4 Reasons to Give Your Retail Employees a Say in Tech Choices

Becky Lawlor
employees trying out new technology

As retailers look to further bridge the gap between the in-store and digital experience, putting technology into frontline employees’ hands is essential. However, choosing the wrong technology can negatively impact employee engagement and job satisfaction. 

One key to improving the adoption of the technology is to give the employees a clear voice in which technology is deployed. Employee adoption of the technology will improve the experience of customers and job satisfaction of the employee.

Here are four reasons why you’ll get more out of the tech—and so will your employees and customers—when you give employees a say in what tech they use.

1. Seamless online and offline experiences

While more than half of companies give employees a choice of what device they use for work, this decision-making power is usually reserved for office workers rather than frontline workers, such as those working in restaurants or retail stores. However, just like office workers who say they are more productive, creative, and collaborative when they get to choose the device they work on, when frontline retail employees get to have a say in the tech they use, those same benefits—and more—apply.

“I believe that this entire concept of employee choice is one of the biggest misses in retail,” says Brian Gallagher, Retail Strategy and Business Development Director at Connection.

As consumer buying behaviors continue to shift to more digital transactions, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s clearly a need for retail brands to integrate the digital and in-store experience to deliver a unified shopping experience, as well as to improve data management and streamline internal processes. Yet, according to Retail Customer Experience, 74% of shoppers say that while they feel positive toward brick-and-mortar retailers, a lack of digital engagement has prompted them to buy elsewhere.

Clearly, not all retailers are doing enough to meet consumers’ desire for a seamless experience between digital and in-store channels. Technology, such as putting mobile devices into frontline employees’ hands, is a big part of the answer—but technology is only as effective as the skill of those who use it.

2. Empowered and engaged employees

Almost everyone prefers to use technology that they know and love—and your retail employees are no different. In a recent WiPro survey on employee device choice, employees said they experienced emotions like pride (74%) and loyalty (73%) toward their employer when given a choice in what device they use.

Having more engaged employees also translates to a better customer experience—and, ultimately, increased sales. According to Gallup, the most engaged employees outperform the least engaged by 10% on customer ratings and 22% in profitability.

Furthermore, if the tech is familiar to the employee, you’ll not only spend less time training them on how to use it (another cost savings), but your customers will also have a better experience. When employees have a device that they are comfortable using, it empowers them to better help customers.

And nothing is more delightful to a customer than finding that within a few taps on a device, an employee has found the product they wanted and ordered it to be delivered the next day.

Finally, you can further increase employee engagement by using the tech you deploy to get feedback and measure their job satisfaction. Engagement apps like Local Measure let you collect real-time feedback from employees that you can act on immediately. This makes employees feel like they have a voice and helps drive a culture of continuous improvement.

3. Greater operational productivity and efficiency

Most retail associates are required to complete manual, repetitive processes as part of their job duties, such as:

  • Store opening and closing checklists
  • Sales tracking forms
  • Cycle counting forms
  • Training forms

When these tasks are digitized, and employees can do them on a device they want to use and know how to use, your employees will be more productive, and your processes will be much more efficient.

Your employees will also have more time to serve your customers. A survey from EKN Research found that store employees only spend 30% of their time interacting with customers. The remaining 70% is spent on operational tasks like inventory management and back-room and merchandise organization. When you use apps like ProntoForms, which gives your employees the ability to record processes paperlessly, you can eliminate a lot of the time they spend printing forms and filling out checklists, which allows those employees to spend more time on the floor interacting with customers.

Younger employees, such as millennials and Gen Z, also prefer a paperless environment. It is easier for them to incorporate digital processes into their workflow since they’ve grown up using digital systems rather than paper systems. They also consider sustainability important, and both younger generation customers and employees will feel more brand loyalty when they see you undertaking sustainable actions like going paperless.

Moving to digital systems and processes also allows you to ensure mandated processes are up-to-date and adhered to, as well as provides real-time insight into which processes have been completed and what employees still need to do.

Using a sales enablement platform like Bigtincan can further enhance the productivity and operational gains mobile devices bring. For example, Bigtincan allows for the automation of many retail execution tasks, such as merchandising and pricing compliance, promotional execution, and business intelligence capture. Social features in the platform also allow stores to share best practices and collaborate on visual merchandising. Even employee training can be done through the platform, through in-the-moment learning and assigned formal learning while sales associates remain on the retail floor.

4. Different generations, different preferences

If your organization is like most, your technology decisions are currently made at the corporate level by executives or managers. And most likely, these decision-makers are Generation X or even Baby Boomers. However, it’s also equally likely that most of your frontline employees are millennials or Gen Z, which means they use technology differently than your decision-makers and have different preferences when it comes to their tech choices.

Along these same lines of thinking—that it’s important to consider your end users’ preferences when making tech decisions—it’s also important to consider the tech your customers will be most comfortable with as well.

For example, a specialty jewelry store will attract very different employees and customers than a quick-serve restaurant. And because of this, there may be different preferences between these different demographics of what type of devices they are most comfortable with. When you align your tech decisions with what your employees and customers prefer, not your own preferences, you’ll find that there’s greater adoption of the technology overall.

Giving Employees a Choice Is Giving Your Customers a Better Experience

Mobile devices offer a number of ways to increase productivity and improve the customer experience. So putting a mobile device into the hands of your frontline employees should be a top priority. But don’t overlook how valuable it is to let your employees have a say in what device they use.

Reach out to your employees and show that their opinion and preferences matter, instead of making top-down decisions about the technology you deploy. You’ll find with this approach, you’re setting your business, your customers, and your employees up for greater success.

Ready to implement an employee choice program—but you’re not sure where to start? Contact us today, and we’ll work with you to create a plan that fits your unique needs.

Becky Lawlor has been covering the convergence of business and technology for over a decade. Her writing focuses on emerging trends in big data, IoT, AI, mobility, cyber security, cloud computing, and more. She especially enjoys examining how these technologies are impacting critical business and public sectors such as healthcare, education, government, and retail. You can find more of her writing and insights on Twitter @lawlor_becky.