Today’s retail landscape is changing dramatically, driven by employees and customers who expect technology to drive their interactions and experiences whether it be online or in-store. Digital transformation in retail is occurring at breakneck speed, and those of us that don’t keep pace to redefine the retail experience miss out on attracting and retaining employees and customers alike.
The shifting retail puzzle
Despite trends in retail heavily gravitating to online shopping, there are some interesting opportunities for brick and mortar shops.
For instance, online shoppers aren’t as patient as they used to be. The amount of time people are willing to wait for free shipping has dropped from 5.5 days in 2012 to 4.5 days on average. There’s a gap here that retail store can fill.
In addition, brick and mortar stores are adapting by allowing shoppers to navigate seamlessly from offline to online, buying online and picking up in-store. Just when everyone thought the era of the shopping mall was over, the game has shifted again. Retailers can see that shift as consumers choose to invest in experiences rather than just products. The physical experience in a brand’s “space” attracts a new generation of consumers who respond to the fusion of retail and entertainment. So called “retailment” requires some creative spin-offs such as pop-up shops and experiential retail.
Macy’s, for example, broke new ground by helping small brands born online establish an in-store experience. Montreal-based artisanal candy brand “Squish” has only been in business for four years and already they are being courted by the likes of international department stores such as Harrods. The high-end British store found Squish on Instagram, proving that there’s no barriers in the retail world anymore- people will find you if you make enough noise. To properly capitalize on these strategies, embracing a digital workplace within retail is key.
Paul Miller, CEO and Founder of Digital Workplace Group, said that for transformative technology, retail has unfortunately been neglected — particularly for employees on the frontline delivering to customers in physical stores. “This need and now technological opportunity to really connect this hard to reach group are driving the acceleration of digital workplace frontline retail,” he said.
Miller, whose company is a strategic partner and boutique consultancy to more than 100 leading corporate and public institutions globally, considers Facebook’s Workplace to be a game-changer in the digital workplace industry as the social media giant helps large retail companies like Starbucks and Walmart with their digital transformation while bringing some much-needed attention to the need for Workplace as a Service solutions.
How technology fits in—So what is a WPaaS solution?
The WPaaS solution streamlines fast, reliable internet and Wi-Fi, effective network security, and collaboration tools to connect with remote workers and customers. All in one. Think of it like a virtual workflow environment in which users can securely access company apps and data — wrapped up in one package with predictable pricing.
For the retail industry, WPaaS ticks all the checkboxes for a sector that relies on digital transformation to keep up with the e-commerce juggernaut.
The need to keep up
Ideally, future success for retailers will depend on how well they adapt to evolving customer, employee and marketplace expectations while staying ahead of potentially disruptive competition.
For Miller, he presents a scenario in which a department store employee is expected to check email to stay in touch. With a WPaaS solution, he or she can use an app on their own phone to engage with news, colleagues and productivity tools. “You go from out in the digital cold into the warm heart of a digital workplace that you dive into,” he said. “For Barclays, Estée Lauder, Virgin, etc., this has been a transformation for people.”
Just like it has for online shopping, technology will be a critical component for the workforce in nurturing the optimal customer experience for retail. As innovations surrounding store technologies like wearables, AI, mobile apps, and IoT skyrocket, retailers must do what they can to incorporate these technologies in their physical locations. Additional collaborative technologies combined with productivity-enhancing solutions are especially attractive for retail, an industry in which employee retention can be challenging.
Adding to the challenge is meeting the expectations of millennials, not to mention the rising “Gen Z”, who will soon account for almost a third of the workforce. As expectations propagate, there’s even more of an onus for retailers to provide greater flexibility and engagement on the job. But it’s not only a generational thing: research demonstrates that most employees, regardless of demographic, have these same needs.
As retailers look to capitalize on new business objectives, this shift in the needs of the workforce can’t be overlooked.
From communication to innovation
No matter what industry your business is in, keeping your brand healthy relies on having engaged employees who serve as your frontline brand ambassadors. Remember: engagement is predicated on communication.
Today’s WPaaS solutions were built to allow your organization to focus on building its brand, shifting resources away from managing technology to delivering greater business value. These cloud-enabled workspaces also allow retailers to deploy and scale IT quickly without the need for significant capital expenditures on Canada’s largest and fastest network.
Find out more about this innovative solution.