Andrea Dorfman
Andrea Dorfman
Content Manager

How connected store associates can dramatically improve omnichannel retail experiences.

The days of retail store associates simply ringing up a sale and re-stocking shelves are long gone.

Now, employees are tasked with meeting exceedingly high customer expectations each and every time someone walks into the store – regardless if a customer is there to buy, showroom, ask questions, make a return or pick up an online order.

In this consumer experience economy, an in-store visit is no longer quantified or qualified based on transaction alone so much as what the customer remembers when they leave. And that impression falls largely on the shoulders of the store associates. That’s why retailers with brick and mortar locations are investing just as much in their employees as in their technology to meet these demands and deliver on expectations.

When more than 90% of U.S. retail sales happen in stores, it makes perfect business sense to invest in the tools and training that empower store associates to their full potential.

90% of retail sales happen in-store

Tech enables experiences, but store associates deliver them

Stores are all about experiences and emotional connections – online is about convenience. Both are all about brand. It’s why dozens of successful ecommerce pure players are now delving into brick and mortar as well. Stores are where it's at!

Nowadays, when a customer visits a store it’s just one step in a multi-step, often random and complex omnichannel shopping journey. The store visit may be the start, middle or end of a purchase journey. So, store associates must adopt a similar omnichannel mindset – one that views a successful customer experience as not necessarily resulting in a sale on the spot.

How do store associates impact sales across an omni-channel shopping journey? In ways only real people can!

Download this Free eBook to discover the right solutions for your store associates.

Investing in people is just as critical as investing in technology. Some associates may know your customers and brand inside and out, but are less tech-savvy, whereas the younger hires can master the digital side of things but need more time to get to know your brand and customers.

Expertise

Ecommerce is mainly transactional, although with the increasing popularity of artificial intelligence and chatbots, customers are starting to enjoy more “person-to-person” interaction even online. AI also provides in-store associates with the incredible intelligence to deliver even more personalized experiences. This fusion of people and AI working hand-in-hand will be the differentiator for retailers.    In fact, a massive 90% of in-store shoppers are likely to buy after receiving help from knowledgeable in-store associates.

Understanding

Some shoppers want to be in and out, others like to linger. Some come with all the information they need knowing exactly what they want, others seek advice and recommendations. It’s up to the store associate to read the customer and offer them the right type of service and convenience to meet their individual desires. Some customers have a hard time making up their minds on the spot and need time to think before making a purchase. But a great showrooming experience can generate a huge lift in online sales.

 customers buy more from knowledgeable staff

Observation

Retailers can learn much about their customers just by watching them shop, interacting with the space and products.Sucharita Mulpuru, senior analyst with Forrester Research, confirms.

“From a market research standpoint, [a store] pays for itself. The amount of market research you gain just by observing people, it’s the equivalent of 100 focus groups.”.

It’s one of the reasons online players are bringing their savviness to brick and mortar, and brand manufacturers are popping up with their own stores. They realize the intrinsic value of being able to witness real-life experiences and watch their customers in action.

Responsiveness

When a store associate has access to digital tools and customer information, they can wow a customer by immediately responding to their needs and wants: through personal recommendations, finding their online order, ordering on behalf, or simply line busting with mobile POS. These add up to easy and enjoyable shopping experiences that customers remember with joy.

Communication

Great customer service doesn’t have to end when someone leaves the store. Once a connection is made in person, the table has been set for a continuing relationship, one that can be followed-up in a relevant way at a perfect cadence. Store associates should also get customers to sign up for personalized promotions or a loyalty program, explaining the mutual benefits, and perhaps even follow-up personally post-sale to ensure satisfaction.

Happiness

An empowered store associate is happier, which has a direct correlation on their sales and productivity, ultimately impacting your bottom line. It’s invigorating to have the answers to customer questions, and to be able to offer a personal shopping experience that leaves them with a smile, a thank you and a promise to come back.

7 ways to build a store associate's arsenal for stardom 

Here are 7 ways retailers can empower store associates to make a real difference – in a brand’s success, in a customer’s life, and in their own personal fulfillment and job satisfaction.

  1. Assisted selling: Give them access to customer history and preferences to act as personal shoppers, and allow them to share real-time product information, pricing, promotions, customer reviews, ratings, and inventory across the endless aisle.
  2. Mobile POS: When an associate can help complete a purchase on the spot after a positive engagement with a customer it's the icing on the cake. And when an associate approaches a customer in a long checkout line and offers to help them checkout via mobile POS, it's a guaranteed positive impression.
  3. Order on behalf: Create or access a customer's profile and easily add desired items, add promotion codes, check related items that may be of interest, confirm delivery preferences, and finalize checkout. All in a matter of minutes, at most.
  4. In-store fulfillment: To deliver on the promise of this preferred choice for customers, it's imperative that employees have the tools to find, pick and pack so they're ready for pickup on time, every time. In addition, there's ample opportunity to increase sales because customers who pick-up or return items in store tend to make additional purchases.
  5. Store communications: Being part of a tribe is a great success motivator, so open the channels of communication that allow employees to create private collaboration groups for knowledge exchange and training.
  6. Personalized dashboards/BI: Access to messages from managers and co-workers, a list of tasks for the day, status on goals and achievements, and even a place to add personal customer notes to improve the next visit are all modern-day motivational musts.
  7. Training: Technology is not there to replace them, it's there to empower them to be their best. Your digital investments are only as good as the people wo use them, so give everyone mobile and online access to all the tools and training material they need to excel.

It's a tall order to fill, for retailers and their employees: to be customer-centric and digitally-savvy with an omnichannel mindset that connects with customers on a physical and emotional level enhanced by digital solutions.

Essentially, they need to be brand champions, and personal shoppers, they need to be fulfillment experts and able to quickly find any item anywhere, they need to be product experts always one step up from the hyper-informed customer, and even need to be mind readers knowing whether a customer is there to buy and fly, or lounge and enjoy.

The opportunities are endless. And very exciting.