Should retailers incentivize store staff to accept digital transformation?
While adopting new technologies may be necessary for brands and retailers to remain competitive, it’s not always easy. Establishing internal buy-in at every level can be one of the biggest hurdles. In a session at the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo (IRCE) in Chicago last week, Kara Strong, strategic information officer at Bassett Furniture, and Jim Okamura, partner at McMillan Doolittle, explored the challenges retailers face trying to get staff on-board with technological enhancements and the need for an internal PR push to make it work.
Bassett Furniture was founded in 1902 as a wholesaler and began its retail operations around 18 years ago. The retailer has 94 stores and offers hand-made highly-customized furniture, which customers can work with designers to create directly to spec.
“Any time that you have that kind of heritage, it often comes with a little bit of complication,” said Ms. Strong.
“The reality is we know that for many companies they have been challenged by the execution of the omnichannel strategy. For the vast majority of retailers, they’re somewhere in the area of ‘yeah we understand, but we may or may not fully accept it’ and ‘what does this do to my bonus, by the way?'”
In the case of Bassett Furniture, the company was able to generate buy-in among furniture designers by demonstrating with data that a new, improved website with digital features like online chat and booking was actually bringing more money into individual stores.
“What we’ve learned is that we’re sending a more qualified consumer into our store,” said Ms. Strong. “Our designers are closing more frequently — they’re closing at a higher rate.”
Ms. Strong’s team also demonstrated the new customer journey to store-level staff and executives, showing where the stores fit in and how the online part of the business was pushing customers into stores.
These moves were in keeping with Mr. Okamura’s suggestions. He cited two critical components to a successful omnichannel implementation:
- Having a job role that facilitates communications between departments during a digital transformation, and;
- Using analytics and setting KPIs to sell digital transformation internally.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What sort of hurdles might those in charge of digital transformation encounter, and how can they overcome them? What steps would you suggest retailers take to get their internal staff comfortable with digital transformation?