20 May 2021
20 May 2021
Over and over again, we’ve seen retailers cram years of digital innovation into just a few months.
But it’s people in the workplace that have made these innovations possible. So it’s not really a digital transformation unless the workplace transforms along with it.
Retail’s reputation tends to be the polar opposite of this, and for any retailer wanting to keep up, the best way is through a digital workplace.
This post will cover the definition of a digital workplace, why retail employees need one, its benefits, and how to implement one.
Quite simply, it’s a digital space specifically designed to give employees everything they need to perform their jobs to the best of their ability and improve their experience as employees.
A digital workplace is made up of technologies, platforms and apps that help employees:
A digital workplace should ideally fulfill all employee workplace needs and expectations, including:
Retail employee workplace needs and expectations are exactly the same as the above list, but stores, as a workplace, haven’t evolved to fulfil them.
We’ll get into a few of the reasons for that later.
But what this means for retail employees is that their day-to-day roles are mainly focused on transactional work - like completing tasks - instead of higher-value work, like building relationships and upselling.
Retailers need store associates to do more of the second kind of work to adapt and grow as a business. Survival depends on it.
Retail employees need a digital workplace specifically tailored to the realities they face every day - not just for the success of the business, but for their experience as employees.
Some of these realities are:
The need for a digital workplace has only intensified since the pandemic, because the role of the store associate has changed so quickly. Now, a store employee is also a safety expert, order fulfilment specialist and anxious customer reassurer, on top of their existing responsibilities.
But while office-based employees might have solutions that help them manage their to-dos, instant messaging tools to talk to their colleagues around the world, and company subscriptions to platforms like LinkedIn Learning, retail employees typically have none of these. They don’t even have a watercooler to gather around and bond with their colleagues.
A store only performs as well as the people working in it. And the bottom line is, a digital workplace gives retail employees everything they need to perform their best.
Store processes are paper-based or completed using disparate applications like email and Excel. Store associates lose time and productivity searching for information and manually completing routine and one-off processes instead of spending it with customers.
Stores are left out of the loop on important company news and updates, because it’s difficult for regional and HQ teams to reach them when the only computer they have access to is the one in the back office.
The go-to methods of training store teams, like classroom sessions, shadowing and paper take-home materials, haven’t changed much in years. They don’t keep up with a retail employee’s need for knowledge and progression.
Since stores are disconnected, knowledge isn’t shared between locations so everyone can benefit from it. Irreplaceable expertise acquired from years of running stores and helping customers never leaves the shop floor and levels of understanding could be completely different in every store.
Since each store has different knowledge and different ways of doing things, customer experience isn’t the same in every store and brand reputation is damaged. The in-store experience is sub-par in many stores since employees have less time to spend with customers and struggle to retain product knowledge.
Regional teams have to make costly visits to stores to uncover and fix issues. Employees aren’t as productive, autonomous or connected as they could be, so retailers have to throw more time, money and resources into managing stores.
Related Download: Retail Recovery: 4 Ways to Cut Costs and Boost Performance
An inconsistent customer experience damages brand image and loses in-store conversions, which impacts revenue.
Easier communication with HQ and regional teams, tools to quickly and accurately complete processes and accessible learning engage store teams, because it’s easier to do their best work.
Efficient stores, fewer regional team visits to correct issues and internal knowledge sharing are just a few ways a digital workplace slashes costs.
Employees spend less time searching for information and less time on repetitive admin work, which leaves more time for high-value activities.
A digital workplace brings learning content to retail employees, instead of the other way around. This boosts product knowledge and information retention.
A digital workplace connects stores to the rest of the organization by bringing company news and updates to them, and bringing stores into the conversation so they can share their questions, challenges and successes.
Since a digital workplace connects stores and facilitates information sharing, collaboration with other stores, regional and HQ teams is much easier, fulfilling every employee’s need for being part of a team.
Since employee needs and expectations like autonomy, teamwork and connection to a bigger purpose are being met, their employee experience naturally improves, along with employer branding and retention rate.
A digital workplace connects employees in different locations so they can share tips, concerns and ask questions, creating a knowledge sharing culture.
Productive, connected and knowledgeable employees automatically improve customer experience and are the differentiator every retail brand needs.
A better customer experience naturally boosts in-store conversions and basket size, which grows revenue.
Store teams have everything they need to perform their best, so they can autonomously make the right decisions and focus on empowering work.
Even after retail employees have proven their resilience and dedication repeatedly over the last year, many retailers still don’t see their work as a core business competency that’s worth investing in. Customer-facing aspects of retail are still viewed as a priority for these investments.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? This attitude keeps store performance plateaued. Store associates drive the digital transformation of stores, whether it’s a new virtual reality environment or a ship-from-store platform. All the while, they’re still using paper and emails behind the scenes.
Even if a tool might seem perfect on paper, if retail employees have to disrupt their flow of work to access it (e.g. leaving the shop floor, checking email after their shift), adoption rates will stay low.
Previously online-only intimates retailer Adore Me knew that a consistent in-store experience would be critical as they scaled up their brick and mortar presence. By using a dedicated digital workplace that combines tasks, store communications and training in one app, Adore Me keeps store teams engaged, motivated and working towards the same goal.
“This really brings alignment and a feeling of oneness that helps boost sales.” - Paula Angelucci, District Manager @ Adore Me
Fast-growing restaurant chain BurgerFi replaced their outdated LMS and communication tools with an engaging and modern app. Now, BurgerFi can not only communicate critical information to their 3000 associates, but show them how it needs to be done. As a result, BurgerFi has achieved 100% adoption across the entire network.
"We have been able to rapidly deploy enhanced safety protocols to our teams and, most importantly, maintain constant communication with our BurgerFi family during these uncertain times" - Nick Raucci, Chief Operating Officer at BurgerFi
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