The New Year brings NRF 2018, Retail’s Big Show, to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City from Jan. 14-16. As the National Retail Federation describes, this show gives attendees an unparalleled view into how retail brands of all sizes are transforming themselves for the digital age. This year’s educational sessions will focus on the overarching theme “retail transformation” with four key elements: technology, business performance and growth, innovation, and partnerships and collaborations.
I expect that mobile technology will be an important part of these elements, based on the sub-topics outlined by NRF. Here’s how mobile technology can factor into this year’s discussion:
-> “Bringing cutting-edge digital technologies in-store” – Retail and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuck has often pointed out the importance of mobile technology and the currency of consumer attention. There’s no question that mobile technology holds our attention. So what about your employees, who are also consumers? How do they consume information and communicate with you? Empowering your employees with mobile technology is a wise strategy in 2018 because it shows that you’re speaking the language of both your customers and your workforce.
I recently came across a brilliant summation of this idea from Ben Hindman, CEO of Splash. He wrote:
“In the U.S., the retail industry employs about 15.7 million workers, all with diverse backgrounds and technical acumen. Any technology adopted must be flexible enough for the 20-something floor manager to use and, at the same time, intelligent enough for the data analyst upstream to pull next quarter’s forecast.”
“Considering the complexity of the data these retail systems will manage, it’s a tall order. What’s most important is that these solutions provide users with actionable data in real-time. This is where tools like artificial intelligence and advanced data visualizations come into a field of their own, providing on-the-fly recommendations to the employees who can have the most impact at just the right time. With these systems, retailers are not passive observers, but active guides in every customer’s shopping experience.”
How Zenput can help: Hindman describes exactly the kind of technology that Zenput offers—real-time, actionable insights to help retailers improve their operations. Being able to quickly fix a display, clean a mess, or avert a food safety catastrophe is vital to a retailer’s success.
Business Performance and Growth
-> “Encourage repeat visits and loyalty” – Marketers know the difficulties of reaching young consumers in the digital age, where there are so many outlets and, quite frankly, distractions. That’s why this idea of the “retail experience,” which Hindman alluded to, has become so important. It’s fine to build a social media presence that’s super responsive to customer feedback, but can you respond just as quickly in-store? Can you consistently deliver on food and beverage offerings? The saying “actions speak louder than words” holds true in the retail environment.
How Zenput can help: Zenput allows management to assign work like brand standards audits, opening and closing checklists, and daily checklists to store and field-level employees to track the execution of their work, analyze performance, and improve operations.
-> “Maintain an open, constantly learning culture” – Open communication lends itself to a learning environment that fosters new ideas. Maybe a store manager has discovered an effective new marketing display, or maybe the kitchen staff took a trendy ingredient from one menu item to create a tasty new dish. Improving store-level insights opens the door to new ideas and also encourages creativity among the people who know your business best, your employees.
Open communication also makes employee training more accessible. Imagine having the ability to share a training checklist and receive feedback and progress updates in real-time.
How Zenput can help: Zenput allows employees to send reports that include pictures, temperature readings, signatures, and more. Each submission is geotagged and time-stamped, so you’ll always know where and when tasks are being completed.
Partnerships and collaborations
-> “Explore emerging relationships between retailers and digital powerhouses who are redefining the overall operating and economic models in the retail environment” – This relates back to NRF 2018’s educational theme of retail transformation. In the age of Amazon, technology is revolutionizing retail, but it can also be a double-edged sword. As we approach a new decade, it’s important that retailers don’t feel like they’re falling behind in the best ways to leverage technology that can improve operations. That’s why forming a relationship with a technology provider can be beneficial. Not only do they provide the solution, but they also provide support and help with analytics.