Top Takeaways from NRF Retail Converge 2021

June 28, 2021

NRF’s new virtual event, NRF Retail Converge, kicked off last week. We attended and joined leading retailers to explore what the “next normal” of omnichannel retail means.

Connecting retailers across multiple disciplines, NRF led us in conversations about socio-economic impacts, collaborative growth opportunities, transformation stories, diversity and inclusion, as well as principles for leadership during today’s era of retail. 

Here are some of our favorite moments of NRF Retail Converge.

The modern omnichannel experience

After a year of brick-and-mortar stores shutting doors, furloughing employees, reopening, permanently closing, introducing contactless shopping options, and more… Retail innovators are catalyzing a future where brick-and-mortar stores are thoughtfully placed and reinvented as part of a true omnichannel strategy. 

Michelle Gass, CEO of Kohl’s says “For us, the stores are key, we are thinking about them differently. They are an omnichannel hub.”

Macy’s cut their retail footprint drastically, instead focused on delivering comprehensive shopping experiences to store customers. By weaving physical stores into a true omnichannel strategy, the instore and online are no longer a dichotomy—they’re one whole. “We want to make online shopping just as social and fun as in person shopping,” said Jeff Gennette, Chairman and CEO of Macy’s.

Retail success in this new era means making physical stores work harder than ever—in the physical and the virtual worlds.

The Importance of Social Impact

In light of what is happening in the world, retail brands are forced to reflect on what they stand for and how they use their resources to improve the community they are a part of. 

Companies in every sector are rethinking their roles in the world, and in the future of this quickly-changing world. “The role of the pharmacist and the role of those community health destinations is going to evolve post-pandemic,” says CVS Pharmacy/Retail President Neela Montgomery. 

We believe that change starts from within organizations. This particularly resonates with us here at Zipline. When employees feel connected to a brand and feel that their values align with corporate values, they have better interactions with customers and colleagues.

“It can’t be an HR initiative,” said Vitamin Shoppe CEO Sharon Leite. “It has to be a company-wide initiative.”

At this NRF event, the “Equality Lounge” is a track of the conference dedicated exclusively to tackling social issues. These conversations and workshops covered topics from diversity and inclusion, mental health awareness, empowering women in the workforce, and prioritizing employees.

“ESG goals — environmental, social and governance — need to be pursued with the same rigor in reporting as financial goals,” says Shannon Schuyler, Principal, Chief Purpose & Inclusion Officer for PwC. “We all need to do this.”

Since the world changes quickly, brands must remain flexible, especially when it comes to social responsibility. With a system in place, your employees will be aligned, and your brand values can be reflected at every level of your organization. You need clear communication and a platform that allows your employees to drive effective change. 

Rolling out any new program requires complete organizational alignment. But, when it comes to rolling out something as important as Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plans, you need to ensure that every single level of your organization, from frontline associates up to the C-suite, understands the company’s vision and the role they play in making that vision come to life. 

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

After a turbulent year in the workforce, we’ve all been talking about “employee engagement” even more than before. Is it a business trend, or is it something that we should explore? Just how important is employee engagement in retail customer service? 

We think Southeastern Grocers President & CEO, Anthony Hucker, said it best. “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”

Employee engagement is crucial for every brand, especially today. Engaged employees are the link between the innovative ideas your brand has created and the customers you’re trying to reach.

“We talk a lot about data and tech, but a friendly, engaged associate is much more effective at deterring losses, and elevates customer experience in the long run,” says Walmart Director of Asset Protection, Sherri Overton.

It is no secret that happy employees means happy customers. Boosting retail employee engagement ultimately improves the customer experience. By setting up your frontline workers for success, they will feel empowered to represent the brand and be the voice of the company. 

With robust communication tools that provide context, retail employees can understand their role in accomplishing the greater mission at hand. We all know that when we understand how our job tasks, even the most mundane of duties, make us part of a bigger picture we are eager to go the extra mile and contribute our very best work. 

To reach customers, retailers should first focus on increasing engagement among their frontline store employees.

The importance of communication 

Covid-19 brought with it new standards for health and safety, and in the midst of these ever-changing rules and regulations, many retailers realized how important an effective, streamlined communications program was to their business. 

But the truth is, store communication has always been the unsung hero of a thriving retail business. As your organization continues to adapt to today’s new normal, it is crucial to select a communication platform that not only features built-in task tracking but also promotes employee engagement at its core. 

Zipline was built to solve the unique challenges of communication in retail organizations. Reach out to learn more about how you can stop communicating with your stores and start communicating with your people today.

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