They are the messengers who carry the essence of your brand. They make or break shoppers’ perceptions and, by extension, your desired brand image. For a customer, they are the most visible people who keep your stores buzzing and handle the interactions that are important to them.

They are the Retail Store Associates: the staff on the frontline of customer interaction and service, day in and day out.

Many a wow shopping moment has been the direct outcome of the spark between the store associate and the customer – that spark which transforms a wary customer into a strong brand advocate and keeps them coming back to your store.

RETAILERS, HERE’S WHAT YOUR SAs NEED FROM YOU

In this digital age, the responsibilities of in-store associates, as the critical human element in phygital retail, are only going to increase.

More often than not, smartphones seem smarter than SAs with the wealth of information that they provide shoppers in a flash. This means that stores need to arm their SAs with tools that make them as informed and knowledgeable as the buyer visiting the retail location, if not more-the tools that help them sell at the right time, for the right reason and in the right tone.

Here’s how you can empower your SAs with key information points to bridge the gap between digital and physical and bolster your frontline strategy:

STORE ASSOCIATE:  THE ULTIMATE PRODUCT EXPERTS

According to a research by Experticity, 73% shoppers say product knowledge is what they need most from a sales associate.

Enabling store associates to be the product experts that customers expect them to be, is the critical first step towards empowering them to answer customer queries. This not only increases the credibility of the suggestions that the SA makes, but also positively predisposes the customer towards those suggestions.

Associates must be able to answer detailed questions beyond what shoppers on their smartphones can already learn on their own. Sales associates, armed with a tablet, can have access to product reviews, price comparisons, availability data, press coverage and videos at their fingertips. Chances are this information is already available but dispersed across several sites, back-office systems and paper documents- inaccessible to your associates.

Mobile technology offers tremendous opportunity to make this data available at the frontline and enables SAs to more effectively guide the purchase decision of shoppers in store.

STORE ASSOCIATE: THE BRIDGE TO PERSONALIZED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES

Mobile solutions enable associates to access customer profile information such as browsing & purchase histories, wish lists, dwell times in key areas around the store etc. Data related to a shopper’s online and in-store behavior can be integrated into one system and made available to associates for a deep understanding of the customers themselves in order to provide one-on-one connect with customers and drive cross-sell  and upsell.

Picture a loyal customer walking into a store looking for a party dress. As soon as she walks in, she automatically gets connected to the guest wifi at the store. The brand thus comes to know about the latest browse history of the customer, and notifies the closest SA about the dresses the customer was looking at the stores’ online portal. The SA immediately swings into action and recommends various looks that would go well with the dress she was interested in. In the process, the SA not only becomes the trusted adviser of the customer, but also increases the cart size by adding a range of cosmetics and accessories.

Interactions like these not only make customers feel welcome and valued, but also add a lot to the bottom line of the brand. 

STORE ASSOCIATE: THE GATEWAY TO AN ENDLESS AISLE 

A customer steps into your store only to be greeted by your SA with the grim news that the great style item which she had discovered online is an “online-only” product.  It not only means a lost sale but can also spell potential disaster for the customer-retailer relationship.

It makes sense to complement the relationship between the shopper and SA with virtual endless aisle capabilities, to help buyers get exactly the item that they need even if it isn’t physically available, by placing an order through the SA online from the store and then by extending fulfillment through e-commerce. Not only does it drive high customer engagement but also has a remarkable impact on conversions and transaction size.

Clothing and accessories retailer Gap successfully uses this model to fill a considerable percentage of its orders.

STORE ASSOCIATE: PUTTING A STOP TO THE “SHOWROOMING” THREAT 

Mobile-equipped store associates can be alerted via a notification when a customer who has logged into the store’s public wifi exhibits “showrooming” tendencies –  either when he is browsing products on other retailer’s sites or spending an exceptionally high amount of dwell time in a particular aisle. Empowered Store Associates can catch such behavior and offer personalized offers against the exact product the customer is seeking in real time.

STORE ASSOCIATE: TURNING CUSTOMERS INTO BRAND ADVOCATES

According to BIA/Kesley, a repeat customer spends 67% more than a new one.

An empowered SA can ensure that a loyal customer gets the deserved VIP treatment. When a customer logs into the retailer’s mobile app, the SA can receive a notification about the purchase history and associated Customer lifetime value. Based on this information, he can offer customized coupons and loyalty discounts to increase basket size.

Market basket analysis on old carts may also reveal purchase frequency of various products, and the SA can offer special discounts for adding those goods to the cart.

Stores can also send out special invitations and exclusive offers to a loyal customer on a special date such as a birthday or an anniversary. Such memories and shopping experiences help create outspoken brand advocates out of your repeat customers.

Only when the role of Store Associates evolves to that of Customer Experience Managers in the omni-channel world, will they be able to generate overall positive outcomes that linger well beyond the shopping experience. Brands should re-envision the role of SAs and leave no stone unturned to bolster the inherent human element of retail with the help of right technologies.

Connect with our retail and mobility experts to empower your store associates with omni-channel technology solutions.

Watch our webcast : Phygital Retail – Merging Online & In-store Customer Experience

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Krittika Banerjee

Krittika Banerjee

Research Analyst at Aspire Systems
Fond of exploring contemporary technical and digital innovations, Krittika is always updated with what is new on this front. She writes about innovation and latest technology trends in various sectors.
Krittika Banerjee

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