Rupal Karia argues that retailers who fully embrace digital advances will transform the customer experience and win major returns
Over the last few years, retail has transformed into a place where digital and mobile platforms lead the way. Big players such as Amazon have shaken up the industry, resulting in high-street retailers jumping on board the digital train to keep up, creating a shopping experience that empowers customers to shop in a way that suits them.
As a result, digital retail is booming. According to Fujitsu’s Digital Inside Out research, online shopping is one of the most valued (63 per cent) and most used (66 per cent) digital service, with one in four consumers always choosing a digital option when available when it comes in retail.
It is clear that this industry understands the impact of digital and how it can take advantage of it for their customers.
Retailers have created an integrated offering that enhances the customer experience – a recipe for success.
But what about loyal employees? What does this transformation mean for them? According to the same research, two-thirds of retail employees believe technology services and applications are vital to the future success of their company. Yet despite this, more needs to be done, with 29 per cent of employees stating that their ability to do their job is being hindered due to poor digital services.
In addition to this, Fujitsu’s recent Digital Tightrope research revealed that most retailers lack a clear strategy for digital transformation. Only one in three retailers agreed that digital priorities are fully aligned within their organisation.
The problem for retailers is that, outside of the workplace, employees have continuous access to high-quality digital services, from LinkedIn and Twitter to Airbnb and Uber. Therefore they have high, sometimes unrealistic, expectations of how these digital technologies should translate into their work lives.
Without the visibility the consumer has, and indeed, the knowledge of all the digital services available externally, employees are unable to provide the integrated approach, society now expects. This needs to change. Retail employees can benefit in a number of ways from using digital technology – from connecting with staff across the store or using mobile devices to look up stock information. It’s time for retailers to take advantage of this.
In order to maximise employee productivity, organisations need to integrate digital services into their day-to-day operations. Firstly, retailers can provide staff with devices and systems to improve the workflow throughout the organisation, so employees are not tied to checkouts or workstations, and instead focus on customers who need them the most. Having devices can allow staff to be more flexible around the store.
Secondly, they should use digital tools to collate data from the store, through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi beacons to help understand customer behaviour and movement throughout the store.
This data can then be analysed anonymously to build customer profiles and as a result can help employees improve efficiency throughout the store, by adapting promotions and location of services appropriately.
This data can also highlight if there is a queue at the checkout, if more staff are required to assist and how to beat queues.
As the boundaries between online and offline open up, we will see a more informed consumer, with greater choice and more flexibility in the way they move between channels and make purchase decisions. All of which present retailers with both challenges and opportunities.
It’s only when employees are appropriately equipped with technology that retailers will see satisfied staff and will be able to reap the benefits of a more digital workforce.
The retailers who will be successful will ensure they are digital from the inside out, have a robust infrastructure to integrate both the internal and external offering, thereby creating a balanced, efficient offering that caters for all audiences.
In today’s hyperconnected world, it’s never been more important to deliver seamless experiences in the face of rising employee and consumer expectations.