Retailers look to employees to provide a great in-store experience

  • Posted on April 27, 2017
great in-store experiences

We've been talking with our customers, with the press (Chain Store Age, Retail Times) and analysts about our recent global retail survey where we found that retailers are anticipating big changes to their store formats. We also highlighted that retailers were unclear on the changes in the type of work that is going to be done by their future employees. But as retail legend Ron Popeil would say: "Wait, there's more!" Retailers also told us that they are expecting changes and challenges in how they are hiring and what types of technology will be used in their stores.

Retailers are certainly under pressure to provide better in-store experiences and, as they've always done, are experimenting and innovating at a rapid pace to provide them. Outpacing other industries, more than half of respondents to our survey are expecting robotics and other technical innovations in their stores. While we are seeing more "robots" enabling retail experiences, the great majority of customers are showing a preference for human interaction and the differentiated, personalized experiences that people can deliver.

Delivering on those personalized experiences is where the challenges come in as retail employers are expecting to lean more heavily on temporary labor in the future, increasing the mix of temporary labor use by up to 50% over current levels. Another finding from our survey is that compliance with increasingly strict labor regulations was the top concern for retail executives, with absenteeism and order fulfillment challenges a distant second and third.

Concern about regulation is a relatively new phenomenon in retail and with more workers looking at temporary and gig-based work across all industries. I would expect to see the pressure for legislation focused on worker protection to increase. While retailers are right to be concerned about the impact of labor regulation on their business, they might want to take a look at the investments other, more regulated industries, have made to maintain labor compliance.

Financial services firms, for example, have had to comply with regulations by building systems that enable auditing of customer interactions. Tracking those interactions more tightly has also given financial services firms much better insight into their customers. Similarly, retailers wanting to track hours of temp workers, enforce time-of-day work requirements for minors, and track overtime across work locations can adopt tools like Microsoft's new StaffHub to help manage compliance rules and improve their employee experience.

Creating great in-store experiences is a never-ending quest for retailers. Enabling great employee experiences is one key to providing differentiation on the sales floor. Retailers who think ahead on the type of work they want their employees to do will have a better grasp of how to hire, train, motivate and equip those employees to grow their business.

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