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Empower Retail Associates to Stay Ahead of the Connected Customer

Reinvesting in store associates is vital to reinventing the customer experience. One cannot evolve without the other.

The retail landscape is quickly changing with the connected consumer. They know what they want, they’ve done their own online research, and anything else they need to know is just a few clicks away. 

Today’s connected customer is revolutionizing the in-store experience with increased expectations of personalization and instant gratification at their fingertips. They want to connect with store associates on their schedule, and they expect a prompt response to their specific inquiries. 

How can retailers then reinvest in store associates to manage the rising expectations of the connected consumer? We look at three ways retailers can empower their associates as they curate and navigate a seamless and highly personalized customer experience.

3 Unique Ways to Empower Store Associates

Consumers are always on and so, to meet their needs, consider how you might allow your retail associates to work outside store hours. With this approach, you’ll need to take time to:

  • Document the process for employees (e.g. how-tos on using the technology)
  • Put in place cybersecurity systems and protocols
  • Train employees and develop guidelines/scripts for online interactions
  • Evolve existing business model and incentive structure to accommodate today’s omnichannel shopping trends 

As shown, there are complexities no matter which solution you choose and equipping associates with technology and training will be at the forefront. However, there are three strategies you can effectively implement to empower retail associates.

1. Set Up Associate Storefronts with Clienteling Technology

You can build storefronts online for your associates to allow them to service the customer after hours. They can provide personalized recommendations to each customer, and they can follow-up on in-store interactions

Using an online storefront helps to formalize the communications from your brand, creates a safe space online for your associates, and it carefully collects all data into one repository. The storefront tracks each customer’s activity, recommendations and communication history with the retail associate. 

If an associate is sick or moves on to another job, you have all the information you need to continue to provide personal service to the customer. The new associate is also empowered with information, so they can do their best work to help their new customer.

2. Outsource to Stylist as a Service Apps

During off-hours, you can use widgets or apps to provide recommendations to customers based on the data collected in your store and technologies like chatbots or artificial intelligence (AI). The app can collect data from the customer online, which will then empower retail associates to make informed recommendations when the customer returns to the store. 

Stylist as a Service apps eliminate the issues around paying associates for their time outside the store, and you no longer need to set up rules and protocols for communicating with customers online. 

3. Motivate Your Retail Associates with Metrics

On top of collecting data to serve your customers better, you’ll also have data on how your sales associates are helping those customers. There’s a fine line to walk between using that information to motivate associates and being seen as “Big Brother,” using it to criticize their performance. 

Instead of delivering performance metrics to your associates from a place of power, consider training your employees on using the software to check in on their own personal metrics. This simple change in perspective flips the script from potentially suffocating standards to taking matters into their own hands to seek professional development.

You may need to build custom dashboards in the software for each associate to monitor their performance quickly and easily. You decide what matters most, and on top of suggesting places for improvement, you can also offer encouragement and kudos for where they are really shining. 

Continue the Conversation on the Future of Retail

Conversations on the evolution of the industry need to continue to keep retailers successful and top-of-mind with the connected customer. Companies need to be consumer-centric, adaptable, and associate-empowered. With technology and training, you can equip your store associates to stay ahead of the customer and enhance the shopping experience. After all, retail associates are the enablers of powerful personal connections between the customer and the brand.

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