Technology Meets Inclusivity and Engagement: How NRF Will Shape 2020 Retail Strategies

Shyft CEO, Brett Patrontrasch, discussing Gen Z and Millennial workforce preferences with
RetailMinded podcast host, Nicole Leinbach Reyhle.

The NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show, the world’s largest retail conference is dedicated to bringing vital industry insight to thinkers, leaders, movers and makers in the industry for the past 100 years. 

As a company that brings employee engagement and workplace efficiency to retail, Shyft makes it an annual goal to be at NRF. This year, we focused on engagement for the rising generations of employees: how to attract, retain and motivate Gen Z and Millennials using mobile technology. While Shyft contributed to the conversation in many ways, our goal was also to listen to and learn from the biggest trends shaping the industry this year.

Many NRF 2020 events and conversations also reflected ideas that supported our focus – using modern technology to encourage and facilitate inclusivity, diversity, and engagement in the retail industry. We’ve taken a look at this year’s sessions and put together  several key learnings that should drive your 2020 strategies.

Giving Employees the Tools They Need To Succeed

One key topic at NRF this year was the focus on brick-and-mortar advantages. While online storefronts are critical, physical stores provide opportunities not possible online. 

Compared to online shopping, human associates offer personalized customer interactions not (yet) possible with AI. By equipping associates with customers’ order history and digital browsing information, they’re able to offer enticing personalization that has been proven to increase sales and customer loyalty. 

According to Parinda Muley, VP Innovation and Business Development at Macy’s, “Our colleagues in stores are probably the most important people in the company, because from an engagement perspective they touch our customers the most. It’s also about them having the right technology, so that if one of their customers is coming in, they can connect with that customer.”

In fact, according to a survey by Segment, 49% of shoppers have made impulse purchases after a personalized in-store experience and 63% made an impulsive purchase based on a personalized recommendation.

Providing continuity in work and personal life is the key to well-equipped, engaged and dedicated frontline employees. Equipping your employees with apps and technology that offer a similar Millennial and Gen Z user experience as the apps they use  outside work is a crucial first step. Put simply, if you want engaged employees, you must provide them technology that enriches their work experience and that they want to use.

Data Is Driving Retail

One of the biggest trends coming out of NRF 2020  is the importance of data-driven strategies for engaging customers and employees. Shyft is continually looking to expand our data analytics tools and capabilities in 2020 to help best provide our customers with the numbers they need to make data-based decisions.

According to JoAnn Martin, VP Industry Strategy and Market Development at JDA Software, “Retailers need to make big retail feel small by leveraging data.” In the panel session, Brick-and-mortar 2.0: Making every customer count, she and other industry leaders discussed how online shopping has fundamentally changed the rules of retail. In order to compete, brick-and-mortar retailers need to adopt and adapt the strategies that have given eCommerce such an advantage. 

Data is a large part of this evolution and a big part of Shyft’s mission to provide retailers with the tools to visualize and understand their teams’ shift swapping activities, scheduling patterns, and availability. Providing data reports on shifts lost, productivity, hours worked and recuperated through shift swapping helps managers make informed decisions around labor optimization and staffing.

Diverse, Inclusive Workspaces

Social and demographic changes are informing how retailers build workplace culture. Some of the most influential moves for inclusion and diversity are being brought forth by female industry leaders. 

This year, diversity and inclusivity was another hot topic at NRF. 

During the kickoff session for Day 2 of NRF 2020, PwC Principal, Chief Purpose & Inclusion Officer Shannon Schuyler said, “Diversity is becoming central to the success that we will have as a society and what are we going to do to change it, because we can no longer pretend it’s not happening.”

The louder these conversations become, the more integral they are to forward-moving companies and businesses. 

One way these ideas can be followed is through the way new employees are engaged and made to feel like part of the team. In order to be truly inclusive, you must give all employees an equal voice. 

Offering a workplace culture that encourages discussions through tools such as Shyft’s centralized communication helps engage employees in meaningful topics surrounding brand values.   While managers often use Shyft to give kudos for outstanding work in the Team Channel, they can also use the Direct Messaging feature of the app for private conversations.  This way of personalizing the communication process to meet individual needs empowers the employees by ensuring they can all make themselves heard.

As Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann said at NRF, “If you want positive things to come from technology, they have to be intentionally designed that way.”

Communication on All Levels

Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, opened his session with a focus on elevating human connection and interaction, “It’s how we get energy, support, share success and joy in our lives, it’s what the world needs right now.”

While technology is front and center in our modern world, communication is more important than ever, and therefore finding ways to combine human interaction with technology is the key to retail success. 

As Johnson said, “We’re also finding new ways to use technology and data to enhance human connections. It’s not about robots, it’s about using technology to give us more time to connect better with one another and customers.”

As highlighted in Shyft’s  Big Ideas session, Gen Z and Millennials make up 40% of the U.S. labor force and their digital-native preferences and behaviors are already shaping labor optimization trends. Introducing technology that gives these generations a chance to connect and engage with employers and managers increases their overall empowerment. Combining empowered employees with technology that increases communication, collaboration, and store knowledge allows them to reach out to customers in a revitalized way. 

We loved being a part of this year’s Retail Big Show to not only share our expertise on employee engagement but learn from other industry movers, makers, and leaders’ ideas. Making connections between our purpose and retail trends for 2020 has been an inspiring way to start off 2020 . We hope you gained valuable insight into your 2020 plans as well.

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