The workplace of the future will be the most advanced the world has ever seen. By 2020, multiple generations working together will have different skills, experiences and motivations. Couple that with technological advances, and retailers are under significant pressure to reimagine their workforce while delivering differentiated customer experience.
Instead of traditional business models focused on simply delivering goods from one location to another, companies are now working across all channels to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience. What was once a singular-focused, task-oriented operation must now focus on breaking down siloes and empowering employees to meet consumers at every moment of interaction.
Redefining Business Processes
Consumers once used to determine brand loyalty based on in-store customer service. That loyalty, however, is fleeting. Instead, today’s digital shoppers are now looking for the fastest and most convenient way to purchase – whether online or in-store. As a result, retailers and consumer products companies are incorporating technology throughout operations to not only make business decisions in the moment, but to also anticipate the next opportunity.
By creating a digital core, retailers can optimize business processes to make live business decisions based on opportunity and market need. Under Armour, for instance, is one company using this strategy. Their live enterprise-wide value chain allows the brand to immediately fulfill athletes’ needs with personalized products and information. For the workforce, this reduces the time they spend doing low-value tasks and it allows workers to focus on contingency-based operations. For example, by focusing on niche roles – such as data science, consumer insights and engagement – companies can reassess staffing and talent throughout the organization in order to function smarter, faster and more efficiently.
On top of that, a digital core provides retailers the ability to monitor and automate processes in real-time, streamlining procedures throughout the operation. Instead of focusing hiring efforts on routine procedures such as order processing and replenishment, smart technology can elevate the workforce to handle other operational functions such as risk management and consumer engagement.
Because business performance used to focus on sequential processes, retailers are still adapting to heightened responsiveness – including consumer engagement. Instead of investing in time-consuming qualitative research to gain insight into how consumers perceive products and brands, companies should glean actionable insight from real-time interactions with the consumer. By engaging with consumers across multiple channels, retailers can instantly learn more about consumers based on their purchasing behaviors, shopping history and even social media sentiment. From this information, retailers can improve assortments and enhance productivity by optimizing supply chains. In turn, this can help improve inventory management, logistical staffing and ongoing product enhancements moving forward.
Brookshire Grocery Company, for instance, recently finished phase one of a three-part project to digitally transform its operation. Today, the business gains consumer insights through a customer-centric program that collects information, including behavior, history and needs. This information is then used to increase customer loyalty and customer experience by personalizing connections with shoppers.
The digital key to success
Building a digital core allows the workforce to run the business live, in real-time by using the visibility they have across all areas of the business. A key part of this transition is the need to make decisions and operate businesses “in the moment” using current data, not stale or out-of-date information that may be hours, days or even weeks old. Brands can use this information to optimize staffing decisions to improve productivity. This shift in business processes allows retailers to reimagine their workforce in the context of delighting their customers so that they are better able to drive faster, smarter, and more efficient decisions.
Lori Mitchell-Keller is global general manager, Consumer Industries, at SAP.