to route all the information through a single conduit, so you’re not constantly context switching.
Too many data sources – the cost of copy and paste
Another major contributor to cognitive overload, loss of productivity, and increased errors is having to use several different tools to do one task. Every time you have to look up data in one system, then enter it into another system to do the next part of the process, even a simple task becomes slow and prone to errors. It’s even worse if you’re using a mobile device, and you have to manually type in data because you can’t always copy and paste between apps.
IBM estimates that reducing the number of apps involved in a task from three to one reduces the time taken by 25% and reduces the number of errors by 50%.
If you need to use several different tools to do a task, you’ll work slowly and make mistakes. To be efficient, you should be able to do an entire task, start to finish, through one single portal.
How this affects store staff
We’ve seen countless examples of retailers who have attempted to introduce store digitalization by bringing in many different solutions from different vendors, each of which is designed to solve one specific problem or address one specific part of the task. Individually, they work just fine, but when you put them all together, it becomes a cacophony of incoherent tools.
For example, it’s common to find situations where you have to look up a customer’s ID in one system, then enter it into another system to retrieve an order ID, then enter that into a third system to access shipping information or inventory details. We’ve seen many cases where staff need to keep multiple apps open just to keep up with everything they need to do. If they’re relying on notifications to manage their task list, they have to keep checking many different places in order to see the big picture.
All the information and functionality are there – but switching between numerous tabs and apps is stressful, time-consuming, and error-prone.
It’s not just store associates who are affected. Managers who need to compile reports from multiple data sources have to spend time manually exporting and importing CSV files, or laboriously copying data by hand from one tab to another.
A store digitalization platform reduces workload, errors, and stress
Grid avoids these problems by using Grid Signals to give staff a simple, uncluttered, and integrated workflow.
- The task app centralizes all employee notifications and responses, so they don’t have to keep checking multiple sources. It also enables them to prioritize their workload even if they have to keep track of many different tasks.
- Staff-facing apps allow employees to complete an entire task without needing to switch between different tabs or apps.
- Centralized reporting means that managers don’t have to manually compile data from multiple sources.
The platform approach, with shared data and single portals, results in a system that’s easy to use, efficient, and less prone to errors. Staff can do their jobs faster, more effectively, and with less stress.