Retail Experience

06 Apr 2023

Transforming the Store Workforce with New Roles and Capabilities

Author: Kelli Rascoe

The retail industry is changing as technology advances. This process is creating new roles for retail stores, such as automated checkout systems, smart stores, and artificial intelligence to personalize the customer experience. These new roles are revolutionizing the way retail stores operate, allowing them to provide a more efficient and personalized shopping experience for customers. Fortunately, ShopTalk 2023 is here, and we have some quick takeaways on new insights changing the store workforce. Read on to learn more from featured keynote speakers Katie Reeves, Anne Bezzinga, Marc Mastronardi, and Melissa Repko on the transformation of retail stores.

ShopTalk 2023: Track Keynote - Transforming New Roles in the Store Workforce

The New Consumer Reality

Retailers may need to look at business in a new way. Consumers want to experience brands in new ways, driving store change for new growth opportunities.

"The truth is the consumer is expecting us to know them offline for all of our channels to be seamlessly connected and interconnected, all with a singular mission to serve them. And yet, the teams are at the center of all that we do, and their world has transformed, and they are challenging how they work and how our stores work every day. Transparently, we need to reimagine how we're going to work with both of our worlds, our E-commerce world and our store world." - Katie Reeves, Managing Director, North America, COS

The Smart Store

Using tech to amplify services and support teams can help provide the experience that consumers are craving. Reeves dives into three objectives where tech can fit the bill.

  • Revolutionize the efficiencies surrounding our retail stores
  • Empower our team with innovative resources and operational efficiency
  • Providing the customer with a frictionless experience

3 Innovative Tech Features Popping Up in Retail

Tech in retail stores can improve operational efficiency, provide better customer service, and enhance the customer experience. Reeves calls out several ways COS sees an opportunity in retail using these technology features in stores.

  • Heat maps: Helps with operational efficiency to anticipate what customers want as they travel around the store.
  • Internal store app: This store resource is revolutionizing the team workflow. This app is a cornerstone for efficiency. From checking on shipments, replenishing stock, updating product descriptions, or checking out customers, an app is a go-to resource for staff to provide customers with an excellent in-store experience. Do you have a labor shortage in your store? Leveraging tools like an app can help compensate for the work not being performed. For example, the app helps guide them with algorithmic styling recommendations as a support system when the associates are in demand.
  • Smart mirror: With state-of-the-art RFID hardware in dressing rooms, smart mirrors can detect and read everything you bring into the fitting room. From everything to product recommendations, styling suggestions, and size availability, the smart mirror is a one-stop shop to experience the brand. Also, with the ability to buy on the go, you can find your perfect ensemble and purchase it on the spot.

"Why did we prioritize the smart mirror? The truth is we believe that the fitting room is the heart and soul of a store. It's where anyone can go into the fitting room and fall in love with our brand repeatedly. And so, we felt that the fitting room was where to start. With this new store experience, we're enabling our teams through fitting room technology. And helping create engaging experiences with our customers day in and day out. Our ongoing commitment as the group is to provide cutting-edge technology to foster these relationships."

How Tech Is Creating an Elevated Experience (for Employees and Customers)

Reeves points out how tech provides an elevated experience for customers and retail teams in pilot retail stores through efficiency, collaboration, retention, and engagement.
"It's a new world for customers. And the teams in the stores are experiencing elevated experiences. And that means it's more than just an operational playground for the teams to do tasks. The retail teams are inspired to engage with customers through tech."

Increased retention by 43%

"Retention in our store teams has increased by 43%."

Improved replenishment by 100%

"Efficiency has improved our shipment processing and replenishment by 100%."

Increased 2.5 hours back with customers

"We have over two and a half hours of extra time because of the efficient way of working to engage with our customers."

By using technology tools as a supportive vehicle, retail teams can better help customers and give them a better experience. Retail team members can spend more time engaging with customers, which is a better experience for the employee.

Rethinking Store Roles (and How To Raise the Bar)

Marc Mastronardi, Chief Store Officer Macy's, dives into how they're pivoting and enhancing the customer experience, starting with their employees.

Introducing the Innovative Selling Model

“We needed to think about our labor force differently than we did before. Previously, Macy's had specialties across different roles in the front of the house. For example, the front of the house was a series of specialties, keeping the retail teams from meeting the customer in their journey. And we had to find a way to break down these walls.”

There are some parts of the business, like beauty, jewelry, and furniture, that still require a level of specialization. Training has changed for the better. From computer-based modules to hands-on training to training the trainer, a new tier for training and development emerged from this shift in how Macy's operates daily.

This pivot in store structure has resulted in the following:

  • Flexibility for staff
  • Versatile career growth
  • Unlocked creativity across roles and teams
  • Retention
  • Better employee experience

Store managers are encouraged to think strategically as the "CEO" of their store. Taking ownership of the store includes:

  • Flexible staffing.
  • Managing financial expenses and use across the store.
  • Opportunity for diving into local customer metrics and operating hours to fit the customers in that market.

In short, personalization for the local customer and their experience.

Mastronardi adds, "Teams are trained and capable. That's showing up in a differentiated customer experience. 90% of our jobs are filled. Hiring is strong, and we are considering keeping these seasonal employees on board even as we hire for holidays. Over 7300 seasonal people joined us as full-time workers. And our focus is on retention. The feedback has been well received with the change in the operating model and training. People are motivated, and store managers are reporting a highly engaged workforce. 88% of our employees took our yearly engagement survey and scored an overall 90% engagement rate score."

Employee Experience = Customer Experience

If employees are engaged and having fun, it impacts the customer experience and their buying journey.

After all, if you're going to make a trip to a store, it's got to be because you want a delightful experience. That's when Macy's focused on framing discovery, convenient service, and engagement.

Discovery: Finding awesome products. Make it fast and easy.

Convenient service: Buy online and pick up in-store. Same-day delivery. Personal stylists (in-person and online)

Engagement: Team collaboration, strategic decision-making at the local level, and ongoing specialized training for teams regardless of function/role.

Investment in Technology for a Better Brand Experience

Macy's made a significant investment in customer and team-facing technology. This investment focused on several major buckets to help transform their overall shopping experience.

Consider the following:

1. Operational tools

Putting tools in teams' hands that allow them to do tasking work better—finding products, markdowns, shipping. But also about mobile checkout and the flexibility to do checkouts on the go.

2. Communications

We are leveraging voice-activated communication tools used in stores. For example, talking in real-time to colleagues across the store to better help the customer has been a game-changer for customer experience.

3. Artificial intelligence

IB Watson is artificial intelligence answering questions from everything to help in Macy's call centers or asking questions on the website.IB Watson provides deep product knowledge and assists customers wherever they're while shopping.

The In-Store and Digital Experience

It's all about bridging the in-store and digital experience with style. For example, this experience looks like a widget on the website that can help you combine your personal style digitally. Providing the same experience as if you're shopping inside the store.

Because of this, Macy's now has in-store personal stylists that can help you on the spot with a digital customer, better supporting the digital experience. In real-time, the in-person associate builds the customer a digital storefront with store selections—this new and interactive experience results in higher conversions and better relationships between the customer and the employee.

Popular and hot verticals:

As Macy's looks to the future of their stores, an emphasis on training, active selling, and everything from product knowledge and passion for the merchandise. The more you can actively engage with products and connect with customers on a personal and merchandise level, the better.

Transform Your Retail Store With New Tech

You can transform your retail store into a modern-day shopping experience by embracing new technology and tools. Not only will this help to attract new customers, but it will also provide a better overall experience for your employees. By investing in the right technology, you can streamline processes and create more efficient workflows, increasing productivity and profitability.

For more on ShopTalk 2023, check out New Insights on Inflation and other Economic Forces in Shaping Retail