From Apple's experiential approach to the biggest news from the big NRF conference, these are the top stories we're reading this week shaping the world of retail and work.

📲Put The Power Of Digital Retail In The Hands Of Your Firstline Workers | Via:

Digital and Forbes Insights’ recent research, based on algorithms incorporating 26 sets of metrics of digital transformation success across 135-plus variables, reveals that successful retail companies think about transformation very differently from their less successful peers.

The significant differences in consumer satisfaction with online experiences (generally much higher) versus consumer satisfaction in a physical retail store are something retail brands need to address in order to give consumers a truly consistent omni-channel experience.

Research revealed that the digital thrivers focused on the Firstline concept saw an 18%-plus difference in economic returns from focusing directly on each moment, versus peers who had not fully organized around each and every moment of the customer experience.

To enable Firstline workers’ access to the customers’ portfolio of experiences, retail thrivers are organizing around using new insight and data models extremely well.

They should be able to feed insights into supply chains and get instant feedback, instantly update social media and have access to up-to-speed social media networks, and share and exchange information with customer service and sales.

🍎 Apple's 'experiential retail' success | Via:

Apple is bucking the trend of store closures though "experiential retail" and providing education to the customer, rather than just selling merchandise.
The aim is to build long-term customer relationships in its stores, and it can only do so by showing as much as it can of its products and services to customers.

The role of the Apple store is increasingly emphasizing less selling and more on eduction. If you've ordered a new phone from Apple, you'll see an example of this in follow-up email messaging that asks if you'd like to get a 1:1 lesson on using all of its new features.

📚Research: Gender Pay Gaps Shrink When Companies Are Required to Disclose Them | Via:

Requiring companies to report on the pay disparity between male and female employees has the power to shrink such gaps, according to a recent study.
HBR focused on companies with 35-50 employees who had to report their wage gaps (they call them mandatory reporting firms) and compared their pay data with identical information from a group of similar-sized firms with 25-34 employees that weren’t required to release gender-segregated data (the HBR control group).

These findings suggest that governments can indeed take effective steps to address gender wage disparities by making it mandatory for firms to provide data showing discrepancies in gender pay.

For example, low-level female employees in firms that reported on their gender pay gap were also more likely to get promoted to higher levels after the passage of the law.

Second, industries which had higher disparities in pay between men and women before the laws were introduced saw a greater shrinking of the gender wage gap.

🛒 Post-NRF Big Show, A Look Ahead At Retail's 2019 | Via:
At Retail's 2019 Nikki Baird Contributor Payment technologies will continue to confound retailers in 2019.

While it may seem so 2010, cloud is still a big topic in retail.
Tech-driven companies like Netflix and Amazon have long embraced cloud technologies and architectures.

For solution providers, it means keeping everyone up to date on the same version, easier deployments, faster cycles of updates.

It should also mean faster access to innovation and more flexibility in keeping up with consumers’ shifting behaviors.

Even in countries where retailers have long moved on from EMV to contactless, omnichannel payments, mobile payments, and cross-border payments still confound.

🤖New Job for Robots: Taking Stock for Retailers | Via:
Keeping track of inventory and doing it quickly has become one of the most pressing supply-chain concerns for merchants as they try to put into place new strategies for selling and delivering goods under the fast-changing demands of e-commerce.

🚪When Digital Transformation Does Not Happen: Big Box Retailers That Closed Their Doors In 2018 | Via:

For many big retailers, digital transformation did not exactly come to fruition. Here's a breakdown of the news from many big-box stores this past year:

  • Target has triumphed seeing a twenty nine percent growth in online sales in 2018 and a growth in retail sales as well (almost six percent).
  • Thanks to Amazon and an explosion of direct to consumer companies like Casper, Dollar Shave Club and Away, more big box retailers are closing their doors.
  • Iconic toy store Toys R Us closed the doors of all of its 735 stores in June after months of liquidation sales. Even with a loyal customer base and strong rewards program, Toys R Us had problems keeping up with online toy retailers and big box stores.
  • Sears used to be a prominent retail store, but both Sears and Kmart have faced difficulties in recent years with increased competition and the growth of e-commerce.

👗👔Longtime Neiman Marcus chief merchant to step down | Via:

Jim Gold, president and chief merchandising officer at Neiman Marcus and Neiman Marcus Group, will depart the company March 15, the day the department store opens its first New York City location at the massive Hudson Yards development, a company spokesperson told Retail Dive on the phone.

He took various buying and store roles, held executive merchandising positions in men's and women's apparel and helped lead the company's clearance stores, according to biographical information emailed to Retail Dive.

During his 28 years with NMG, Jim has embodied the Neiman Marcus brand values established by Stanley Marcus — customer service, brand partnership, and creative merchandising," he said.

☕️ Why Starbucks' Howard Schultz might have a shot at the White House | Via:

That the former coffee executive is considering an afterlife in politics is not new news -- his name has been bandied about on numerous lists of high-profile corporate and celebrity outsiders who might take on Donald Trump in 2020 -- but up until now, much of that speculation assumed that Schultz would run as a Democrat.

So far, the first Democratic candidates out of the gate represent the increasingly progressive end of the political spectrum, leading many pundits to conjecture that many in the Democratic Party are determined not to nominate a white male candidate to the top of its 2020 ticket.

Forty-two percent of Americans identify as independent voters, and for many Americans in the middle, if the choice is between an increasingly erratic President and a firebrand like Elizabeth Warren, expect to see a seismic rift open up the middle of the American electorate -- one that a candidate like Howard Schultz could step in and fill.

Formidable yet ultimately unsuccessful Biden and Bloomberg bids will leave millions of moderate Dems shopping around for a new sensible centrist, and an independent Schultz might very well be their cup of coffee.
Nevertheless, banking on Biden and Bloomberg warming up the centrists is a risky proposition; if either campaign takes off and becomes the Democratic nominee, there would be little oxygen left in the race for an independent centrist like Schultz.