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Defining the omnichannel associate

Empowering retail innovation through customer experience

The essence of traditional roles within retail settings is transforming in response to digital retail experiences. 

One prominent example of this shift is the rise of the “omnichannel associate.” No longer confined to the aisles, these adaptable, digitally savvy team members are the linchpin that binds online and offline retail experiences, catering to the changing needs and behaviors of modern consumers.

So, let’s dive into what an omnichannel associate is, why they’re essential to the retail sector, and how retailers can reimagine their employee roles to meet the demands of today’s omnichannel world.

What is an omnichannel associate?

An omnichannel associate, at its core, is a retail professional equipped to deliver a consistent customer experience across all available sales channels. 

Whether a customer is shopping in the physical store, online via a website or mobile app, through social media, or even a marketplace platform, the omnichannel associate orchestrates a consistent and satisfying journey for the shopper.

The omnichannel associate is not merely an extension of customer service though. They are the embodiment of the retailer’s omnichannel strategy. They understand the customer’s holistic journey, the synergies between different channels, and how to leverage these channels to enhance the overall shopping experience.

An omnichannel associate is able to send 1-on-1 messages to customers with tailored recommendations, place and fulfill online orders on the store floor, and understand how their customers shop, even outside the four walls of the store. 

Why are omnichannel associates important to retail?

The role of the omnichannel associate is pivotal in meeting the high expectations of consumers who demand a shopping experience without boundaries. 90% of customers expect to interact with the brand on their terms, platform-agnostic, at any time, and still receive the same quality of service and personalized experience.

Retailers that staff omnichannel associates in their brick-and-mortar stores can provide services like “BOPIS” (buy online, pick up in-store) and “BORIS” (buy online, return in-store), curbside pickup, and ship-from-store which blends the convenience of online shopping with the instant gratification of in-person. Additionally, these fulfillment options give customers the flexibility to shop how they want while still receiving the same amazing service from associates.

For online shoppers, omnichannel associates become the human touchpoint in what might otherwise be a sterile digital transaction. They can provide real-time assistance through live video chat or SMS messages, personalized recommendations based on a customer’s unique preferences, and, in some cases, expedited delivery options.

How do you transform store associates into omnichannel associates?

The transformation of traditional store associates into omnichannel associates is a multifaceted process that marries technology with training.

First, retailers must ensure that their associates have access to real-time information across all channels. This means having systems in place that allow associates to view inventory levels, understand customer engagement across platforms, and track cross-channel customer activities such as wishlists and past purchases.

Secondly, omnichannel associates must be equipped with the tools to facilitate omnichannel initiatives within the store. This could involve setting up “ship from store” capabilities or enabling in-store purchase of online-exclusive items with POS systems that enable omnichannel ordering. Omnichannel associates should be able to place online orders for delivery to the customer’s home or for collection at another store location.

Lastly, training is vital. Associates need to be adept at using various digital tools and platforms, which is why choosing intuitive systems is critical, so that adoption is fast and easy. Intuitive systems also make training that includes softer skills easier like refining their product knowledge with digital inventory systems, honing their ability to understand and fulfill digital customer needs based on their unique preferences, and mastering the art of personalized service in a digital context such as purchase follow-ups or birthday messages.

Bringing it all together

The emergence of the omnichannel associate is a reflection of the retail landscape’s continual evolution in the face of digital transformation. For retailers to thrive in this environment, adapting to the omnichannel approach is not merely a question of technology but also of people. 

Retailers who invest in transforming their store associates into omnichannel experts will not only meet the expectations of modern consumers but will also pioneer the next phase of customer experience in the digital age.

As technology continues to shape the way we shop, and retail models evolve, the role of the omnichannel associate will only grow in importance. Its implementation represents a forward-thinking strategy for retailers who wish to be at the forefront of their industry’s digital revolution.

By investing in technology, training, and empowering these digital-first associates, retailers can bridge the gap between online and offline shopping, creating a truly integrated customer experience that is efficient, personalized, and impactful. This, in turn, will drive customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, sales.

Learn more

Want to learn more about the technology behind the omnichannel associates at the world’s most iconic retailers like David Yurman, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Mulberry, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ferragamo, COACH, and Michael Kors? 

Contact us today to learn more about Tulip’s best-in-class Clienteling and POS capabilities.

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