The future of work for retail?

Digital disruption's impact on the entire retail organization

​Retail is undergoing a massive transition with digital disruption that will likely impact the entire organization, not just online sales. Digital is going to make its way into back-office operations. And it's going to make its way into in-store experiences designed to not only engage customers, but also to wow them.

The possibilities are endless—and exciting

While some retailers are thriving with the rise of e-commerce, the climate hasn't been as rosy for traditional department stores. Customers have more options both online and in store than they ever had before, so their experience can't just be good—it must be unparalleled, or they'll simply become disinterested. It should also be easier and more intuitive to interact with the company.

Digital is going to change the way people shop. It already has. And it will also undoubtedly change the future of work. Retailers will need to dig deeper for an understanding of what's driving the accelerated rate of change in the industry and to respond with the corresponding strategies that match those forces.

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Digitizing the retail workforce

​Retailers will need to dig deeper for an understanding of what’s driving the accelerated rate of change in the industry and to respond with the corresponding strategies that match those forces.

  1. Transition to the future of work: New skillsets for retail workers are on the horizon. To capitalize, organizations need to take a proactive stance in understanding how work will be done in the future and how that shift impacts what the workforce should look like, how it should be organized, and how to maximize impact to drive the business forward. For retail, different kinds of workers will be needed as the industry evolves. There will be more need for customer service and less for cashiers; more need for problem solving and return resolution; and finally, more need for innovation and technology skills.
  2. It's not about wage war: Create an irresistible organization. The first thing companies can count on is that competition for the best talent is going to become fiercer for both back-office workers (buying, stocking/merchandising, engineering, technology) and storefront workers (sales, technology, customer satisfaction and experience) because the nature of the job is changing. The storefront worker is the face of the company. And with customer experiences—some digitally driven— becoming a major differentiator, personality and customer service will become increasingly important. These workers are largely responsible for the level of a customer's satisfaction.
  3. Playing at the top of your game: Facilitating growth. The same high level of expectation that employees have of their organizations is second only to the expectations of customers. How could expectations not be high, when a new digital age delivers products to people's doors in hours versus days and a few clicks on a phone prompts a driver at their doorstep to get them where they need to go? Retailers are being forced to re-examine the in-store buying experience. For retail stores to be competitive, the buying experience must be exceptional—from the quality and uniqueness of the products being sold, to the customer's experience with the store employees.
  4. Optimizing a workforce: Operating on a smarter level. HR can often feel caught between the forces of finance and store management. Organizations should have a clear understanding of their entire workforce needs. They need to have insight into the current state of staffing and be able to flexibly and effectively pivot based on the need to ramp up or down for seasonal needs, or based on any pending new strategies, to stay competitive. Workforce management is one way to help reduce costs, streamline staffing, and make strategic staffing decisions—something that can be a massive, administrative lift, even when people have access to insights.
  5. Make strategic decisions: Increase efficiency with analytics and dashboards. Freeing up store-front managers' time allows them to focus on things like making strategic decisions, taking inventory, and differentiating the store from the competition, and less time on managing payroll and labor. To do that, store managers need the analytics that help them manage their own stores as effectively, strategically, and easily as possible. Dashboards can help lead the way. Simple tasks like knowing when to use overtime or hire additional employees require the right metrics to make a sound decision. A productivity analysis helps identify inefficiencies and can recommend process improvements.

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Achieve better outcomes

With the right information, managers can make more effective business decisions. Making such an investment in analytics will be felt by all levels of the organization. Retailers who digitize their workforce, enabling employee engagement and productivity, will likely create cost savings that can be redirected into customer experiences.

The more companies can automate, the better. Managers don't have time to manually pull together the data and analytics they need to make solid staffing decisions over time. And there's so much to consider: the right amount of people in the store, where they are located within the store, what role they are playing at any one time. Staffing can become more predictive, especially with historical data feeding the system. Scheduling can get more precise.

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