In PSFK‘s Future of Retail 2017 report our researchers explore how the cornerstone of a successful retail model is the ability to quickly and effectively arm employees with the information they need to do their jobs more effectively.
In today’s competitive marketplace, a proliferation of new technologies has restructured the way that customers approach retail, transforming it from a destination-based practice into an always-on and always-available option. Shoppers have accordingly shifted their expectations, desiring a seamless path to purchase, regardless of when or where they want to buy. Companies born in this digital era have been quick to adapt to these new habits. However, established brands already operating at scale are carrying with them a legacy of systems and practices that can be a hindrance, and are not optimized for the current reality. In order to adapt, companies must update their practices, and effectively manage the flow of information and resources across a network of employees, stores and partners.
To share this information with employees, brands and retailers are investing in platforms that enable more fluid communication. At a store level, these tools can help staff quickly ask questions and respond to customer inquiries or collaborate on tasks. From an organizational standpoint, these initiatives ensure that important news is widely available, while providing a channel for associates to share feedback and ideas from the frontline.
Brands are quickly adjusting to this new need. Amir Nehemia, CEO and Co-Founder of Connecteam, states that “In the next five years we’re going to see a strong shift towards branded employee apps… By 2021, 65% of all U.S.-based companies will have launched their own employee app.”
As an example of this type of implementation, organization brand The Container Store is outfitting 3,000 employees across 70 of their stores with a wearable device to help information flow more freely between associates. Called Theatro, the voice-controlled wearables allow employees to speak into their device to initiate one-on-one conversations, share expertise and product information and guide new teammates while remaining heads-up and hands-free. The wearables can also pull up SKUs and review inventory without detracting from customer interaction. By implementing wearable technologies such as Theatro, The Container Store is striving to create a more informed and helpful population of associates on the sales floor.
Initiatives like this also translate directly into good business. According to the 2016 report from TimeTrade, Personalization in Retail: A Reality Check, 57 percent of customers would feel confident they were going to receive prompt, personal service if they saw associates collaborating with each other on mobile devices in a retail store. While adopting new technologies in-store also presents a set of challenges, clearly it has a payoff. A superior retail experience starts with developing a frontline workforce that is knowledgeable and passionate about its products, and empowered to solve any problem.