Today's hyper connected digital consumers are modeling their own shopping experience. They are discerning, demanding and have more access to information than ever before. Enabled with mobile and ubiquitous connectivity, they can compare products, access price and product information, check availability, get reviews from friends, whether online or inside the store. While retailers continue to engage consumers across channels, it has become imperative for retailers to invigorate the in-store experience to meet today's consumer demands and leverage their front line--store associate to effectively impact sales.
Enabling store associates to become brand advocates can go a long way in personalizing consumer engagement in stores and differentiating on service. But the reality is that consumers have access to more information than store associates, adversely impacting their ability to be effective. Also, Omni channel initiatives like ship from store, buy online pick in stores requires retailers to use store employees for a range of new tasks such as picking, packing, while ensuring they continue to deliver superior consumer services.
To address these challenges, retailers can adopt a 3 pronged strategy to unleash the potential of store associates
- Begin with institutionalizing in-store business processes, to assure consistent experience across product categories, departments and associates with varying skill sets. Secondly, store associates need be given access to critical information like 360 degree Omni channel consumer profile (including preferences, purchase and browse history, wish list, social media interactions etc.,), rich product data (including ratings, reviews, comparison charts etc.,) , new trends, enterprise wide product availability to be able to add value to consumer's buying process. This will not only enable a more meaningful dialog but also enable associates to provide personalized suggestions / recommendations based on consumer preferences, likes/ dislikes, purchase & browsing history and drive upsell cross sell based on what is being purchased today. Also, retailers can come up with a comprehensive communication strategy ensuring that the in store interaction with associate continues post visit through emails on new product launches or invitation to store events.
- Build a scalable, flexible, integrated consumer engagement platform to house business processes, powered by a common data model and services to render sales and service information to any device / form factor. Equipped with mobile or tablet device, store associate should be able to tap into this platform and engage with consumers helping them select products, provide custom promotions, instantly order leveraging global inventory while allowing the consumer to pay and checkout in the aisle. Store mobility initiatives which enable back office supply chain functions such as receiving shipments can positively impact their operational effectiveness.
- Last but not the least, adequate provision should be made to train store manager and associates on the best practices, business process , workflows and tools to increase adoption and deliver higher value to consumers . Whether it is process of inviting consumers for store events, balancing in-store customer service with fulfilling orders or aligning store processes to meet pick up SLA's for online order fulfilled from store, providing training assistance goes a long way in improving sales efficiency and effectiveness.