Engaging the Retail Workforce

Retailers are rapidly adopting technologies that improve the customer experience in an omni-channel shopping world, but do they always start with a vision of what their foundation for efficient retail operations is holistically? Imagine if our vision really capitalized on the typically young, inherently social and incredibly smart associates and all of the rich data and digital content found somewhere in your enterprise.

Further, imagine optimizing the power of this workforce by developing social, game-ified platforms that enable workers to connect with each other, their work, rich information/content and real-time inventory information. The vision is people, inventory and work  all accessible via a social networking platform. Work is performed collaboratively and with an array of available resources.
The objective is to truly balance work and customer interactions  – both served better – via a social platform that enables workers to enroll in work, but also respond dynamically to customers with the support of an extended network of experienced associates supporting them. The employee has access to electronic information and tips from other associates, potentially thousands of miles away, to complete work more effectively and efficiently.

Task Management’s Limitations
The reality of a retail store environment challenges some current task management systems to be truly effective. There is only so much work that can be pre-scheduled given employee multi-tasking. After all, the first priority of any retail associate is to serve the customer well, and store resource constraints limit a retailer’s ability to assign tasks to a fixed number of dedicated resources.
But when applications including workforce and task management, real-time inventory management and customer support tools are connected via a mobile and social platform, the modern worker is more engaged and motivated to get work done, help customers and support each other. This drives more operational efficiencies, workforce satisfaction and customer loyalty.
Engaged and well-informed employees are more loyal. If you think about it, shopping is social and your best employees are social – so a social platform for getting work done just makes sense. Integral, however is the ability to contribute to and gain visibility to rich content like planograms, advertisements, special orders, inventory reservations, customer intelligence and real time enterprise-wide inventory. Another new feature would be a customer click-to-call associate feature, where the customer can find and receive help from an associate via an in-store or smartphone-based application that leverages location intelligence. This is not just a task management system – this is a mobile social retail operations platform for the future.

The illustration accompanying this article identifies many of the features of the retail operations platform of the future. This platform is made possible because retailers can now put mobile and social networking tools in the hands of their employees. They can also build social platforms that engage the employee and the customer by leveraging role-based secured access.

Included functionality enables store associates to make better, more informed decisions, to be more engaged in making the store/company successful and to have more rewarding customer interactions, which also creates a better customer experience. The capabilities encompass workforce and task management; inventory management; merchandising activities including price changes, planogram revisions, display and sign updates; mobile commerce; guided selling; order management and execution; product information including product images, reviews, videos, product comparisons, installation and service information; and access to customer intelligence that aids in supporting excellent customer experiences in store.

Leslie Hand is research director for IDC Retail Insights. For more information about her research and reports go to www.idc-ri.com.
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