What Have Retailers Got In Store For Customers In 2014? Report from Retail’s BIG Show

My friend and colleague, Andrew Busby has just returned from New York, buzzing with all the latest gossip from Retail’s BIG Show. As I know we all shop…I thought I would share his experience with you. This year customer experience, in-store experience and customer-centric retailing were all key themes from the show, which is great news for shoppers.

NRF, The BIG Show, New York
NRF, The BIG Show, New York

2014 was the biggest and best NRF Show so far (well it would be!) with more than could be absorbed in the time available. However some key themes emerged which are both exciting and significant for retailers worldwide. Here is a personal summary of my 3 days at NRF 2014.

You can follow Andrew @andrewbusby on Twitter and follow his blog Retail Storm here


Which? Best Retailer survey – who made it to the top this year?

London ShopsWhich? recently asked 11,000 shoppers to give their verdicts on the 100 most well-known high street brands in the UK. I was not at all surprised to read that Apple topped the survey. The reasons given for Apple’s popularity included great customer service, knowledgeable staff as well as great atmosphere and products. No surprises there!

The thing that seems to set the best and the worst retailers apart, according to the Which? survey, aside from great products is great customer service – Apple’s employees are fully engaged, knowledgeable and eager to help customers. Great customer service is made easier to deliver when supported with an automated workforce management solution that can help managers schedule the best employees at the busiest times to maximise sales. An automated system can also help managers keep on top of skills and training and ensure that these are taken into consideration when scheduling staff in the stores, so that the right people are where they are needed most. Whether it’s front of store at the checkout or behind the scenes making sure the shelves are fully stocked and tidy, scheduling staff more efficiently and effectively will enhance the customer experience.

Good news for our favourite high-street retailers is that although the Which? research revealed over half of shoppers choose to buy products online these days, they still prefer high street shops to shopping centres, retail parks or online websites. The survey also revealed that over a third of consumers spend more money in real-world shops than online which shows, in our omni-channel retailing world, having staff who deliver great customer service in the store is still important to consumers – and to retailers with an eye on the bottom line.

The Future of Workforce Management & 10 Deadly Sins of Software Development

IMG_0161Sorry I have not blogged sooner, last week was a very busy time and our annual customer event was even more successful than ever with greater numbers of attendees and some really great speakers. We were delighted to welcome Kronos customers from across the UK and Western Europe. Aron Ain, our CEO kicked proceedings off with an insightful presentation about the future of workforce management. In his presentation he mentioned that Kronos will be investing $100 mill into R&D this year to ensure that our solutions continue to meet the growing demands of our customers; intuitive, easy to use solutions, delivered on mobile technologies, guiding management decisions and providing real insight into the business with Workforce Analytics – this speaks volumes about how important it is to continue to provide our customers with real competitive advantage. Aron went on to talk about how Kronos can help customers focus on what they do best by letting us run their Kronos solution in the Kronos Cloud.

Mollie Lombardi of Aberdeen Group gave a research analysts perspective on the impact that Big Data is having on organisations globally whilst Charlie DeWitt described how we eliminated the 10 Sins of Enterprise Software development over the last few releases, how we engage with customer advisory boards to ensure our solutions meet with the current and future needs of our customers and confirmed we are still searching for the book that describes all of the employment rules and practice around the world 😉 The key focus was on how we can provide solutions that truly help organisations achieve operational excellence and the “gold” at the end of the Big Data and Analytics trail.

Following those fascinating sessions I was delighted to be hosting the main discussion panel. Where valued customers like Duncan Rouse of Hall and Woodhouse, Jay Brereton of The Co-operative Group, Mark Wales of Ralph Lauren, Alan Murphy of Hozelock and Richard Baxter of Aramark bravely took to the stage, together with Mollie who spoke earlier. They gave us their reaction to the main themes of the day. All had valued input on how the changing demographics of their business and the demands of their employees could be better accommodated by workforce analytics, mobile workforce management and the Cloud. On each topic they even took questions live from the audience.

IMG_0224In the afternoon we held industry specific breakout sessions that allowed our customers to share their challenges and show their peers how they are using their Kronos solution to manage their workforce more efficiently and the impacts it has on their organisation – whether it is by reducing absence, improving scheduling efficiencies or reducing labour costs. Analysts, partners and sector experts also contributed their knowledge and views to the sessions.

All in all it was a fantastic day and we are already looking at ways that we can take the feedback and lessons that we have learned to make next year’s event even better. Here is a link to Mollie Lombardi of Aberdeen Group and Charles DeWitt, Kronos VP of Enterprise and Product Marketing’s presentations that will give you taste of the themes for the day and if you wish to know more please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Theatre Emotions

EvitaThis ‘theatrical’ guest blog is from Andrew Busby, (colleague, motorsport lover and retail expert).

I love going to the theatre, I tend to fall asleep if I go to the cinema. It must have something to do with the live shared experience which the theatre provides and which exists between the performers and the audience. It engages you on an emotional level.

Nothing is quite like it; I still recall the last night of Evita with Elaine Paige and the goosebumps at the final curtain call; not because I’m a particular fan but because of the intimate shared experience which it provided. I witnessed it…..I was there.

I was fortunate enough to attend the National Retail Federation’s annual convention in New York in January – otherwise known as Retails BIG Show. And for good reason; 2 whole floors of exhibitors from the big names such as IBM, SAP and Microsoft down to the smallest of niche players. 26,000 delegates over 3 days from all over the globe made this a truly remarkable event. But what was most memorable to me were the number of sessions and exhibitors covering one aspect or another of the in-store customer experience. Bricks & mortar stores aren’t where the investment is being made, right? Wrong! Online sales maybe booming so why have a large store estate? Well from the interest shown at NRF it is clear that whilst online will continue to grow, the store estate will remain. Perhaps in a different guise but the importance of the store and therefore the in-store experience has never been as important or relevant as it is today.

One of the sessions at NRF discussed best of breed retailers and what struck me was what they had in common. Virtually all focused obsessively on the in-store customer experience – the retail theatre which they created for their customers. If you have ever been to the Burberry store in London’s Regents Street you’ll know what I mean; if you haven’t – GO! It must be one of the truly memorable experiences on the high street and I would argue one which rivals the West End theatre for spectacle. I half expected that at any moment, Gloria Swanson would sweep down the wonderful curving staircase as if in a scene from Sunset Boulevard.

As more and more retailers embrace the in-store experience as a way not only to entice customers into the store but to stay there and purchase, it becomes a key differentiator in the fight for survival. Some, like Apple achieve this in a very simple straightforward way – no frills when you look at the store, just rows and rows of tactile ‘iSomethings’ to touch, feel and try out. Others like Burberry follow a different route but both are engaging their customers at an emotional level and this is rapidly growing in importance amongst retailers. This is the retail theatre and long may it continue.

Next time I shall explore how store colleagues are the cast and how crucial it is to fully engage them if the ‘Show’ is to be a success.

Posted 19 hours ago as a guest blog by Richard Shorney


A review of the ‘The BIG Show’

Andrew Busby and David Bacon, Kronos for Retail at NRF 2013My colleagues David Bacon and Andrew Busby had the opportunity to attend NRF13 in New York and here is a brief insight into their experience from Andrew.

The National Retail Federation’s annual show otherwise known as Retail’s BIG Show held in New York between January 13th – 16th was the biggest show ever with over 26,000 people attending not just from the US but from all parts of the globe. Exhibitors included IBM, Microsoft (who had a Formula 1 car on their stand), SAP and of course Kronos. Our stand was impressive and attracted a lot of attention, especially the moustache party at the end of the first day. In return for each visitor to the stand wearing a moustache, Kronos donated $5 to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

But the Expo wasn’t the only attraction for delegates, there was a full 3 day conference including keynote speeches from Kofi Annan and Donna Karan. Other sessions included a fascinating insight into the continuing austerity which will affect retailers who will have to adapt to meet the changing socio-economic trends which will emerge. For me, the session discovering examples of best in class retail from around the world was the most interesting and perhaps relevant to the Kronos value proposition for retailers. Examples from Burberry, Uniqlo and Harrods show how retailers are striving to connect with their customers and deliver not just great service but a great experience.

NRF 2013 was also an opportunity for David and I to meet not only the Kronos US team who made us feel very welcome, but also customers, prospects and partners including M&S, Boots, Arcadia, PCMS and Axium. And of course it was also an opportunity to take a bite out of the Big Apple. The sights and sounds of New York are an assault on the senses never to be forgotten: Times Square, Empire State Building, Central Park, Rockefeller Centre, 5th Avenue are all iconic landmarks, and seeing such a presence by the NYPD it was easy to imagine Cagney & Lacey appearing at any moment.  

But back to the business of the conference and some clear themes and trends in retail soon emerged.

  • Online and in particular mobile shopping will continue to increase at a dramatic rate
  • Customers now have the power and the retailers who embrace this will be those who survive
  • Omni-channel (some say hyper-channel) will become ubiquitous as part of this mobile online revolution. Some analysts likening this as being even more significant than the industrial revolution
  • Big data and Cloud will proliferate
  • Bricks & mortar stores will always remain but the in-store customer experience will be ever more critical to the success of the brand. For those who have ever visited Burberry in Regent’s Street or a Hollister store will appreciate the lengths leading retailers are going to in order to attract and retain customers

And all this underlined the fact that Workforce Management’s time has come; employee engagement, productivity, aligning labour cost to customer demand and delivering great customer experience are all high on the agenda for retailers. Retail’s BIG Show provided the inspiration and insight – the rest is down to us!