Technology has become such an integral part of our working (and personal) lives that we may not even notice how much we depend on it—until we have to change what we use or the way we use it. From endless-aisle technology to omnichannel digital kiosks to integrated e-commerce retail management systems that pull customer data and inventory from online and in-store, retailers can use a vast array of technologies to move to the forefront of the marketplace. But even when the new solution is demonstrably better, faster and more feature-rich than the previous iteration, people tend to resist change. This often-overlooked aspect of human nature can be a major stumbling block when retailers deploy upgraded omnichannel technology but neglect to use training, change management and other tools to secure user buy-in. Without this crucial step, retailers will never get the ROI they seek from their tech investment.
New technology and mobile technology were retail professionals’ most-cited areas for in-store budget increases in 2018.
This Retail TouchPoints whitepaper, sponsored by iQmetrix, will explain why these often-overlooked aspects of technology deployments need to be top-of-mind as retailers upgrade their omnichannel capabilities. We’ll dive into specific steps retailers should take as they plan technology deployments, and the critical roles solution providers can play in creating — and maintaining — a positive user experience over the full lifecycle of the technology, from those crucial first weeks onward.
In this paper we’ll explore:
- Initial steps for securing user buy-in: Gathering input from department heads and users during RFP, product selection and development processes.
- Why change management is more than a “nice-to-have”: The critical need to prepare, train, educate and motivate key users about the benefits of the new technology.
- The latest training and education tools: Leveraging mobile technologies, gamification and reward systems to ensure users are seeing (and understanding) the new technology’s capabilities.
- Using metrics that track interest, acceptance and adoption of new solutions: Discovering what works (and what doesn’t) and being willing to adjust as needed.
- Establishing a long-term plan for ongoing change management: Acknowledging that turnover and technology changes require both new-hire training and “refresher” courses for longtime users.
Secure User Buy-In
A truly successful deployment requires engagement from the very beginning. You need your staff to use the technology that’s available to them, and to use it effectively. The organization must get buy-in from those who will interact with the system — end-users, store managers and even department heads. They need to know what the technology will do for them and how it will have a positive impact. Without buy-in, even the best technology is likely to fail.
Too often, technology is put in front of employees without any prior input from them. The reality is that your associates are best positioned to tell you how the customer experience will be impacted by a technology implementation and where workflows may falter. Work with them to determine how features and functionalities will fit into the customer journey and where processes may need to be changed to better utilize the system.
Tips to secure user buy-in:
- Solicit input from employees, store managers and area or regional department heads on customers’ needs and desired features at the start of the implementation project.
- Show users the benefits the new technology will deliver.
- Connect those benefits directly to users’ jobs, how they work, how their performance is measured and/or how their pay scale is calculated.
Use Case: Strong User Buy-in Drives Improved Sales Results
A retailer had several complex new products that were difficult and time-consuming for store reps to showcase to customers. The associates recognized the need to explain the products’ use and agreed that introducing video loops would help shoppers make a purchase decision without consuming staff time. Technology was installed to provide this benefit. The retailer saw a 30- 60% lift in the buy rate of the products that included a video loop, and the technology-filled a customer need that store reps couldn’t.
Become A Change Management Master
Retail is always changing, and many brands assume they’re good at managing that change. But the process of change management doesn’t just happen once. It’s a continual evolution of both the labor force and consumer behavior. Economic factors, seasonal shifts and the local job market — these will forever be in flux. Ensuring your technology remains efficient and effective means managing change across time.
A primary component in change management is first stating the change and then repeating it often to hard-wire that change. Retailers need to sustain the focus on the change and create a plan to maintain enthusiasm long after the technology is up and running.
That encompasses many things, including:
- A robust training plan for new hires. Refresher training for existing employees.
- Clear information on the system’s benefits for the employee, the store and its customers.
- The use of technology that includes repeated prompts for users within specific process flows. This supports the learning process and reinforces changes in employees’ behavior.
Begin the change management process immediately. The moment you decide to change how your stores do something, your focus should include change management. Remember that your associates are creatures of habit, and many of them have already absorbed a lot of information over the years. Tap their collective knowledge base and make them key players in keeping your technology working effectively in the longer term.
Use Case: Lack of Ongoing Change Management
A retailer introduced mobile POS into its stores but didn’t account for the variety of physical layouts. Store designs that enabled free-flowing interactions between customers and sales staff saw high adoption rates of the new devices. In stores where a counter separated reps from the customers, adoption was low. Ongoing flexibility in accommodating new store designs to enhance interactions could have improved the usability of the mobile POS technology
Employees who don’t understand how to make the technology work for them won’t be able to implement it properly. As a result, your system ROI will be low, worker productivity could fizzle and the customer experience may take a hit, too. A well-developed training strategy is key to technology success.
The first thing to consider is motivation. You need to get your associates to want to learn how to use the new technology to their advantage. Fortunately, retailers have several strategies that can help make that happen:
- Role-playing sessions
- Mobile applications
- Real-time, in-system sessions
Some technologies have features built in that make training easy and intuitive. Prompts and notifications within the system offer the opportunity to learn the right skills at exactly the right time. Pop-ups may ask whether the associate explored cross-selling opportunities with a customer, for example, or if the right information was gathered to complete the sale. These types of industry-leading platforms can be hugely helpful in showing employees how to effectively use the technology, and in reinforcing best practices that will help them optimize that technology on an ongoing basis.
In a recent survey, large retailers reported spending only 1% of their training budgets on tools and technologies — the lowest figure of all the industries queried.
Now consider when and how training should happen. Most importantly, forget those all-day, in-class sessions. Instead:
- Break training into chunks, each two hours or shorter.
- Require no more than one session each day.
Your employees will retain far more information with this approach. In addition, if associates’ pay structure includes sales or other incentives, you’ll prevent them from feeling that the technology is hurting their productivity.
No matter what your training program looks like, testing employees’ knowledge afterwards is vital. You want to not only confirm they actually took the training, but that they absorbed the information and can answer questions about how the technology works.
Leverage Your Metrics
Long-term success relies on a continuous review of how the system is being used and where additional efficiencies can be found. Too much information makes it nearly impossible to find useful insights. The review becomes overwhelming and important data is sure to be missed. Consider limiting reports to a maximum of five KPIs that are most relevant to the user, and make the presentation visually appealing — gamification or a similar structure can help sustain employees’ focus. Fortunately, some platforms support good data analysis by providing key metrics natively.
Uptime is one important factor. Are some screens disconnected or turned off? Because most employees in the retail environment aren’t IT specialists, leading-edge systems are smart enough to help them maintain productivity by alerting them to workstations that are offline.
Potential issues should be flagged by the technology. Are integrations with other systems in working order? A solution that offers appropriate support solutions to associates enables them to quickly get outstanding problems resolved.
Engagement is another consideration. Are employees logged in? Do transaction records reflect strong or weak usage? These metrics will help managers and department heads determine adoption rates.
No matter which metrics you choose to monitor, be sure to set aside a time each week to analyze your data and make adjustments as needed.
Use Case: Lack of Metrics
A hardware retailer’s store strategy, which focused on making the sale in-store so customers never left without what they wanted, didn’t align with its more recent e-commerce strategy — to satisfy the customer no matter the sales channel. Digital kiosks were installed in the brand’s brickand-mortar locations, but this uncoordinated omnichannel approach resulted in the stores effectively losing sales to the e-commerce channel. Because associates feared losing sales, they didn’t have any incentive to use the kiosks and the technology wasn’t well utilized. Sales results were poor, and the ROI for the kiosks was low. Reliable metrics like uptime — and regular analysis of other key metrics — would have revealed the poor usage of kiosks and therefore uncovered the omnichannel/store strategy misalignment, providing the retailer with an opportunity to change how sales were credited and turn the situation around.
Remember that it’s not enough to know the number of people who interacted with the system or how many payments were processed through it. Your brand also needs visibility into the entire customer journey. Metrics should be reviewed alongside feedback from in-store staff and department heads to determine if there are opportunities to use the technology to drive better results. By being open to making additional tweaks, retailers will remain agile in an increasingly competitive environment.
Prepare For Future Success
Retail technology isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it asset. The in-store landscape is always shifting, and your systems will also undergo their own evolution over time. Establishing a strong training program that supports your long-term plan for ongoing change management will help maintain engagement. Between turnover rates and technology enhancements, any training strategy should cover new hires while also providing refresher courses for employees who have been around awhile.
As you begin structuring your training plan, forget manuals and paper binders. Most are out of date almost immediately and associates probably won’t dig them out in the middle of a transaction. Instead, a retail technology platform that natively encourages ongoing training can streamline your efforts. If the core POS contains a bulletin board, for example, it provides an excellent place to remind associates about updated training that’s available and alert them to refresher courses that may interest them.
94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. The #1 reason employees feel held back from learning is that they don’t have the time.
Retail associates are often competitive, and they like to compare their performance against that of their fellow team members. A system that allows them to see where they stand, with leaderboards and transaction metrics, can be another powerful way to ensure employees adopt new technology and make it an integral part of their daily work.
You may also choose to leverage built-in training videos, interactive documentation provided by the vendor or an intranet of your own that houses the latest training modules. By centrally maintaining these assets, you’ll know that the information is consistent across all of your stores, and you can push out updates as needed.
Don’t let your next system rollout fall short of expectations. With some early planning and an understanding of the critical role the human element plays in retail’s increasingly technology-heavy world, you can put the right steps in place to reap the greatest rewards today and into the future.
Are you ready to implement in-store omnichannel technologies? Schedule a demo to learn how the iQmetrix suite of retail solutions can work for you. Our in-house experts will help you implement these solutions with ease.