Educated and prepared store associates key to successful brick-and-mortar stores
Photo by iStock.com
By Janet Hawkins, founder and president, Opterus
It is common these days to hear rumors that brick-and-mortar retail is becoming obsolete, dead even. Some stores are closing, but that's not the full story.
The savviest of retailers know the importance of the entire shopping experience to its customers and are investing in and utilizing well-designed IT solutions that will help them continue to make brick and mortar retail a long-term option for shoppers.
Stores that are offering unique and engaging shopping experiences, anticipating customers' needs, and more importantly, those educating sales associates, are actually doing well. There is no denying consumers still like the physical store shopping experience, and the retailers winning the brick-and-mortar game know that first-hand interactions with customers is invaluable and can be better with well-prepared associates.
What's more, we know that adding executive positions to the team is great and can fill in the necessary gaps to a store's overall operations. In fact, in recent years we've seen a rise in customer experience-focused executives, but if you aren't linking them with your store operations team and on-the-ground associates then you will not see the innovation needle move when it comes to the physical store. There must be a closer relationship between headquarters and the store.
All retailer strategies are, and should be, crucial to servicing connected customers. The store associate is the best way to make that execution happen.
Here are four best practices for ensuring the store associate helps keep the store humming with excitement and engagement:
• Change the overall role of the store associate. Associates need to know and better understand a retailer's strategies and goals. Communication from headquarters to stores has to be improved, be clearer, simpler, more useful and efficient.
• Associates aren't dispensable, they are central and irreplaceable, so treat them that way. Store associates are the connection to customers. They are shaping and guiding the experience customers have in the stores. It's bonding, not just branding. Increasing associate satisfaction can have a direct and positive effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty.
• Use simple and centralized communications to for better task management and communication. Enable store associates with a communication tool that allows them to more easily and conveniently stay on top of daily and weekly tasks, and to have access to all relevant information in one place where they see everything that's meant for them to read, understand and execute. This gives field or store leaders and headquarters visibility into task completion and feedback. Engage associates to help them outperform.
• Associates need to be able to multi-task more efficiently. Help store associates to have more time with the customer — more time on the floor decreases customer to staff ratio and directly increases conversion in the stores.
As retailers continue to expand their understanding and depth of customer data and demographics, targeted ads and offers to attract customers to stores, they also need to continue to think of the store and the associates.
Think of the wasted costs and sales revenue when innovative programs and strategies aren't being executed properly, or at all. After all, retail locations cannot operate purely as product fulfillment centers. As brick and mortar continues to evolve and stores become more than a place to shop, the relationships with associates have to evolve as well. They are the ambassador of your brand and are perfectly poised to foster relationships that will support overall customer loyalty. Retailers must ensure they have the tools in place to communicate with associates. This will empower them to make sure that they and the store are prepared to address your customers' needs.