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Why tech must get better at helping retail staff

11th Jul 2018
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As the challenges for high street retailers continue, there’s no doubt that frontline staff could do with some reassurance that there’s a future for them. As I mentioned in a previous post, their place is assured in the physical store because customers will always crave personal, ‘human’ experiences, but the skills required to fulfil sales colleague roles will inevitably be determined by in-store technology and a degree of automation. If these new, tech-enabled ways of working are introduced to the shop floor in the right way, staff should see an improvement in both their status and their ability to provide excellent customer experiences – here’s how to avoid the pitfalls:

Do consult with your frontline staff about the shape of things to come

It’s easy to forget that retail staff are customers too, and will undoubtedly have used technology as part of their own shopping experiences. They will have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and are likely to have strong opinions about which technologies will improve their working life. Red Ant’s OnePoll survey into 1,000 retail staff backs this up - around 75% said employers should do more to provide the tools they need to do their job properly. Significantly, the majority of shop floor staff said technology can improve employee enthusiasm – most said it would have a positive effect on morale and productivity.

Tap into this willingness to adopt tech tools and encourage staff to get involved in implementation, training and continuous improvement to ensure a seamless transition to a digitally-enabled in-store environment with customer experiences that work for sales colleagues and shoppers alike.

Don’t deprive retail staff of the tools they need to do their job

Consulting with staff to make sure they have access to the right kind of technology shows a commitment to providing the right kind of customer experience. The base line for relevant, effective service in-store should be sales colleagues with access to the same level of digital content and technical power as their customers. Deprive them of the devices and data they need to do their job properly and they cannot hope to provide customers with information and advice when, for example, they are asked about the latest online range or marketing campaign.

Do recognise the vital part retail staff play in delivering a personalised experience

It’s just not possible to provide great service – context-specific, personalised customer engagement matched to their individual needs – if there is no consistent way to identify a customer across channels. Forrester reports that around 50% of shoppers will spend more with retailers who have made the effort to engage with them as a single, unified organisation by streamlining customer service and combining customer data and digital tools, which is why 72% of leading retailers have committed to investing in a personalised in-store experience.

Research by data management professionals Segment reinforces the value of personalisation in-store – 40% of shoppers said they had bought something more expensive than they intended because of a personalised recommendation from a retailer, and 44% said they would become a repeat buyer after a personalised experience.

Once the platform is in place to harmonise customer data across all channels, the quality of their experience depends entirely on sales colleagues with the ability to apply both product knowledge and emotional intelligence to their individual circumstances.

The ability to provide a truly personalised, one-to-one experience will reinforce the value to customers and retailers of physical store visits:

  • In-depth customer insight will give a complete picture of activity online and in-store for personalised recommendations and cross-sell opportunities
  • Access to exclusive content and advance ranges will inspire interaction and increase engagement
  • Personalised conversations will deliver a VIP service

High street shopping is in the hands of front-line staff. They need – and deserve - the technology that can transform the industry as a whole and their jobs in particular.

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