How the Role of the Store Associate has Changed

Despite the use of technology in retail, many customers still desire and expect the ability to speak to a well-trained, knowledgeable sales advisor. Consumers now have the ability to connect in real-time to store associates through digital channels such as video chat, WhatsApp, SMS, or even schedule virtual appointments or browse an entire virtual store. No matter what channel is used, it’s clear that the human interaction between associate and customer is more important than ever. Studies have shown that when a customer interacts with an associate through any channel, transaction values are 30% higher, conversion rates are 80% higher as well as a higher overall customer lifetime value. Store associates need to be equipped with the right tools to engage with customers both online and in-store.

How to Train Your Associates

1. Give them the data they need

Sales data, stock levels, product data, and customer information available in one place is crucial for associates to reach out to the right customers.

2. Motivate your associates

Make associates aware of sales they contributed to both online and in-store. This is a key way to motivate them and change behaviors, rewarding them for the real work they are doing to increase sales.

3. Make it personal

Customers want to have fun when they shop so it’s important for associates to add their own creativity, flair, and empathy into the customer’s journey. This approach ultimately drives stronger business outcomes.

4. Make them available through every channel

This is a trend that is here to stay. Customers want the flexibility of being able to connect with an associate the way they want to, either in-store, through a chatbot while they are shopping online or other digital channels such as live video, SMS, or WhatsApp.

5. Make it easy

Store associates won’t embrace technology unless it’s easy to use, intuitive and mobile-first. They have to be able to use the tool with a minimal amount of training.

 

There is an increased burden on sales associates to learn the technology at point of sale. POS systems now consist of a suite of systems including CRM, inventory management and mobility technologies. They need to be able to use these technologies effectively in order to avoid issues for customers.

There are also new ways of interacting with customers. Car dealerships are now conducting online vehicle walkarounds via video, without having customers physically present. Associates will need to understand how to use this technology.

Associates may also start working from home themselves. This will involve collaborating with customers online using cobrowsing and live chat to suggest products and provide a personalized shopping experience. They will need a deep understanding of the tech and the confidence to use it.

Despite all these technological advancements, people will remain at the very heart of retail. True personalization still requires a human touch, regardless of how effectively AI algorithms can predict our needs and wants. Sales assistants will still have to be there to pick up the slack where machines fail either in person or via video. In the future, sales associates may find themselves teaching customers how to use the technology. This will require skills such as active listening and patience.

In the face of an onslaught of change, success lies in your sales associates’ ability to adapt and be flexible, driven by a desire to learn. Preparing your sales associates for the future of retail could be the difference between your business thriving or falling behind.

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