The evolution of the store associate
Photo by iStock.com
By Flannery Higgins, global marketing manager, PCMS
Faced with unprecedented retail rivalry, more retailers are choosing to stand out and engage shoppers by delivering an enhanced customer experience. Now that customer experience is the new competitive battleground, store associates — the friendly face of retail — have new strategic significance in retailers' attempts to combat competitors.
Consumer behavior has also changed and technology shapes how we shop. Today's shoppers are savvy, assertive and informed, as 81% of consumers research products online before they buy, according to Adweek.
Most shoppers own smartphones, which they may use in store to learn about products, companies and promotions. Consumers have also come to expect instantaneous responsiveness from retailers, including prompt customer service and immediate answers. Now store associates need their own technology just to keep up with today's shoppers.
Let's explore how store associates are helping retailers adapt to competition and consumer trends by leveraging in-store technology. By liaising between the digital and physical worlds, store associates help retailers deliver a superior customer experience and gain a competitive edge.
Retailers combine technology and talent
Successful retailers now fuse proven technology with their greatest asset: passionate store associates.
Since helping is the new selling, store associates make the shopping journey even more welcoming by combining attentive service with technology to effectively cater to consumers' needs. In-store technologies can help store associates solve common customer pain points faster, freeing up time to deliver a superior shopping experience.
Here are three ways technology empowers store associates, and strengthens their relationship with shoppers to drive engagement and loyalty.
1. Save more sales
To help store associates sell from anywhere and save more sales, more retailers are adopting in-store mobile point of sale technologies. Mobile POS allows associates to serve shoppers better by giving them access to products unavailable products, including items temporarily out-of-stock. This technology can complement click and collect programs, offer an endless aisle, and allow associates to help shoppers buy online and receive home delivery.
Mobile POS systems also give associates real-time updates on product inventory, which can increase sales at their store or nearby locations and maximize the retailer's sales. Rather than sending shoppers away empty-handed and frustrated, store associates can use this technology to sell from anywhere, including the middle of an aisle while serving the customer. Associates no longer need to run back and forth to a fixed POS location to look up information.
Also, mobile POS also helps consumers avoid the hassle of out-of-stocks by providing more ways to get a product in their hands faster, for a shopping experience with less friction. For instance, a consumer can start the customer journey online, amend the journey in-store to set up delivery of out-of-stock merchandise, and complete the transaction in-store with seamless payment.
2. Surprise and delight shoppers
Store associates also deliver customized engagement with integrated retail systems focused on personalized marketing. This technology helps associates know their customers better through deeper data insights, which recognize each shopper as an individual with unique preferences. Consumers can shop from wherever they are (online, in-store, on-app and on mobile), as the basket stays with the customer rather than their device. This personalized omnichannel service increases consumers' shopping convenience and retailers' ability to upsell anywhere.
For an engaging in-store experience, associates can access real-time omnichannel marketing insights, which automatically triggers rewards for a seamless customer experience.
For instance, the integrated retail system can help store associates surprise shoppers by giving them unexpected rewards, including promotions and coupons to use during their current transaction or in a future transaction, across all channels. In-store beacons and other interactive, location-based marketing technology can also help retailers upsell, cross-sell and personalize the in-store experience, boosting engagement and conversions.
By integrating digital and physical service, integrated retail systems can help store associates represent their company's entire business more seamlessly while reducing complexity and cost for the retailer.
Meanwhile, shoppers feel delighted, valued and more willing to shop. Since consumers save money and feel rewarded for engaging with a specific retailer, this technology can deepen loyalty and spark positive word of mouth.
3. Share detailed information
To ensure store associates know their products, retailers use technologies like in-store tablets and mobile POS to share more detailed product data, beyond what is shared on product labels. These technologies are important because shoppers have become more scrutinizing and more likely to ask questions about products before they buy them. For instance, consumers increasingly want to know more about their products, such as whether a food item is gluten-free, vegan or sustainably sourced.
Having access to integrated retail systems and mobile devices helps store associates promptly access this level of detail that consumers demand. As a result, the technologies make store associates more productive by saving them time and effort looking because they no longer need to search across multiple retail systems for answers (or leave consumers' questions unanswered). In addition, store associates gain new opportunities to cross-sell and upsell according to personalized preferences, including their consumption values and dietary restrictions.
Using technology to offer informative, transparent service helps store associates increase consumer confidence and brand trust, which can boost sales and lifetime value per customer.
Supporting store associates with technology
To stand out and sell by delivering a superior customer experience, retailers must now embrace technologies to empower their store associates and help them evolve. In-store innovations make the shopping experience more alluring and lucrative by helping store associates deliver frictionless, customer-centric service that inspires consumers to keep coming back.