How Store Associates Can Compete with Mobile-Enabled Shoppers
Recently, Manhattan Associates partnered with RSR Research for an RSR Webcast titled “Is Your Store Associate Ready for a Makeover?” In the webinar, Nikki Baird, RSR research managing partner, and Brian Kinsella, Manhattan Associates vice president, product management, discussed the questions retailers must ask themselves when considering the modern customer, sales associate and store.
Thanks to mobile devices, today’s shoppers have access to unlimited information, right from the palms of their hands. Many consumers use their smartphones while shopping in-store, which keeps them armed with knowledge and helps them make smarter purchasing decisions. To improve the shopper’s in-store experience, retailers must raise their game to manage today’s mobile-assisted shoppers. This means empowering their store associates with the knowledge and technology they need to provide customers with a highly personalized shopping experience.
The Mobile-Enabled Shopper
Advancements in mobile technology have exposed consistency gaps between the retailer’s own digital channels and the store. Access to online pricing and information has given customers the ability to comparison shop directly from their phones while in the store, which significantly changes the in-store experience. The wealth of information available on mobile devices has created a knowledge gap between consumers and store employees; shoppers are entering stores armed with an increasing amount of information, while employees’ knowledge levels have largely stayed the same. Many retailers have found that the growth of mobile devices has underscored for consumers the benefits of shopping through digital channels rather than embracing the in-store experience.
As shoppers expect more while they shop, retailers must ask themselves, “How are we enhancing the existing in-store shopping experience?” While answers may vary from one company to another, the consensus is that retail store associates are the key to leveling the playing field. Store employees need better training and improved access to mobile in-store technology to connect digital channels and the store environment.
Enabling the Store Associate
According to an RSR Research study, 76 percent of retailers agreed that trained and loyal in-store employees are key to their long-term strategy. To execute on this strategy, retailers must place their associates front and center and make sure they are trained to effectively assist today’s mobile-enabled customer.
Previously, the sales role was focused only on selling what was in the store. However, today’s store employees are tasked with selling and having knowledge of the entire network, as well as creating a highly personalized and memorable experience for the customer. To make this possible, retailers must provide store associates with access to mobile technology, arming them with information while also allowing them to be active and accessible on the store floor. Modern associates must also have access to customers’ order histories and personal preferences so they can provide professional knowledge and recommendations to meet customer needs.
Utilizing In-Store Technology
Providing employees with the proper technology will enhance the in-store shopping experience for customers. Mobile POS and in-store fulfillment technologies provide associates with a big-picture view of what’s going on across the company’s network and helps them overcome the challenges and complexities of omni-channel customer service. This includes fulfilling orders made online and picked up in the store and giving associates the ability to accept returns, regardless of which channel initiated the order and how the customer chooses to receive credit.
Mobile technologies can also offer associates full access to the company’s entire network of available inventory and provide visibility of what’s available for consumers and what products would best suit to their needs. Providing this type of in-store technology to the modern store employee will help make shopping at brick-and-mortar locations personalized, as it is online, and memorable for consumers.
Retail store associates have a major role to play in the revitalization of brick-and-mortar stores during the digital age. Store employees are responsible for delivering to shoppers a tailored selling and service experience across both digital and physical channels. Additionally, the store workers’ responsibilities have changed as they now have access to and are expected to sell the entire network of available inventory, rather than just what’s in their own store. Improved access to information and inventory visibility allow store associates to provide personalized interactions and help retailers to build customer loyalty.
Store associates are also able to use mobile POS to assist customers anywhere in the store. With mobile technology, employees have the ability to roam the store, making themselves available to customers – no longer are they tethered to a desk or work station. Advanced POS technology equips store associates with access to up-to-the-moment data related to customer preferences and needs, enabling them to deliver a higher quality experience across the board.
There’s no question that mobile and digital channels have upped the ante for brick-and-mortar retailers, but technology exists to help them thrive in the new world of retail.
Today’s retailers are not only asking for more from their associates, but they are also empowering them to be better.