There isn’t a single industry that remains unaffected by COVID-19. During the period in which all Australian non-essential retail stores were closed, and much of the population was required to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus, there was naturally a surge in online purchases and home deliveries.

Although stores have begun to reopen in Australia as restrictions have been eased, many shoppers will continue to shop online to stay vigilant with regards to social distancing measures that are still in place.

This major shift to online shopping has, in turn, inevitably put significant strain on the logistics industry to fulfil orders, while also taking the necessary safety precautions in line with government regulations, which has in some areas impacted worker efficiency.

Supermarkets have been especially impacted. Previously, Australian and New Zealand consumers would typically buy much of their food at supermarkets, but also regularly eat out at cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars.

During the early stages of lockdown when venues were restricted to only offering take-away and delivery, spending at grocery stores increased by 40 per cent.

The huge surge in demand has led to grocers booking out their online order delivery slots, retailers not able to keep up with online orders or finding themselves quickly out of stock of high demand products, and delivery services under immense pressure and experiencing delays to their services.

As it struggled to get to grips with the pandemic, retail giant Amazon told third-party sellers it would temporarily cease shipments of non-essential items to warehouses, so that the company could prioritise medical supplies and household goods.

This interruption lasted 20 days, between March 17 and April 5, 2020. Although Amazon has resumed fulfilment of non-essential items, there are and will continue to be ongoing strains and pressures on retail and transportation and logistics (T&L) industries.

With the flow on effects of COVID-19 likely to continue well into the future, mobile technology holds the key to helping retail and T&L industries manage consumer demands sustainably by increasing efficiency, managing workloads and solving problems quickly.

Here are four key considerations for optimising mobility:

1. Becoming more efficient

T&L solution providers are looking to improve service for both their business customers and consumers as well as lower costs and increase staff productivity.

Using handheld mobile technology in warehouses can help employees fulfil customer orders in a fraction of the time it takes with traditional systems. This in turn also helps brands to make better decisions on what products they need to supply to their retail shops, thus meeting the demands of their customers faster.

2. Increasing reliability and reducing risk

Complexity is often a factor in transportation and logistics. Weather, staffing issues and vehicle scheduling are just a few factors that can create confusion in shipping many diverse goods. Service issues that waste time and money threaten to undermine regulatory compliance and disappoint customers must clearly be avoided.

Logistics staff and drivers depend on their mobile devices and apps to do their jobs. When their device goes down, workers stop working. Using remote control software to manage mobile devices, IT departments can deploy as well as secure and manage mobile devices across vast geographic areas without the need to send an engineer onsite.

3. Providing management with visibility

Line managers and business leaders need to understand what is happening within their distribution network in real-time so they can respond with both accuracy and efficiency.

By having complete visibility of their supply chain, decision makers can quickly diagnose and fix issues. Failure to do this can have an impact on dispatching, customer relationship management, asset management, mobile point of sale (mPOS) and warehouse management.

By adopting a mobile-first strategy, businesses can improve workforce performance efficiencies, increase sales, improve decision making speed and scale, and ultimately, their ability to cope with the added demands placed on them by the coronavirus pandemic.

4. Ensuring security

With a spike in cybersecurity threats during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that technology used in transportation and logistics is properly secured and maintained in order to keep pace with the evolving situation. At the same time, it’s important that employees can access the right data and information to improve efficiency.

However, employers need to ensure that their employees are accessing business-critical technology and data in a secure way. Employees using corporate devices to access unauthorised websites, apps or content can threaten a business’s security and decrease productivity.

The right business-critical mobility solution will allow organisations to create integrated mobility management solutions that have centralised user authentication, single sign-on and role management functionality which will ensure data security within the business.

By implementing mobile technology that is properly managed and monitored remotely, retailers and T&L businesses can ease the burden of erratic order volumes, keep their staff safe and navigate business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without it, they will continue to feel the pressure and could find themselves struggling to meet customer expectations.

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