Having had a couple of days to collect my thoughts after a crazy week in New York, here are the top 10 retail workforce management stories that I saw at NRF this year (in no particular order):
1. Real-time workforce management becomes real. Reflexis demonstrated its Adaptive Real-Time Execution platform. This new software platform consumes information from a variety of internal and external data sources and provides real-time guidance to store managers as to how its workforce should be deployed.
2. Touch it. Given retailers and consumers’ interest in tablets and smart phones, it is no surprise that the time clock is getting a make-over and adopting consumer-ized, touch-screen technology. Kronos was demonstrating the new Kronos InTouch clock in their booth while EmployTouch was demonstrating their TouchBase in RedPrairie and Infor’s booths.
3. A new pretty face. Infor was demonstrating a new user interface for its upcoming release of Workbrain to clients, prospects and partners. It improves the user experience while retaining the browser independence and no-plug-in philosophy that helped make the product successful.
4. Improve customer engagement. Several years ago, a Canadian department store I worked with wanted to combine customer preferences and shopping habits from their customer relationship management (CRM) with WFM to better engage the customer. Unfortunately, the idea was ahead of its time. Now, RedPrairie is linking their clienteling solution that uses customer data to understanding their buying habits and preferences with their WFM solution to solve this problem.
5. Singing their praises. I think Dayforce set a record by having three clients speak about their implementations at NRF. Guitar Center, Hibbett Sports, and Aéropostale each spoke about their workforce management initiatives and their use of the Dayforce platform to large audiences. There is nothing more motivating than hearing happy customers speak about their results.
6. Better schedules, less effort. If there was one question that I heard from retailers at NRF it was “how can I create a more accurate schedule while lightening the workload on my store managers?” The good news is that the answer is pretty simple: ensure you have an accurate labor model that reflects your business today. The hard part is making it a priority and getting the organization to focus on it. However, with very little effort, it is easy to establish a strong ROI which is sure to get the focus this problem deserves.
7. Mobile matters. I had a number of conversations with retailers about how to leverage mobile devices including phones and tablets for workforce management purposes. While there is still some hesitancy to provide mobile WFM tools to hourly associates, retailers are very interested in providing mobile WFM solutions like those provided by Vortex Connect to untether the manager from the back office and streamline certain time consuming tasks like filling shifts.
8. Beyond traffic counting. Lots of retailers have traffic counters that measure customers coming in or going out of a store. However, what happens when the customer comes in the store? Where do they go? What do they do? How effective is a certain display? I spent some time with Customer Analytics provider RetailNext at NRF and was mighty impressed at how their solution helps retailers answer these questions.
9. Sharing knowledge. I had a chance to catch up with Opterus who continues to make strides with their Store-Ops Center product. Store-Ops Center includes a good task management solution, and I was excited to see its new Knowledgebase feature which allows store associates to participate in online discussions. This solves a problem that I often discuss with retailers: how do you share unique product knowledge and experiences not just between associates within a store but across all stores within your enterprise.
10. Connecting the workforce to the customer experience. The customer experience was one of the hot topics at NRF. Everybody was talking about it. Fortunately, we helped create a bit of buzz around the customer experience by releasing our whitepaper titled “Focusing Your Workforce on the Moments of Truth” which not only quantifies the impact your associates have on the customer experience but also provides a self-assessment and recommendations that any retailer can use in their operations.