For retail and hospitality leaders, constant change is their only constant, and they’ve felt that keenly over the past few years. But through it all, they’re finding a positive way forward through innovation and a willingness to adapt to change.
Those themes rang through the retail and hospitality industry keynote hosted by Workday’s Chief People Officer Ashley Goldsmith at Workday Rising, our flagship customer event. Goldsmith started her career in the retail space, so she has a soft spot for the industry and a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities that come its way.
She opened the keynote by reiterating something that did not change during the last few years: Front-line workers are still absolutely essential to the success of retail and hospitality. Without an engaged and empowered front-line workforce, customers are unlikely to have a good experience, and even less likely to turn into loyal, returning customers.
What’s Trending and What’s Ahead
So what are retail and hospitality leaders thinking about as they look to thrive in the future? Scott Rankin, strategy practice leader at KPMG, talked in the keynote about what industry leaders are focused on. Scenario planning is more important than ever. If there’s one thing that we learned from recent days, it’s to expect the unexpected. Companies are preparing ahead of time so they can pull the right levers and engage the right initiative when change comes again. In fact, Workday found that use of scenario planning among our customers increased by 30 times during pandemic disruption.
For human resources professionals in these industries, finding, hiring, training, and retaining the right talent has been an enormous challenge, and continues to be. Wage inflation puts a strain on the balance sheets, and leaders feel pressure to make sure all their resources and people are being utilized in the most efficient way possible. Solid demand forecasting is a must-have for retailers and manufacturers. They need to be 100% positive they know where demand will be across geographies, channels, and categories, so money is invested in all the right places.
Retail and hospitality organizations have access to billions of lines of data, from point-of-sale and e-commerce to loyalty programs and worker information. But often that data sits in disparate systems, making it difficult to get the answers leaders need. When companies can consolidate data and use it effectively, it can make a huge difference in efforts around personalization, promotional optimization, and pricing.
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts are another area of highly intense focus for retail and hospitality. Consumers increasingly want to feel comfortable with the practices of the brands they purchase from, and regulatory agencies and shareholders are also turning their gaze on the ESG practices of these companies.
Looking forward, Rankin shared that the demise of physical retail has been highly overstated. The brick-and-mortar experience isn’t going away anytime soon, though commodity-driven markets will continue to lean heavily on e-commerce. Customers will still come into the store to touch, feel, and try on what they’re interested in buying. Differentiation will be driven by a return to the basics, such as ensuring that the physical store experience is engaging. And technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality will have an impact, but not quite as fast as some may have predicted.