When virtually any product can be obtained anywhere, anytime with just a click, consumers need a reason to visit a store. Retailers are working hard to give them one by amping up the in-store shopping experience and leveraging those things that set the store apart, most notably from Amazon. Chief among these is the store associate. Armed with access to the right data, store associates can deliver an informed, data-fueled shopping experience with a personalized, human touch that resonates with consumers.
Customers have said as much themselves:
- NRF found that creating a compelling experience can be persuasive, particularly for the younger consumers many retailers are hoping to attract.
- 64% of consumers consider lack of in-store associate guidance/demos a top shopping frustration, according to Capgemini
- 88% of consumers told TimeTrade they are somewhat or extremely likely to make a purchase when helped by a knowledgeable associate
Smart retailers are responding by automating functions such as checkout and fulfillment so that they can shift more labor toward sales and service activities. According to RSR, “the question about whether the employee is essential or superfluous to the next-generation store is also settled — employees are essential.” However, “average and underperforming retailers aren’t thinking about how vital the role of a knowledgeable in-store associate is. It’s almost beyond comprehension.”
Arming Associates With Devices And Data
One common consumer complaint in recent years is that they enter the store with more product knowledge than the associates meant to help them. Retailers are changing that equation by equipping store workers with mobile technology, powerful apps and real-time, relevant data that empowers them to provide personalized, informed service to individual customers.
And it’s working. IHL Group’s Prime Challenge says retail leaders are empowering associates with better tools at a rate 71% higher than average retailers in their segment.
With the right tools and data at hand, store associates can now deliver new value to the customer in these six areas:
- Clienteling: Real-time data enables associates to personalize the shopping experience. Retailers are testing various technologies to automatically identify opted-in shoppers as they enter the store, and then provide the associate with customer data such as purchase history, products searched on the web site, sizes and preferences, VIP status, custom promotions and other relevant data that enable a customized experience. Suggestive selling apps enrich the shopping experience while boosting the bottom line: according to BRP, 83% of retailers plan to offer suggestive selling by 2021.
- Data-Rich Selling Tools: Associates armed with tablets can share the screen with the customer to view selling tools such as product configuration and personalization, rich media demos, line extensions and accessories, as well as transaction processes like warranty sign-ups, installation appointments and payment. An IHL webinar, “Why Updated POS is Critical for Unified Commerce,” reported that when a customer and associate share a mobile screen, it drives a 25% higher average ticket.
- Real-time Inventory: By providing access to real-time inventory across the enterprise, associates can locate wanted sizes, colors or models and arrange delivery to the customer’s desired location, saving the sale and boosting customer satisfaction.
- Mobile POS: Retailers are streamlining checkout by adding options that reduce unpopular queues at the cash wrap. By empowering associates to offer checkout on the spot, customers can complete their purchase quickly and be on their way. IHL reports 77% higher sales growth for retailers providing mobile sales tools for staff and 92% higher sales for mobile POS.
- Customer Outreach: Some retailers, particularly in fashion, are fostering in-store social media influencers among their staff, providing them with communication and social media tools, along with commission incentives, to generate excitement and alert customers to trends and store activities. Associates can also reach out via mobile devices to set customer appointments, respond to customer service inquiries and perform other customer-facing tasks.
- Operations: By putting mobile devices in the hands of each store associate, retailers can eliminate the need to invest in purpose-built scanners. They can use those devices for essential fulfillment activities, such as picking click-and-collect orders, as well as replenishment and other operations activities.
Retailers must support associates in this significant transformation in their role. That takes a combination of well-designed mobile devices, intuitive software and effective training. Associates need to understand how to deliver the mobile-enabled brand experience; best practices for sharing the screen; how to access data in response to customer needs and so on. Retailers are leveraging classroom style, video and even on-demand training shorts on mobile devices to ensure a smooth transition to a mobile-enabled sales role.
Retailers are feeling the heat of the “Amazon effect,” and must transform the store experience to compete. Associates are emerging as a golden, largely untapped asset. By arming staff with the right tools and data, retailers are driving the personalized, frictionless, informed shopping experiences that today’s customers crave.