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Digitizing retail's frontline workforce

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Nov 29, 2022
Illustration of a cell phone wearing a retail apron.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Honeywell is putting digital tools into the hands of retailers’ frontline staff, enabling them to work more efficiently and improve the customer experience.

Why it matters: Retailers aiming to reduce costs, especially in down markets, will continue investing in ways to increase the productivity of their employees.

To retain and stave off attrition, retail jobs must be more engaging, consulting firm McKinsey & Company says.

  • “The most innovative frontline retail employers are investing in technology to automate activities, freeing up time and energy for more meaningful roles in the store,” per McKinsey.

What they're saying: “Anytime a retail organization is more productive, it means that they're executing faster on the things that consumers may experience,” says Taylor Smith, Honeywell’s CTO of productivity solutions.

The latest: Honeywell released a mobile payment solution that allows customers to pay for goods and services on the spot without needing to go to the cashier register or another department.

  • This can alleviate huge lines during peak seasonal events in stores or when you’re out selling Christmas trees in the parking lot.
  • Typically, retailers only give a small number of workers the hardware that allows them to check out customers on the spot, but workers who use Honeywell Smart Pay won’t need additional hardware because it is standard across all of Honeywell’s mobile devices, Smith says.
  • With Honeywell’s solution, “all of them could be equipped to kind of take payment [and] help customers at the checkout,” Smith says. “Right then and there, they're able to close that transaction and deliver a great consumer experience versus calling another associate and having you wait or pointing and directing you to another associate.”

Of note: This helps boost conversion rates for retailers because customers aren’t skipping out on long lines or leaving the store because they couldn’t find someone to help them.

Context: Honeywell is hoping that more mobile devices on the work floor mean more resources and features that workers can tap into.

  • The company has introduced chat messaging and other collaborative software tools to help them be more productive, Smith says.
  • Honeywell recently introduced a digital task management platform that allows retailers to assign work to certain individuals and close the loop or add tasks when needed.
  • It also allows retailers to see the reporting and analytics of where their associates are spending their time and how they can shift that time to more value-added tasks such as engaging with the shopper themselves or stocking shelves.
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