How many retail associates does it take to close a sale? What’s the key function of an associate? What kind of data do retailers use to make determinations about how to most effectively use associates in sales scenarios? Retail associates are often times the lifeblood of the brand and the key touch point at the POS for your customers in terms of what they say, what they do, how they act, and what capabilities they have to directly determine the level of engagement and positivity of experience of customers both loyal and new.
Here are 5 ways you can be certain the investment you put into your staff is resulting in the best possible outcome for you and the faithful that shop in your stores and on your e-platforms.
#1. Give retail associates a leg up with advanced POS options.
There are traditional POS systems that are far more limited than modern versions used by some of the world’s leading brands. In the past associates could only offer “fries with that” or “super-size it”. Associates who are able to utilize modern POS systems can make far more advanced on the spot determinations about the best way to serve the customer and create better sales. In addition, associates also become a key resource in completing information about individual clients contributing to both micro-level clienteling and big picture customer insights and analytics revolving around in-store footfall and online traffic.
How to leverage POS systems for associates: Carefully tailor your POS system in terms of offer and price to the needs and preferences of customer segments that frequent your store. If necessary, allow for associates to take the POS directly to the customer (sometimes more than one at a time) to decrease queue times. Three-quarters of consumers say they will be less likely to re-enter a store after experiencing a long line in that establishment. By offering them speedy reliable service you mitigate losses and open yourself up to tremendous gains. Use POS systems for their most potent advantage as well: cross-selling, up-selling, bundling and offering loyalty rewards and points in exchange for customer data and larger shopping cart totals.
#2. Implement omni-channel philosophy into retail associates’ processes.
It’s no secret that social media has become a key form of consumer interaction. Over 12 million Australians use Facebook monthly while there are over 2 million Aussies tweeting monthly. The same can be said of mobile interaction on smart phones and tablets. As for Australians, over 65% of adults are smart phone users while 40% utilize tablets to on a daily basis. Feature phones still remain prevalent in Australia, with over 56% of the population still using these devices. The implications of this research for associates are that customers in store may very well be shopping online or interacting with the brand on social media presenting a blending of once separate channels.
How to leverage the associate processes: Assist associates in understanding the world of modern retail. Also adjust their processes to account for the customer-centric omni-channel approach. Foster communication between sales and marketing inside of your company and brand divisions. If you are a small business, develop a strong fingertip feel for your customers and gather insight along the way. A good addition to your general retail sales and the associate suite that will help manage this may be a social CRM. Social CRMs enhance interactions with customers, improve their experience and heavily contribute to gathering complete data on shoppers.
#3. Adjust online messaging to support retail associates so they are in a position to succeed.
The sale is not 100% on the shoulders of your associates. While a good associate can positively contribute to both the customer experience and the likelihood of closing a sale or enhancing profits, plenty of other factors play into whether or not customers decide to purchase your product. One is the product itself; another is the information online about your company, your product and your perception among your customers. 91% of female shoppers research products online before making a purchase and approximately the same amount will pay more if they are under the impression that previous consumers of the product are willing to give it a glowing review. The digital arena is a huge part of making the sale and in the digital arena word of mouth is the most important factor when determining customer behavior.
How to leverage the abilities of associates in conjunction with the online environment: This is another place where social CRMs come in handy. Determining a brand’s sentiment in the minds of customers by tracking social media will give retail associates a leg up in-store. This also helps the decision makers in the company by assisting them in forecasting sales in correlation with online attitudes and level of activity. Running strong marketing campaigns based on as many insights as possible will put both the brand and its individual associates in position to drive better ROI en route to better retail success.
#4. Give retail associates the opportunity to more proactively manage inventory.
Customers want instant gratification, especially in-store. Given the real-time nature and convenience of e-commerce shopping stores must be fully aware of consumer need for real-time interaction when shopping for products with live associates. The inability to produce an item with the particular specifications requested by consumers – size, color, model, price point and other traits – may be a lost opportunity the instant it occurs. Associates deserve to be able to keep that customer on-hand as a potential commission, and stores, as an incentive, deserve to be able to make that sale on a spot for increased revenue, cash flow and profit. Lack of access to that data hurts both the brand and the associate.
How to leverage inventory control by associates: Fully train your associates on every aspect of your POS system and the inventory control system of your company. Make sure they are able to use them nimbly, especially in the face of customer situations. Inventory access may also present an opportunity for R&D innovation. Discovering and integrating different forms of technology to manage both this issue and other associate-related issues could greatly benefit the company. For example, mixing and matching items virtually with augmented reality solutions may one day become mainstream in retail environments. In the meantime, do your best to directly connect your associates with your inventory.
#5. Assess and upgrade your loyalty program on a continual basis.
Grooming loyal customers is a function of building goodwill, nurturing the relationship and continually rewarding purchase. The effectiveness of your loyalty program should be a function of the kind of experience you want to create for your customers. Above all else, sentiment is mirrored by level of loyalty; lapsation is a function of mishandling building a loyal relationship. Without rewarding loyalty associates are put at a great disadvantage and brands will miss out on tremendous ROI opportunities.
How to better assess, track and analyze your loyalty program: Segment your customers as well as you can. In the case of smaller customer bases begin gathering information so you can start building insights. Use what data you have, no matter how much, to read into your customers’ preferences and adjust your loyalty program to match those preferences. You may want to implement a tier program for differing levels of loyalty and customer purchase frequencies. You may also want to adjust your mix and match of points and rewards as well as the nature of those rewards. For consumers who are more interested in covering the grocery bill and basic recreation offer discount cards and gift certificates. Luxury customers on the other hand might prefer points towards hotels, vacations and high priced rentals or luxury items.
The good news is loyalty is always something you can revisit. Your associates will thank you for it.
Interested in making retail associates your shopper’s best friend? Find out more about Capillary’s Intelligent Customer Engagement suite.