At this year’s NRF: Retail’s Big Show, there was a palpable energy that flooded the Jacob K. Javits Center as retailers traveled far and wide to talk and learn about all things retail. Among the 40,000 people, 18,000 retailers, and 800 exhibitors at the show, there was one common theme woven throughout: the experience; how it’s created, how it’s understood, how it’s optimized for the employer, the employee, and the customer. Here, we unpack the top three takeaways as they relate to the retail experience, and how they’ll influence retailers’ HCM strategies in the year ahead.
NRF reports that 63% of consumers say retail tech and innovations improve their shopping experience for customers via mobile, while 66% said the same for the in-store experience, and 80% for the online experience. AccuStore unpacks this major theme as discussed at NRF, and more specifically on how technology enhances the customer experience. As Ceridian’s Future of Work report states, organizations will get ahead by thinking of technology as an enabler as opposed to a disabler. Retailers need to leverage smart technologies to keep pace with the digital transformation.
Retail TouchPoints also gathered some impactful intel when it comes to the rules of customer engagement. The impact of technology is a key theme – especially when it comes to customer communication. There are many communication platforms available, and retailers need to actively monitor and track how these platforms communicate with the customer. These platforms range from social media, email, press releases, experiential events, etc. It is imperative for retailers to establish consistency and maintain a positive environment among these communication platforms to create a streamlined experience for their consumers.
Now, when it comes to the employee experience (EX), the same concept can be applied to establish an engaged and positive workforce. Continued innovation and emphasis on building a best-in-class CX should be a signal to employers that investing in tech that supports EX should be a lateral step. Systems that support your associates to be engaged and feel supported also impact the CX and therefore your bottom line. Therefore – CX and EX work hand in hand.
As reported by Progressive Grocer, an empowered retail associate creates a more effective workforce culture, and therefore an enhanced retail customer experience. Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner kicked off NRF by digging deeper into the profile of the empowered associate. After making significant changes at Walmart and Sam’s Club to increase pay, improve training, and give employees more control over their scheduling to improve satisfaction, Furner reported lower turnover and an overall improvement in customer service. In his presentation, “Why Retail Jobs Can Be Good Jobs,” he describes how a retail job has the potential to be a good place to work – if retailers show their associates they care by applying similar tactics.
Furner sums up his insights as a leader by saying, “I realized that serving people and making their lives better made a real difference. Our role, leading big organizations, is to make sure our teams have the resources, the clarity and a whole system and process around them to make the environment work, so they can feel successful.”
The concept that empowered employees create a positive workplace – and vice versa – reinforces the need for a harmonized approach to HCM. Managing how all the facets of employee engagement, workforce operations, and organizational culture work together is how employers can find true harmony within their organization. The onus is on retail leaders to implement the proper tactics to do this.
Retail TouchPoints touched on the undeniable importance and continual rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the retail landscape. Leveraging AI to strengthen the customer and employee experience, including overcoming biases in the recruiting process, needs to shift from a potential asset to a necessity for retailers. To effectively sift through and understand the plethora of data about consumer and associate patterns and behaviours, employers need to leverage AI platforms to effectively discern it and make informed decisions.
TechRepublic also covered AI and ML, reporting on Starbucks’s artificial intelligence platform, Deep Brew, as well as its innovation lab, the Tryer Center. Both platforms act as a connection hub: “In many ways, Deep Brew and the focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence is all about findings ways to help humans have more time to be human,” Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson said. “It’s not about robots replacing humans. It’s about technology that frees up our baristas to better connect with one another and connect with customers.”
Starbucks is actively investing in technologies that enable its associates (or as they call them, partners) to spend more time connecting with one another and connecting with customers.
The main takeaway is that retailers need to be employing and embracing AI and ML now to be considered a competitive player in the market. And – employers need to understand that AI and ML encapsulate the need for us to work with technology, not against it. The way Starbucks has embraced these modern technologies to enhance the human connection is an innovative and positive way to approach the future of work.
When all systems, people, and processes work in tandem, associates are empowered to bring their best selves to work and to create meaningful connections with customers and their peers. There is power in technology and humans working together, and now is the time for retailers to truly embrace it to find the harmony – and success – they desire.