The future of retail is disruption, and the time to prepare for it is now.
Last year, nearly 9,000 retail stores closed permanently, and it’s estimated 2021 could be even worse. While it would be easy to simply blame this on the global pandemic and its impact, a digital transformation strategy might have saved some of those businesses.
“The world of retail is rapidly evolving,” says Sanish Mondkar, founder and CEO of Legion Technologies, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered workforce management platform. “The biggest benefit of digital transformation is it enables retailers to be agile, it enables them to transform rapidly.”
The new normal
“Business as usual” has changed dramatically due to the pandemic, but not the fundamentals. “Our workforce management challenges have remained consistent,” says Traci Rubin, director of human resources at SCMP, a global leader in the accessible luxury market. “For example, matching staffing to business needs, and ensuring key stakeholders have access to reporting and metrics so they can make the best business decisions possible.”
Something else that hasn’t changed is the importance of having a robust digital transformation strategy. “At the highest level, a digital transformation strategy means using technology to improve your business,” Mondkar notes. “That could be automated decisions, improved experiences, or adopting technologies that make your organization more agile. For example, you can operationalize a curbside pick-up very quickly when you have the right technologies.”
A platform like Legion’s leverages the power of AI and machine learning to solve another challenging aspect of the retail business: resource planning. Allocating budget, labor, and other resources can be extremely complicated. “Planning that volume is very difficult now because it’s unclear how much of customer demand is coming back and at what pace,” notes Mondkar.
The key to a robust digital transformation strategy and demand planning is technology like Legion’s AI-powered workforce management platform. “There hasn’t been much innovation in workforce management and store technology,” notes Mondkar. “That’s why Legion exists. We can bridge the gap between good planning and good execution by automating that execution.”
Hourly employees at retail stores value things like communication tools and schedule empowerment more than the hourly rate. “Empowering our team has been a huge win for us,” notes Rubin. “It’s elevated satisfaction for the employee, the manager who’s creating the schedules, and the field leader who’s able to see the full scope in real-time. Even looking ahead, if there’s a change that we need to make based on business needs, it’s easy to do that.”
It’s also helped improve employee retention. “If you can improve employee engagement and attendance through scheduling empowerment, I think that’s where the magic happens,” says Rubin. “Employees feel like they have more control over their day-to-day.”
In addition to workforce management tools, Legion’s platform offers robust AI-infused demand planning. Legion has been able to fully automate aspects of the retail business like demand planning, demand forecasting, labor optimization, and schedule controls using machine learning and AI. They ingest data that a business generates and processes already, like point-of-sale data, and the AI makes decisions regarding how much labor is needed for a specific channel and store. That gives businesses the ability to adjust for sudden changes in demand curves — like those created by a global pandemic.
“Legion’s workforce management tools have allowed us to react and respond really quickly, and in real-time, to a very rapidly changing business environment,” notes Rubin. “That real-time response is something that we never really had before. That’s been a huge benefit.”
Mondkar thinks that the necessity of that capability should be the take-away for every retailer. “From a retailer standpoint,” he says, “having advanced data science capabilities drives agility.”
For more information about Legion’s workforce management and digital transformation solutions, visit https://legion.co/.