The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

Navigating Retailer In-Store Technology Needs


A trend has been building over the past three years and it seems to have reached critical mass – retailers are recognizing the real importance of the in-store employee in creating a better in-store experience for consumers.

On the surface this sounds great, but we found somewhat conflicting data in this year’s store benchmark report: “Empowering The Store Employee: Benchmark Report 2015.” It’s something that anyone who delivers technology to the store should pay close attention to.

Retailers are definitely increasing the importance and base pay of their in-store employees. The focus of their future technology spend appears to be focused on both employees and field operations management. To a great extent, Retail Winners are increasing their payroll as a percentage of sales. This all sounds like very good news.

But here’s the catch. Retailers, of all sizes, shapes, performance levels and segments are paying short shrift to training their existing employees. The chart below is pretty sobering:

New store associates are most frequently given less than ten hours of training each year, and existing store associates (who retailers might be considering their “bench” for managerial talent”) aren’t getting any more training. In fact, they’re getting LESS.

It’s my opinion that we’re not going to see that number rising any time soon. Retailers are investing in more bodies in store. They’re paying somewhat better wages. But there seems to be no time or money left for training.

The implications are clear. Anyone, vendor or IT group expecting to deliver technology to in-store associates must make sure it takes almost no time to learn and adapt to that technology. Just as NCR’s Dynakey technology allowed supermarket check-out clerks to use the calculator paradigm to enter sales information, retailer tech provider must find a simple paradigm for everything from product locators, cross-sells and up-sells, product feature/benefits, logging into in-store wi-fi, counting cash, closing out tills. If it’s a technology a store associate will use, it had better be simple.

To be fair, I think tech providers and IT have always tried to test their applications with in-store associates, assuming nothing about their ability to absorb what was being dished out. But as technology has become more complex and more necessary, the imperative has only grown stronger.

There are other indicators that point us in the same direction: retailers really do want to simplify what their employees do in their stores. They do worry about technology as a distraction rather than a helper. And their expectation is that any technology they do install will help.

Therefore, it is really incumbent on IT and vendors alike to be very, very careful. Work with actual store personnel…not just those who have been on the job for a while, but with new recruits.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s more data available in the Benchmark than I could possibly write in a few hundred words. The store is changing, being transformed by the era we live in, while remaining the focal point of most retailers’ operations.

To learn more, please download this year’s benchmark report. But even if you don’t, I hope you’ll keep this simple advice in mind. Simpler is better. And if it seems “too simple” it’s probably not simple enough.


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Articles & Opinions July 28, 2015
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