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‘Tis the Season for Reflecting: Musings on the Decade’s Retail Technology Progress and Promise for Workforce Management

As we look to ring in not only a new year in 2020 but also a brand-new decade, it is the perfect time to reflect on progress, what we’ve learned over the past 10+ years, and where we’re headed from here.

In the retail workforce management (WFM) arena, it was in 2010 that we really started to hear about putting the right people in the right place. Mobility was the other big focus that started gaining major traction right around the same time.

Mobility, AI and machine learning changed the game

According to Statista,1 296 million smartphones were sold in 2010. That’s a far cry from the estimated 1.6 billion smartphones sold in 2019. By 2014, smartphone sales had gone up 400 percent, reaching over 1.2 billion. This rise and widespread prevalence of smartphones generated an amazing new possibility for retailers: the use of mobility to improve operational efficiency and also as a way to better connect with their associates. The connected workforce made communication easier than ever before. We also saw the rapid development of virtual assistants like Alexa and Google from 2014 to 2016. All of these advancements changed the game, enabling the ability to get factual data quickly and to provide services that previously could not be offered.

This past decade also saw artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning come into their own in a big way, upping the ante for technology solution development and capabilities alike. The “what’s possible” universe exponentially expanded. Workforce management technology benefited with sophistication spanning from the art of mining big data to making forecasting an important factor for any WFM solution. More information was now rapidly available to make better business decisions. But all of this information led to many questions around WFM. What does all this data tell me? How can we effectively use all of this data?

Ongoing evolution

Going back to 2010’s concept of WFM “putting the right people in the right place,” I would say that in 2020 it’s evolved more into something like this: Scheduling the right people, to do the right things, in the right way and at the right time. The focus now really is beginning to shift toward fully understanding the cost of your labor and where it’s used, including the ability to pinpoint that cost at whatever level you desire.

If this all seems like a tall order, you can accomplish all of the above with the help of a WFM solutions partner that has the retail experience and knowledge to transform the concept into your reality. Select carefully, and you’ll be armed with a tool box arsenal full of tools and experience not only in retail, but also in managing, deploying and sustaining a stellar WFM solution.

While none of us can infallibly predict the next big sea-change or when it will happen, we can all continue to progress and improve with the many important advancements of the last decade and their future promise. I leave you with some WFM-related questions to ponder for 2020 and beyond:

In this season of contemplation, these are just a few considerations to get you thinking and asking yourself if your WFM system provides the answers your organization needs. Only you can answer that question for your company’s specific circumstances, but these reflections will provide a thoughtful start to your 2020 and beyond roadmap. So grab some hot cocoa and give a nod to the incredible technology forged over the last decade as you prepare to enter the new one. The future is ripe with exciting new opportunities (see ‘Tis the Season 2020 and 2021.) Cheers, and Happy Holidays!


1 Statista. Number of smartphones sold to end users worldwide from 2007 to 2020 (in million units). https://www.statista.com/statistics/263437/global-smartphone-sales-to-end-users-since-2007/

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