How Retail Digital Transformation Will Affect the Workplace in 2021 and Beyond

Marie Merien
Written by Marie Merien
retail digital transformation

Since the start of the pandemic, global retail sales have shrunk by 5.7% with clothing and accessory stores seeing a dip of whooping 89% in the first half of last year. While online shopping has softened the blow for supermarket and sports equipment stores, other industries like media, fashion and jewelry have suffered ongoing losses. 

This massive change in consumer behavior has accelerated the retail digital transformation by several years. Global retailers have turned to contactless transactions, buy online pick up in store (BOPIS), and next-day deliveries in an effort to retain customers and improve retail performance in unpredictable market conditions.

Still, customers nowadays expect more than simple convenience shopping. Research shows that retailers have to invest in transforming its retail workforce from transactional cashiers to innovative problem solvers who can offer unparalleled customer experience to truly stand out.

Plus, despite the big jump in online sales, physical stores still take the lead as the main shopping ground for consumers. This means that a digital transformation in retail is crucial for supporting retail talent to implement health and safety protocols and providing a stellar customer experience.

One key way to achieve this is through digitization of the retail workplace. Here we look at how retail digital transformation can help you stay competitive and meet the expectations of consumers and employees alike.

Table of Contents

  • What Is a Retail Digital Workplace?
  • How Will Digital Transformation in Retail Improve the Workplace
  • How to Implement a Digital Workplace in Retail?
  • The Takeaway

What Is a Retail Digital Workplace?

digital transformation in retail

Digital workplace refers to a digital-first approach to communicating and training staff in a centralized and easy-to-access way. This is in stark contrast to the traditional retail workplace where the tools, workflows, and communication methods are disjointed and difficult to measure.

It relies on a cloud-based, mobile-friendly platform that can facilitate communication from HQ to stores, improve visibility over operational inefficiencies with actionable data, and empower talent with centralized training.

How Will Digital Transformation in Retail Improve the Workplace

retail digital transformation

You might think that, considering the current economic landscape, investing in the digitization of your retail teams is cost-prohibitive for your business. Still, this is by far the most prudent investment a business can make to safeguard its retail performance. Here’s why.

Improved Knowledge Sharing

Cross-boundary team collaboration is proven to increase customer loyalty and profit margins, yet retail teams persist to work silos. Having your retail workforce isolated, without the ability to learn from one another, leaves your business exposed to ongoing mistakes and missed opportunities for revenue growth.

A digital workplace removes this barrier as it empowers employees to make decisions and collaborate in real time, across locations, and solve problems as they arise. 

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Disjointed and manual processes mean that retail businesses often lack visibility over key metrics in their store like how store employees allocate their time or how much they engage with specific educational content. In fact, a survey conducted by SimipliField reveals that 33.3% of retailers see Analytics and Dashboarding as a top tech priority for 2021.

A centralized, digital workplace can track employee training, task completion, and any other activities, giving you valuable insights into the potential changes you have to make.

Improved Customer Experience

The way people shop has transformed in the past 10 years. It’s not uncommon for a customer to do their research online, browse competitors and then step into the store for some final advice before making a decision.

In this context, your staff needs to act as a trusted consultant who can offer unique insights and advice into the products on offer. Having a mobile app that can help them verify product information and existing offers while still talking to the customer can help convert clients and increase revenue. 

Improved Employee Retention Rates

U.S. businesses lose $1 trillion each year due to employee turnover. With retail having one of the highest turnover rates, it can harm businesses’ capacity to recover and grow post-pandemic. 

There are several reasons staff turnover in retail is high. Some of these include:

  • Lack of communication between HQ and stores makes retail teams feel isolated and disengaged
  • No visibility over the greater company strategy and how they fit in it
  • On-call scheduling leads to unpredictable working hours and salaries
  • Lack of training and growth opportunities

A digital workplace can solve many of these problems by offering transparent, instant scheduling and improve their sense of “belonging” by having a communication platform to connect to peers and managers in real time.

How to Implement a Digital Workplace in Retail?

restaurant retail digital transformation

If you're interested in digitizing your retail workplace, there are certain steps you need to take to implement a successful digital transformation plan. 

Audit Your Existing Retail Tech and Workflows

Before making any tangible changes to how your employees collaborate and work, it’s important to understand how your staff currently operate across stores. Are there any bottlenecks in their workflows that impede efficiency or slow down sales? Are there any processes that work well that you’d like to implement across all stores?

Have a look at the existing tech stack your retail workforce uses and see what works well. Performing a health check of the current state of your business will help you make an informed decision when choosing your retail tech.

Ask for Employee Insights

If one of the metrics you’re looking to improve is employee retention, this is a great opportunity to do that. As you’re performing your own independent audit, speak to employees on the ground to understand their biggest pain points and concerns. What can you do to help them be more productive and satisfied at work? What are some of the things currently lacking in the store and the way the team operates? 

This can give you valuable new perspectives on issues you might not even be aware exist. 

Select Your Cloud-Based Tool

Once you have done your independent research and have consulted your staff, it’s time to find a tool that will meet those needs. Here, it’s important to opt for one that is cloud-based and mobile-friendly so that staff have easy access to it at all times. 

Features like collaboration, knowledge sharing, and task management are important aspects in enabling your digital workforce to serve the new type of consumer. 

Encourage Adoption

Technology adoption among staff can be surprisingly low because of things like poor launch strategies and inadequate infrastructure. Give your staff plenty of notice that this change is afoot and clearly explain what that means for their day-to-day work. 

Highlight the benefits they can expect from the new retail digital workplace and offer plenty of training opportunities to adapt to the new processes. Use gamification and other incentives to encourage adoption and reward good behavior through recognition and small gift tokens. 

The Takeaway

retail digital transformation

The digitization of your retail workplace requires time and effort, yet it can be the single most important step towards future-proofing your business. Understanding where your business is right now, what your customers want and how your staff can support them is key to designing a successful retail digital transformation strategy.

To find out more about how SimpliField has helped leading retailers implement successful retail digital transformation strategies, watch our webinar with leading experts in the field.

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