Why retailers must equip seasonal employees with necessary tech tools

Seasonal employees provide critical support for retailers during the holidays. Here's how to best roll out crucial tech tools that help them get the job done.

MWC19 Los Angeles: How digital transformation impacts the retail shopping experience The retail experience is digitally transforming, and retailers must jump on board to stay competitive.

With Black Friday and the holiday season around the corner, retailers are preparing for an influx of frantic customers. To adequately handle this increase in business, retailers will hire between 530,000 and 590,000 temporary workers during the 2019 holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF)

SEE: Digital transformation in retail: How consumers are using tech to make shopping easier and more enjoyable (TechRepublic)

Hiring extra help for the holidays is commonplace in the retail industry, but the more advanced retailers are equipping seasonal employees with tech tools and devices, especially technology focused on mobility. This practice not only makes the retail experience better for customers, but supports retail employees in handling the large amount of business entering stores, said Ed Durbin, director of retail solutions at VMware. 

"Leading retailers are increasing employee productivity and customer experience with mobility by putting apps and real-time information at associates' fingertips via mobile devices," Durbin said. "By arming seasonal employees with mobile devices—including smartphones, tablets, wearables and other connected devices —retailers aim to improve customer service, simplify onboarding, optimize training, scheduling, and inventory management."

"Once provisioned with a digital workspace, everything seasonal workers need—access to product knowledge, inventory information and point-of-sale (POS) applications—is easily accessible from any device," he added.

However, some retailers are wary to supply seasonal workers with these capabilities, with supply and security being top concerns.

Potential challenges of hiring seasonal employees 

Supplying a significant amount of seasonal employees with tech can be difficult and expensive. However, the trouble and cost becomes worthwhile when considering the benefits this tech brings, Durbin said. 

"Seasonal employees are brought in to support during the busiest times of a retailer's year. As such, they must be onboarded, trained and, eventually, offboarded with efficiency and speed," Durbin said. "Retailers can ease onboarding, training, scheduling, inventory management, endless aisle transactions, and employee retirement with role-based access via a digital workspace on bring-your-own and shared store devices."

Using digital workspace technologies, retailers can program mobile devices in a few hours to prepare seasonal employees on day one. Employers can also provide training modules, critical apps for quick onboarding, and connection to back-end processes right at their fingertips, Durbin said. 

"And at the conclusion of seasonal employees' tenure at a company, the retailer's IT team can remote wipe company data from mobile devices with just a few clicks," Durbin added.

Security is another challenge. By giving seasonal employees these tech devices, retailers are providing them with access to company data and apps, Durbin said. 

To prevent any security issues, retailers can rely on "built-in security capabilities, such as encryption, to safeguard data and while enabling endless aisle transactions that prevent losing a sale," Durbin said. 

While these concerns are valid, retailers must recognize that this tech is now necessary to remain relevant and successful in their industry.

The retail experience is now personal, and the opportunity to gain customer loyalty is open widest to brands willing to rethink traditional shopping experiences," Durbin said. "Implementing a digital workspace solution is critical to enabling seamless and secure access to the company apps and data associates require to best service customers." 

"By transforming shopping experiences with robust service delivery everywhere—at end-points, in stores, and beyond—a digital workspace can improve brand loyalty," he said. 

For more, check out 10 technologies leading digital transformation in retail on ZDNet. 

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