The Evolution of Retail: Data-Driven Performance Enablement for the Next Normal
Consumer Experience in Retail: 3 Ways Performance Enablement Helps
Consumer experience (CX) tech in retail technology has been a trend for a few years now. Already back in 2018, manufacturing tech company Jabil was emphasizing the need for “machine or computer vision in stores.” Such tech might include “shoptainment” like digital, high-def videos upon entrance into a store, or screens where customers can request clothing to try on, or even inventory management tools that auto-alert staff when items are running low – as well as recording buying trends.
Risks for Retailers in Current CX Trends
Yet in overemphasizing “shoptainment” and inventory management technology, retailers risk missing out on the tech that relates to perhaps their most necessary asset: their floor staff. As opposed to tools we normally consider “CX,” workforce technology optimizes the performance of the employees responsible for making sales and retaining customers.
A store can have the most inviting display imaginable, and smart restocking tools, but if the staff isn’t up to snuff, the customer is going to leave. In the end, because so much of the CX depends on the staff they’re interacting with, such tools improve that experience – perhaps even more than those tools traditionally labeled “CX.”
Below, we’ll discuss 3 ways that technology enables frontline performance in 2023 – and improves CX.
1. Maximize Frontline Efficiency
The realities of the workforce have changed. In 2022, workforce productivity declined by the sharpest rate going back to 1947. Yet the workforce has become more remote and distributed, with the gig economy of freelancers and independent contractors projected to grow about 17% per year. Post-COVID, lots of retail’s normal frontline employees would rather manage their own labor than have a top-down experience at a store with low margins. They’d rather work for themselves in the gig economy.
One of the hallmarks of the gig economy is smart, all-in-one apps that drive performance. Think of the TaskRabbit app, using which Taskers and buyers can meet each other on an open marketplace. If someone needs a TV mounted, they can find someone to do it on TaskRabbit – everything happens on a single platform. The Tasker’s usage of the app to market their services is directly tied to their profits and productivity.
For retail technology, most retailers use Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) to help with this, in effect trying to keep the frontline engaged and trained, for instance via apps on staff members’ mobile devices. But can these technologies really deal with the altered landscape that retailers are facing? This is an old, legacy model of tech delivery, where employees see a notification saying, “Here is what the company wants you to learn now!”
Why would an employee tap that notification?
How does it affect their sales performance?
How is it relevant to them – especially up against smart gig work platforms, which provide prompts and notifications directly relevant to individual success?
Instead, frontline employees are more likely to find themselves interrupted by an irrelevant notification and grow dissatisfied with their work experience – a highly inefficient use of their time. Even if they do open the notification, is it going to help this individual specifically? Is it delivering the store staff the efficiency they need?
That’s where performance enablement retail technology comes in. Performance enablement platforms (PEPs), in contrast to LMSs and LXPs, are an evolution in digital transformation, one that effectively future-proofs the workforce – as covered in SHRM. Performance enablement platforms like Rallyware use a business rules engine to combine pre-defined rulesets with live company performance data to surface smart notifications that are relevant to a specific individual’s success on the sales floor.
PEPs say, “Here is how you can drive your success and earn more,” not, “Learn this because the company says so.” They’re embracing a gig-style model of success enablement. That’s a much more efficient use of time and attention. And in the end, that’s going to rebound on customer experience – with more empowered, engaged, and educated frontline employees – without having to invest in fancy virtual displays and other gadgets that leave workforce performance untouched.
2. Drive Sales Productivity
In addition to a more efficient use of frontline time and resources, performance enablement increases effectiveness.
As we discussed above, the workforce transformations of the last few years have resulted in a productivity slump. Old, legacy tech stacks certainly aren’t adequate to dig companies out of this hole. More innovative retail technology can help.
Having a wide range of workforce activities that are specifically calibrated to raise productivity does drive sales performance, a core KPI for retail stores. One central route for productivity gains is behavior modification in the frontline. By continuously tracking, collecting, and interpreting countless data points in relation to KPIs, PEPs continuously guide the frontline toward, and reinforces, positive behaviors suited to those KPIs.
Let’s say Rachel’s store needs to drive stagnant inventory, a problem even for very large retailers like Nike. Her performance enablement app, accessed through a mobile device, might prompt her to sell a particular product that they’ve had trouble moving at a moment she has downtime.
The app might offer her a refresher course on the product, or show her a prize for selling five of them. She’s ready to go: she’s got the information, and the motivation, she needs. All through automated, AI-guided technology. Again, that’s going to help her store and the customer experience, because she’s more likely to be helpful, and she’s going to be equipped with the pitches and talking points she needs.
In Rallyware’s analysis of 2.4M data points for 285K users, completed personalized activities increased distributed workforce productivity by 21.8%.
3. Consolidate App Clutter
Lastly, many frontlines are currently saddled with multiple apps between which they must switch – sales management, learning and training, onboarding, and so forth. For example, Rallyware found in querying a popular furniture retailer that floor employees must sort through up to 8 different apps in order to work effectively. That’s a waste of time and resources, in addition to leading to frustrating and burnout.
Yet in addition to all that, consolidating apps on a single platform increases results. When performance data can travel freely between solutions, the recommended activities that the end user – the frontline employee – gets will be that much more personalized. They’ll become that much more relevant to her, and her success.
Some retail technology PEPs can do this, and Rallyware specifically, bringing multiple solutions into a single ecosystem, one unified platform. That reduces clutter for the frontline employee while also making her UX far more personalized, relevant, and enjoyable.
To see how AI can transform customer experience at your retail organization, click here for a demo of Rallyware.
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