The following guest article has been written for InternetRetailing by Amy Prendergast, Head of Vocational and Career Development at retailTRUST. retailTRUST is the trade charity for the 4.5 million people working in retail and the supporting service industries. retailTRUST improves lives through their wellbeing services, vocational and career development programmes, and retirement estates. They offer a range of initiatives including educational and vocational grants, career development support and digital re-skilling programmes.
In this omnichannel era of providing a seamless and high quality customer experience, what effect is this having on retail staff and how can retailers make the most of their employees’ skills? Amy Prendergast, Head of Vocational and Career Development at retailTRUST reports.
The omnichannel experience demands that businesses understand how technology solutions can be used effectively to provide a seamless and high quality experience to their customers.
Consumer needs are evolving as three out of four individuals use a mobile or smartphone to access the internet. More customers than ever are shopping online with four out of five shoppers, using a retailer’s mobile app.
The changing customer needs and technology solutions are having an impact on both traditional job roles and job skills in retail. It is estimated that 1,403,000 wholesale and retail jobs will be displaced by artificial intelligence and 1,276,000 new jobs will be created in these industries by 2037.
The growth of omnichannel means getting the right talent with the right skills. Seeking skills in technical areas is imperative such as programming, digital marketing, merchandise analytics and systems analysts. Growing this talent pipeline means being able to support business units (supply chain, logistics and operations) that deliver the omnichannel strategy.
Existing employees now need greater knowledge of customer needs. They have to understand the customer’s digital journey before they arrive at store and identify the most appropriate channel to serve them based on their persona. Having a single customer view enables this level of understanding which in turn improves customer engagement.
More ownership is being placed on stores to use a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach. Retailers therefore need to build time into the manager’s schedule to provide the necessary coaching for their employees so they can keep up with the pace of change.
Review technology and skills sets: The first step for an employer will be to review the current technology and data assets available to deliver an omnichannel experience. The next step would be to review their employees’ skill sets, ability to adapt to the latest tools and methods of working, and identify opportunities to build new capabilities.
Strong leadership, organisational alignment and resource allocation are required as part of the omnichannel journey.
Place the customer at the heart of the business: It is essential to develop a customer-centric culture where consumer needs are placed at the heart of all decision making. Retailers can use data and insights to build a detailed view of the customer to really understand their requirements and shopping preferences.
Employers could also look at optimising local social networks to market their brand within a digital world in addition to traditional marketing methods.
Engage employees: Employee engagement is key to keeping colleagues up-to-date, promoting ideas and sharing knowledge across functions to deliver excellent customer care.
Retailers can develop collaborative digital platforms and encourage cross-functional teams as part of their overall omnichannel business model. Working across departments can lead to creativity and new ideas to develop a great customer experience.
Create digital mind-sets: Understanding how to connect with customers the way they want to be connected with requires a different skill set. Employers can create digital mind-sets to drive transformation across their organisation by improving their employees’ digital understanding and literacy.
It is important to remember that people and digital skills are both vital in being able to deliver an omnichannel strategy.
Support training needs: Retailers can support their employees by providing interactive and engaging training through video content and gamification. The guiding principles of all training and upskilling are to inform, educate and motivate employees.
To ensure the employees digital skills are relevant in this omnichannel world, many charities offer free training and digital reskilling projects. The sessions can often be delivered face-to-face or through webinars to prepare employees for this digital revolution.
As company budgets are often restricted, vocational grants are available to support employees with their digital training needs. The grants could cover courses, qualifications or one-off training sessions.
This omnichannel era presents a diverse range of opportunities for retailers to offer a seamless and high quality customer experience. Employees also have the chance to enhance their skill sets and remain relevant for the changing world of retail.