What can the Workplace Learn from Retail Experience? Some companies are finding it hard to encourage people back to the Office after the pandemic. They know that they need to offer their employees a better experience than working from home but are struggling to do it. Retail is at the forefront of creating experiences, so what can we learn from retail about creating a better workplace experience and building a stronger culture? We talk to Julia Lindberg from AgentHuset and John Karsberg from Workshop, who share their in-depth knowledge.
Transcript of ‘What can the Workplace Learn from Retail Experience?’
James: Welcome to the podcast thank you so much for joining. I know you guys are busy. I wanted to talk about experience both from the perspective of the workplace but also retail of course because that’s why you guys are here right experts in retail and I have this theory that with retail it’s slightly ahead of the curve like in terms of buildings about the experience that it offers and I feel that you know we’re now with the workplace in terms of office going through this change because of the pandemic towards you know like a much more hybrid experience and and I know speaking to to people who have you know large offices they are struggling with that they’re struggling to get people back to the office and they want to create an environment that is not just conducive to work but like attractive so long story short sorry what do you guys think I mean first of all is that is that right like is do you feel like that um retail is ahead in terms of experience.
Julia: should I start go ahead I think definitely retail could be I mean it’s of course to company to company um but I feel that retail has I mean they have been needed to kind of adapt quicker in order to actually generate sales you know I feel that many companies even though they are a company with a lot of ideas they have great values um they have kind of this mindset that they’re you know ahead of everyone else but then you’re coming into the office office and it’s super corporate uh very kind of you know sit down at your desk you know and and I feel that retail were there before as well like going into store going to a shelf just looking at a price in the products but I think that overall retail has started to move more towards um um like showrooms even though you’re going to an Elgin or if you’re going to a power store and for example it’s so important to make an impression and I believe that that’s the case for for offices or for hotels as well that you’re actually coming into an experience and I would say that that’s maybe the the biggest part of it I’m not sure if you guys agree.
John: I think that you’re on to something and I think that retail has for a long time needed to adapt to the customer to then the visitor to the store to be able to compete and to be able to to sell so I think that it’s much more than from a customer perspective trying to understand and doing research and why do we do how many people actually go into an aisle or is it actually some other some other visuals that will make a difference etc etc and follow that up to understand for a long time quite some time and I think then when it comes to commercial other commercial buildings or offices or things that it’s been from an employer perspective it’s basically you sit down and there hasn’t really been any push from an employee perspective either because we’ve kind of accepted that this is what it is and then covid kind of interrupted that or disrupted that where it was actually shown that you could work from home or from a cafe or from abroad or from anywhere else you had your working tools or at least for some of us it was possible not for everyone of course because it kind of also divided and created a bigger Chasm I guess between some parts of society and some others but but we actually then as employees realized that we could put pressure we we had a little bit more power and from an employer perspective it was possible we were still productive so then you could start playing and experimenting a bit more and I think we’re still early on even if the pandemic as when it was the worst is over hopefully uh we’re still in very very early in exploring what this means I think and I think it’s really really interesting to think of it from then to do the parallel with retail that I think could do a lot more also to be better when it comes to experiences.
James: Tell me about that, what more can retail do?
John: I think that even if it’s a lot better at adapting to customer perspective than uh offices I still think that there’s a lot more that needs to be done uh especially now with tech development to also use Tech not only talk about Omni retailing from a very very basic perspective that you can actually order online and pick up in store or that you can pay with a digital card but actually create a real uh Channel agnostic experience where we do not force people to behave in ways that they don’t they don’t need to transact in this or that channel they don’t need to be inspired in this or that but it’s more from a customer perspective to really do a holistic 360. uh have between holistic 360 thinking lots of people are talking about it there are lots of PowerPoints or Keynotes or whatever where you put the customer in the center and lots of trainings for store staff and for head office people but to really really be custom-centric passionate obsessive or whatever you might call it.
Julia: it’s not there I would say no yet and then also I think I mean as the society is moving forward and especially with social media being so big as well I think that companies overall needs to jump on Trends quicker um especially in retail as well but I guess it applies to to more or less all of the businesses um I think that that is something that we have started very little but it it takes time and you need to be so quick and to actually jump on that trend for sure um but I’m totally with you dare we have a long way long way to go still for sure it’s on a basic level.
James: This kind of concept of omni channel so as someone who knows very little about retail right you’re trying to create an experience there that is you both online offline and the the kind of the two meld so maybe you go into the shop you have that experience of talking to uh someone um who understands a product feeling the product touching it but not necessarily buying it there going away being online buying it there or maybe even just um again interacting with people on social media is that sort of a fair represent basic representation.
Julia: I would say that I mean the kind of the basics uh for companies today is to you know make a red thread um what you see in store what you like meet in store it should be mirrored online as well and vice versa so I think that’s kind of the main goal for everyone so the customer feels um you know familiar with the brand and feels familiar with the messaging um and then also especially in in our case and in our business we’re we’re very much putting focus on training source for example so they actually know the product they know the brand so it gets familiar for the client and also so they actually understand the product and the brand quite well um I mean that’s the foundation I would say but I mean as you say as well where we have a long way to go still.
James: From a data perspective how important is that to retail and Retail experience?
John: I would say that it’s extremely important but that does not necessarily mean that the more data you have the better I think also as retail is very Hands-On it has been for a long time I think that’s one of the reasons why you why some companies are more successful than others its detail is being Hands-On it’s being fast Big Data doesn’t necessarily solve all those problems it could be more making it more complex but being curious is the first step making sure that’s why I love talking about this just being curious and trying to understand why people are in how we are why we are so quirky as we are and why we decide in strange ways and how it works but just being curious and then collecting being clear smart on data collection and really be creating creating structures where you can collect the right data at the right time and making sense of it not just having large volumes of data creating fantastic dashboards uh that no one really understands why you need all these 10 things because it might be difficult to act on uh maybe three years better I also think that when it comes to data that that it should be designed and followed up so you can actually make sense of it not managed and controlled perspective but to make it applicable to the business to be able to take actions on it because that’s where it matters then of course it’s important to to tell your manager you’re doing a good job with a couple of kpis but the most important thing is to make sure that you can actually make sense of what you’re doing take action-oriented decisions and it doesn’t take a lot of data points all the time to do that so a bit less is more extremely important but less is more and then the sort of the fun fundamental things I’m going to say.
James: I know for example you there’s let’s say square foot per um per sale I mean that that’s an important metric right for physical um stores anything else?
John: It could be lots of things I would say no but I think that it’s what is important and what is possible is to use Tech then so you know where people go and that’s been possible for a long time but then maybe it’s taking shadowing or people looking and really filling out physical pieces of paper see how many times are you touching products in that aisle for example but it’s possible to measure it’s possible to see conversion rates physical physically it’s really important digitally maybe too important digitally uh but uh but there are lots of things you can try to connect behavior and benefits and drivers with selling because selling is a extremely important metric of course because that’s ultimately what people would want but do you want selling today or is it somewhere down the line what do you want what is this story there for what is this flagship store there for is it to inspire is it to sell to whom should whom should I Inspire and who should I sell to and do should I send someone to our Digital Store instead because the assortment is bigger or whatever I think that yeah I’m just making it more complex but it’s it’s this is what I think it’s fun.
James: If you’re just trying to force someone just to buy something they’re not necessarily going to be the best experiences.
Julia: Exactly yeah and I think also the tricky part there is as you say I think many companies especially in stores since sales is kind of the main focus right um I believe that many companies is just looking for the short term so just fixing the short-term problems and not as you say working more or less like okay what is actually the brand experience here um and maybe that’s also why people are figuring that out and more and more to kind of give a whole experience is that even though if it’s in store maybe doing showrooms Etc and I also feel that I mean looking at hotels and offices as well I mean we’re moving there and also as we know the most like popular companies to work at is more of a kind of not a playground I would say but more it kind of okay it gives you an experience to actually come to work you know.
James: So do you think in some States since it starts with culture and brand like if you haven’t got that right then you’re just not going to be able to do the experience to a certain level?
Julia: I mean in the long run yes I would say for sure.
John: Yeah definitely I think the culture and brand will give us a lot of Clues to to where we are what stories do we go to what do I buy but also where we work what is what do they stand for what are the values and how is that materialized I think there is a lot to do there and getting back to to to a bit more employee power there I think that we can also put more power than on the employer to create the holistic like a value-driven organization culturally that is culturally coherent in one way or another not all companies should have or employees should have slides in different colors maybe all over the place or bean bags to sit on but it should be coherent and it should work with the overall brand as it should be one you should send one message in a way.
Julia: Yeah and I think also I mean especially with the kind of younger generation coming in I feel I guess it’s it’s my opinion to it of course but I feel that many people coming straight from University and or other schools it feels like they want a workplace where they belong or where they are valued or where they are said it doesn’t mean as you say that it needs to have bean bags and a ping-pong table and I think it’s more that it’s mirroring their values and mirroring who they want to be as a person as well so you actually go to work and feel that you’re making a difference on something that you actually cares about.
James: That’s a great point so in some states it’s like environment is just one part of it right it’s also the why exactly.
John: Yeah not just um what the office is like of course no and so it’s not uh if you if you look at different kinds of flex uh Office Solutions to me it should then be driven by a customer perspective and a need that an employee need more than a cost cutting need even if they should maybe or could maybe go hand in hand I think that it’s a very different perspective and it might give a different outcome uh so you’re doing it for the right reasons.
James: Exactly so just guys to wrap up and I really appreciate you taking the time today but I mean would is there some advice that you would give um uh you know um a company that is struggling with the their experience and getting people back to work?
Julia: Oh I mean I think to begin with um I know that especially me I come from a company before I started working here they were very strict with us being in the office for certain hours for example I would say the main thing is to have kind of an open mind that people are actually doing their work even if they’re sitting at home as I would say that to begin with being flexible with that gives a lot of value for for the employees to begin with but I mean there’s of course a lot of metrics to measure here
John: Yeah and my what I usually say as a response to all questions is that you can ask and follow up and you don’t have to have all the answers then as an employer or as an owner of a building or something you you can ask and you can follow that up and do that every now and then with different kinds of pretty simple surveys to get people’s opinions and to see what works and what doesn’t work and experiment and play and I think that you together then with everyone that is then using the space or hotel or office or whatever right can then help can help you and you create it together basically.