Retailers have made great strides in embracing digital technology, creating a consistent service between shopping in-store and online platforms.
However, despite retail and digital being such comfortable bedfellows, there is evidence to suggest retail staff are being left behind in a growing digital divide.
We can see that retail is arguably the sector that has provided what others have failed to, an omni-channel experience that empowers customers to shop in a way that suits them. This can be anything from online shopping, to click and collect services, to visiting the high street.
Our Digital Inside Out report found online shopping one of the most valued digital services (63%) by consumers, coming second only to online banking as the most used (66%).
But despite this, there is a disparity between what consumers experience and the needs of staff – with a sense there are growing numbers of staff feeling dissatisfied with their digital requirements in the workplace.
Why is this? More than two thirds (67%) of retail employees told us their organisation should invest more in digital. When asked where that investment should be, sales and customer service came out on top.
We believe this could be down to the lack of tools given to employees – particularly when you compare it to those gifted to consumers. While a customer can shop across channels, employees cannot always service the customer across the same channels.
By bringing digital services in-store employees’ mobility is boosted – this was the primary benefit identified by those surveyed. It can help staff in a wide range of tasks, with everything from stock control in warehouses, to merchandising and sales.
If staff were able to make transactions from any location in-store, for example, this would vastly improve the shopping experience for consumers while also getting assistants out from behind the tills.
By providing these types of digital services to their employees, retailers can elevate the role of the shop floor assistant beyond the humble shelf stacker or till worker, while also creating an enhanced customer service.
On top of this, access to real-time information, streamlined processes and greater worker flexibility can all be positive outcomes for staff.
The business can also see the benefits of digital in the back office, in the form of lowering the cost of retail operations, reducing shrinkage and better control stock. For some, there is also the potential to save on the costs of running call centres.
With all of this in mind, it presents a great opportunity for retailers to develop their digital services from the inside outwards.
In fact, to ensure the future success of the sector, this is something which retailers need to address urgently.
When it comes to digital, retailers have been the early adopters – but they must continue to innovate if they are to remain competitive in a crowded marketplace. Only 42% of employees said their company had introduced a new digital service in the last two years, second last only to the transport sector. There is still plenty of scope for new services and offerings to be developed.
Those that create the most pleasant, integrated, and convenient shopping experiences will be the big winners over their rivals. This will be a win-win, not just for consumers but for staff as well.
Those that don’t adopt this way of thinking risk being left behind – and could even face the fate of retailers of yesteryear.
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