Sophisticated Guides for Sophisticated Consumers

The Next-Generation Retail Associate will be the cornerstone of personalized and unique shopping experiences.  They will be the ones wielding the mobile point of sale (POS) and information devices; and will be the face of the brand with the consumer.

“ They will be engaging individuals who are capable of building strong emotional connections with consumers, and they will be supported by technologies that will help them to achieve this.” – Doug Stephens @RetailProphet and author of The Retail Revival

This evolving new breed of associates will barely resemble those we have become used to (put up with) over the last two or three decades.  They will be computer and mobile savvy and have superior interpersonal skills. And the more languages they speak to accommodate the customer, the better.  Let’s take a glimpse into their technology-enabled world in the not-too-distant future …

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1)     Mobile-Device Enabled

The mobile device will be the most important tool for working in this new environment.

“Retailers surveyed for the 2013 RIS News Store Systems Study, released in August 2013, identified ‘mobile for associates’ as their top store system priority, chosen by 61% of respondents.” – Retail Info Systems (RIS)

2)     Access to In-Store Wi-Fi

If mobile devices are the embodiment of this new era of retail, in-store Wi-Fi is the behind-the-scenes magic that will make it possible. It will arm associates with:

  • Source: Operating Seamlessly: Integrating Operations to Deliver the Non-Stop Customer Experience, 2013 via @AccentureRetail
    Source: Operating Seamlessly: Integrating Operations to Deliver the Non-Stop Customer Experience, 2013 via @AccentureRetail

    Store and company-wide inventory

  • In-depth product specifications
  • Product reviews
  • Customer name, demographics, purchase history
  • Customer loyalty program information
  • Employee collaboration and social tools

3)     Workforce Management Solutions

These systems offer many sophisticated tools for managers and associates to plan, record and optimize their tasks, including:

  • Scheduling information
  • Recording time worked
  • Shift bidding (where associates can swap shifts with others according to guidelines)
  • Exchanging information with HR

4)     Superior Customer Service Capability

Armed with easy access to information about the customer standing right in front of them — and what the store can offer to them — the associate will be empowered to deliver excellent and personalized customer service:

  • Greet customer via mobile phone upon entering the store
  • Guide customers on how to leverage loyalty program perks
  • Answer customer in-depth questions about products and selection
  • Offer customers information on useful add-on or additional products
  • Check stock without leaving the customer
  • Order on-line for them and arrange delivery, if not in stock (“endless aisle” concept)
  • Complete transaction via mobile POS so customer doesn’t need to wait in line
Source RIS: Preparing Associates for a New Paradigm in Customer Service
Source RIS: Preparing Associates for a New Paradigm in Customer Service

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The challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers will be to find these people.

perlsThis will require rethinking the value of the associate to the organization. Better compensation and training will be needed to mold these associates into ambassadors for their brand.

“ Retailers seeking to prepare their associates for a new paradigm will need to start thinking of that workforce as skilled users of technology, and train them in managing and meeting customer expectations that continue to climb.” – Retail Information Systems

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Additional Information:

@LinaArseneault Retail Blog Roll:

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