For many consumers, the perfect pair of sweats or the next pack of hand sanitizer is just a few clicks away. But, behind the scenes, there are soaring demands for increased responsiveness in the omnichannel retail industry and a consumer expectation of near-immediate product delivery. This is a time of challenge and change for nearly all industries and companies around the world, but the e-commerce facilities services industry is in a unique position. The industry is facing a shift in long-term growth trends, spending patterns and prioritization and new operational changes due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
With these changes comes the need for meaningful facilities services investments to limit the spread of pathogens, foster productivity and employee engagement and keep e-commerce and retail hubs as safe and healthy as possible. Here is an overview of lessons learned in navigating the pandemic’s impact on the retail industry.
Top considerations for retail today in relation to facilities services
E-commerce facilities and retail distribution centers have never been more important to maintaining business continuity. And, the demand for online sales has seen an increase of approximately 43% year over year as of September, reaching $60.4 billion. Companies are now calling for comprehensive, tailored facilities services and staffing strategies to meet the needs of these unique and complex spaces. Organizations today view investments in facilities services as key drivers of productivity, with a tangible impact on employee engagement and decreasing labor costs through the implementation of preventative maintenance, industry leading technology, cost-saving and energy-efficient facility capabilities and cleaning and disinfection to promote overall occupant wellbeing.
Role of a facilities services provider
The pandemic has introduced new challenges to already-complex retail supply chains. An experienced facilities services provider works with its retail clients to identify their touchpoints of greatest concern when it comes to preventing the spread of disease, and then develop a strategy to incorporate the right mix of cleaning and disinfection protocols for their facilities. Vastly different retail facility types require vastly different cleaning and disinfection strategies.
Cleaning and disinfection helps address e-commerce supply chain strain
With the astronomical increase in online sales, e-commerce distribution clients are seeing higher demand, thus requiring additional shifts and staffing resources. With additional employees in and out of the building more frequently, a cleaning and disinfection strategy needs to fluctuate as staffing levels increase. With the increase in COVID-19 cases in certain parts of the United States, heavily populated distribution centers now have protocols in place for positive case identification. Cleaning/disinfecting is a large part of this new protocol in which facilities have to shut down for at least 24 hours after a positive case is identified. Standard janitorial and safety training is no longer sufficient for fighting an outbreak. Additional specific employee training on COVID-19 practices and procedures is necessary to decrease the potential spread.
When it comes to health and safety, regional distribution centers and storefronts come with their own unique challenges. With widespread areas to cover and frequent high-touchpoint surfaces throughout the space, it’s important to leverage innovative tools and equipment in cleaning and disinfection. Implementing the widespread use of electrostatic sprayers is one example. Add electrostatic spraying at regular intervals when occupants have left the facility, perhaps at night or over the weekend. This is a broader service that covers more areas of the facility to ensure a deep disinfection that will make building occupants feel safe.
Promoting employee safety and engagement
In addition to limiting the spread of pathogens, it’s important that these facilities invest in measures to encourage employee trust. Seeing is believing — signage that encourages social distancing and good hygiene practices, in addition to informing occupants of the disinfection and cleaning procedures in place, goes a long way toward providing a sense of safety and peace of mind. For employees, shoppers and supply chain partners alike, signage is a simple yet effective way to signal this priority.
There’s no question that the retail and e-commerce industry is gearing up for an unprecedented period of demand, as holiday shopping cycles and continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic coincide. This is a crucial time for industry leaders to protect supply chain continuity, drive productivity, and invest in cleaning and disinfection strategies across their facilities. These measures are sure to have an impact in preserving the health and safety of these spaces in 2020 and beyond, and in turn, allow consumers to get the products they need, safely and without delay.