Retailers have been under excruciating pressure as inflation, supply chain woes, and recession threatens consumer spending, impacting their bottom line. As a result, many are leaning into promotional sales periods as a way to push inventory to consumers, ensuring they receive a portion of the limited discretionary spending. With the back-to-school shopping season underway on an earlier time frame than usual, and holiday shopping projected to begin even sooner as well, retailers must act quickly to guarantee they won’t fall behind.
To keep up with shifting demand, retailers are in a critical moment when they need associates to be efficient, supported and connected to retailers’ goals. To do so, retailers, many of whom operate on outdated staffing technology, can quickly implement new solutions that will not only help retain talent during these critical months, but also recruit it as well.
Increasing the Ease of Communications
Some retailers don't have a uniform workplace communications tool. They rely on paper schedules and time-off requests being sorted out behind the scenes, handwritten suggestions and feedback from customers or management in boxes, and group text messages to coordinate shifts. However, utilizing a common platform to synchronize efforts would lead to a faster onboarding process while cutting down the time employees spend searching for answers to questions or requests.
With hybrid work schedules varying hours or requirements for staff to be on-site, a focus on automating and enabling seamless communications within the organization and with customers and partners has taken precedent. Deploying the right communications solutions allows a hybrid workforce to participate in a broadening array of care scenarios that include live support chats, video chat with store employees, person-to-person from stores, and via automated response systems. Outside of customer care, employees feel the benefit too as they can stay in touch in an easier fashion, often resulting in a higher sense of support from their employers. All of these are profoundly easier with a unified service/investment from a retailer, and the benefits begin to pay off almost immediately.
Omnichannel Experience to Support Staffing
Customers demand a seamless experience using retailers’ apps or when they're in-store during their buying journey. They want content in a format where they're comfortable without interruption. When apps crash, when they take too long to load, or when they can't compare products, consumers often abandon the retailer in favor of another one that can provide convenience. Retailers have to treat the employee experience like the customer experience. Younger staff expects to use the same devices and apps on the job as they would at home. If they run into these similar issues, they also will get frustrated and not view a retailer as highly as potential competitors.
Omnichannel experience expands deeper into the onboarding process as well. Instead of waiting for interviewees to come into a location, retailers can interview around 50 applicants in a day with well-supported communications channels. From there they can share paperwork and communicate all in one location, improving the employee experience.
Security and Access
With hybrid work environments, secure remote access to retail IT systems becomes even more essential as staff uses personal devices to carry out work functions. These devices have varying levels of security and are used on networks that are not controlled by the retail organization. As a result, retailers struggle with securing work devices on unsecured or unmanaged networks like public hotspots and home networks.
This is a huge area of investment not only for the benefit of retailers, but also for their staff. Many retailers are still not mobile-first as they use legacy systems which place an inconvenience on their staff. Those that can promote convenience and safety will be more aligned with potential recruits and current employees. Securing crucial company software and systems to prevent outages will lead to less frustration among staff and improve their engagement.
With retailers now in their most crucial sales periods, between the holiday season and economic pressure on their margins, it's vital their staff has the tools they need to operate efficiently and happily. Although there are endless technology solutions that retailers are investing in as they continue their digital transformation journeys, retailers that meet their associate’s needs are in a better position to succeed. Technological solutions have the ability to increase employee engagement, which will vastly improve sales, efficiency, and even help in recruiting.
Kevin Yarnell is senior executive of retail and hospitality at Cisco, a company that delivers innovative software-defined networking, cloud and security solutions.
I am very proud of my role as Senior Executive within the Industry Sales Organization at Cisco. My passion for creating a unique guest or fan experience allows me the opportunity to drive digital transformation within the Hospitality and Sports verticals. Being the executive voice to some of the largest customers in many industries affords me a perspective that clients are longing to gain to accelerate their competitive advantage and get to market first. I love the feeling when we create something that delights guests and makes staff more efficient while putting smiles on faces.
I have over 20+ years of experience within hospitality (don’t let this baby face fool you), working with organizations on their digital transformation strategies leveraging IOT technologies, innovation, and analytics. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with many hospitality clients mapping a strategy for casino, hotel, amusement park, entertainment venue, stadiums, and cruise line of the future initiatives back to technologies solutions and architectures.
I’ve learned to broaden my views by learning from other cultures. Having opened or remodeled properties across North America, managed digital transformation projects in Canada, or setting up automation workflows in Latin America opened my eyes to world views. Seeing the largest hospitality projects in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Singapore open and utilizing your technology suggestions is an overwhelmingly proud feeling that I have experienced.
My specific area of expertise is working with clients on solutions for enabling guest experience and staff productivity. Some examples include guest insights and analytics, digital platforms for mobile, collaboration in the areas of flexible fulfillment, personalization, frictionless check in/out, and social media enablement, all of this while creating a secure network to protect the data.
While traveling is in my blood, I believe we all need that next escape on our calendars. Whether it’s a family vacation, or business trip, we all need a way to grow from new experiences.
Travel- (noun) the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.