Retail Info Systems News and Gartner came out with report on the convergence of social and mobile technologies in the retail industry and the growing influence of marketing and analytics in retail chains. Here are some key takeaways from the report. While these results are not specifically addressing the training departments, they do point to technology gaps in the training realm. Write to me if you need a copy of the report.
1. “Cost Containment” slipped to the third position in the list of major action items over the next 18 months. Leveraging social media and developing mobile enterprise / store strategy have taken up the first and second positions respectively. While this action item is more from the point of view of the Chief Marketing Officer, I believe retailers should also include their employees when they think about enterprise mobile / social media strategies.
2. 41% of the survey respondents felt that upgrading store-level bandwidth and infrastructure is a key challenge that they would like to address in the next 3 years. Implementing mobile POS or mobile training applications don’t make sense in “dead” zones (at least that’s exactly what a counter manager at a major chain told me when I asked her about using mobile apps for her sales team).
3. Adopting a wait-and-see attitude may ensure short-term stability, but it carries long-term risks in a world where the tortoise is no longer able to catch the hare. Fortunately, doing a pilot program involving customer facing mobile app or internal app doesn’t involve major financial risks and promise huge rewards if they are successful.
4. Most retail organizations have long used analytics to optimize inventory, pricing and forecasting on a store-by-store level, but many have been slow to extend analytics in an effective way into their workforce management solutions. At best, some retailers use workforce analytics in a centralized manner to inform decisions at the headquarters or regional level. However, to provide optimal benefits, workforce analytics should be pushed to individual stores so managers can use data to guide decisions and measure results. And the dashboards developed to report KPIs to managers should be accessible from a tablet, smartphone or other mobile device.
5. Mobility in retailing is a clear opportunity to improve store productivity, but it is also a challenge, because it will have a big impact on managing, scheduling and hiring associates. Impacted areas include training, skills required per shift, new employee roles, new metrics to measure employee efficiency, and new hiring and recruiting goals.