Despite the increasingly digital landscape of the retail industry, brick-and-mortar stores continue to play a crucial role in a customer’s shopping journey. Customers often discover products online, then proceed to buy them in-store. Conversely, some discover products in-store and then buy online. Either way, these establishments and the team members who staff them are the keys to a successful retail experience.
In the traditional retail setting, store associates can see their own brand’s online website as a threat. Think, for example, of a customer stopping by a store to purchase a product, only to find it is out of stock. In an old-fashioned retail environment, store associates won’t direct customers to buy the product online; instead, they’ll suggest that customers revisit the store when the item is restocked. This is because, if this customer never comes back, and instead purchases the product online, the store associate wouldn’t receive credit and commission for the purchase. An omnichannel retail solution solves this problem.
Omnichannel retailing success is based on the idea that customer demand from any channel can be fulfilled using unsold inventory, regardless of its location. Retail store associates are on the front lines of customer interactions, so they are the key to advancing this strategy. If they are not promoting an omnichannel approach in their conversations with customers, your initiative is doomed.
In this blog, we will discuss the steps you can take to prepare your retail store associates, the front-line brand ambassadors to make your omnichannel initiative successful.
Step 1: Empower Associates With Technology
The primary function of store associates is to assist customers in their shopping experience, no matter what stage of the buying journey they are at. Store associates should be equipped with mobile tools and techniques, like clienteling, so they can use a customer’s history and preferences to create an intimate, tailored customer experience. Clienteling drives sales and fosters connections with your customers that may turn into long-term relationships.
Empower your in-store team with real-time data: product information, pricing, promotions, and inventory across the supply chain. This enables your store associates to assist shoppers effectively, and drive a successful omnichannel strategy.
Nobody likes standing in line. A long check-out line can turn a smooth shopping experience into a long, frustrating ordeal. Mobile checkout is one of the fastest-growing trends among eCommerce retailers today, particularly during the ongoing pandemic, because it prevents this all-too-common problem. When a customer is ready to buy, the associate can check them out on the spot on mobile POS (Point of Sale), instead of making them stand on a long line.
When fulfilling online orders from stores, empower your associates with store fulfillment mobile tools to pick, pack, and ship items accurately and efficiently. Without these in-store fulfillment software tools, tracking inventory can be a time-consuming operation with a lot of room for error. These solutions will optimize the process from start to finish and improve the overall customer experience.
Step 2: Continuous Investment in Training
Technology is constantly revolutionizing every step of the shopping journey. But technology alone can’t do much for your business without a well-trained staff. As you equip your store associates with new technology, it’s crucial that you provide adequate instruction on how to use these modern tools effectively.
Explain to every member of your team how the retail landscape is changing. An in-store staff full of technology-driven associates is critical to taking success to the next level.
Changing the Mindset
An important goal of your training program should be to change the mindset of store associates. A shopper’s journey looks completely different today than it did ten years ago, and your staff needs to be informed of this shift in the narrative.
A customer’s visit to a store is often just a small part of their buying journey. They might already be well informed about a product through online research. Perhaps their visit is just the start of their search. Or maybe they’ve come in because they, like many others, are seeking personal interaction with an employee.
Too often, associates lose interest in an interaction once they discover that a customer is in-store to browse, rather than to buy. But it’s incredibly important that store associates’ goal is to assist customers in their buying journey, instead of pushing sales on the spot.
Incorporating New Platforms
Today, we see shoppers walking into stores and pulling up photos on Instagram of a model wearing the product they’re looking for. If store associates are not trained with Instagram or other social media platforms, that can obstruct a smooth shopping experience.
Identify the platforms where your brand and customer are (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, WeChat, etc.) and train your associates appropriately. This enables your team to confidently interact with these systems and the shoppers who use them.
Step 3: Reward Associates for Omnichannel Sales
Incentivizing Store Associates
There’s no question that the role of associates has evolved. Historically, they were behind cash registers, restocking shelves, and answering basic questions. It made sense for these employees to be paid an hourly wage and a commission for pushing sales.
Today, with changes in shopping behaviors, customers are not always buying in stores. However, stores and store associates still play an important role in customer engagement, which frequently turns shoppers into buyers. Companies must consider this and find a way to incentivize associates to drive omnichannel sales
One incentivization strategy is to credit stores for all sales that occur online within a certain radius of their location. By allocating the ZIP code of the delivery address to the nearest local store, retailers can attribute online sales revenue to the appropriate store. This is a great way to motivate your in-store staff: if your associates are not motivated to drive sales across all channels, this can cause serious trouble for your eCommerce strategy.
Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store (BOPIS)
Crediting brick-and-mortar store associates with online sales in their area is just the start. Your in-store teams should also be incentivized to assist Buy Online Pick-Up In-Store (BOPIS) orders and “Saving the Sale” orders, where they take online orders in store for out-of-stock items.
Having incentives and rewards in place for online and BOPIS orders will ensure that store associates advance your omnichannel retail strategy. Your initiative simply won’t be successful if it's not being promoted by your employees at every step.
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Retail store associates can be a retailer’s most valuable asset or the source of their biggest downfall. Your ideal store employee should be customer-centric, digitally savvy, and someone who can deliver your value proposition. Whether you’re training your existing salesforce or hiring a new associate, use this ideal associate as your guide.
Investing in your team is just as important as investing in technology. Dedicate resources to training your front-line employees, empower them with technology, and incentivize them with rewards: these three steps will work wonders for your business and make your omnichannel retail initiative a success.
Now that you understand the importance of your retail store associates in driving your omnichannel program, request a consultation with the HotWax Commerce team of experts to learn how we can optimize your omnichannel transformation.