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GUEST COMMENT Improving the retail industry doesn’t mean we need to rid of the workforce

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Staff in store are the link between customers and technology
Staff in store are the link between customers and technology
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Even with falling footfall, stores should still be investing in staff as they are going to be what keeps the customers coming

Shopping habits are evolving, but the appetite for shopping in store has remained constant. Despite fears, there is still a clear appetite for physical store shopping, with recent research suggesting that 85% of consumers prefer this method.

 

In reality, the biggest issue is that some more traditional retailers are not adapting at the same rate as newer, smaller players in the market and so are failing to cater for changing consumer habits.

 

This can lead to job losses and reduced footfall. However, in order to improve, retailers must instead focus their attention on developing what they already have at their fingertips, harnessing technology and utilising existing staff in new innovative ways.

  1. Entice customers into your store

There is a need for local governments to invest in shopping centres to regenerate the environment and encourage socialising in the space. However, a crucial way that retailers can act to encourage customers into stores is to increase their dwell time in store by making the overall experience as entertaining and enticing as possible.

 

Take Topshop’s flagship store in Oxford Circus; the addition of a live DJ set, VR-installations, café and hair dressers, combine to create an immersive and unique shopping experience for their 30,000 daily visitors. The House of Vans also adopted a similar tactic, livening up the customer experience by creating a skate park for skaters as young as five to use at their leisure. This immersive experience not only epitomises the Vans brand, but also offers a fun space where customers can not only shop but socialise at the same time.

 

It is also important that your online site and physical store work in harmony. Your website can be used as a tool to drive traffic and sales in-store. One such offering is click-and-collect, which nurtures both online sales and in-store presence. According to research, the UK click-and-collect market is expected to grow to almost £10 billion by the year 2023, showing the enormous appetite from consumers and retailers alike.

 

Roughly 45% of shoppers who enter a shop with the intention of collecting online products, go on to make another purchase once they are in the shop. Implementing successful click-and-collect services, combined with trained and knowledgeable staff, is a sure-fire way to increase footfall, revenue and customer loyalty at the same time.

 

  1. Delivery choices

Almost half of UK shoppers say that they are not prepared to pay for extra delivery charges on top of their pre-existing purchases. Dealing with strategic delivery options can make a huge difference, not only to customer experience, but to revenue as well. There are also various modern technologies and platforms that now allow efficient and speedy shipments from stores to customers, and lower overall costs for retailers.

 

This focus on harnessing tech to improve delivery carries less inventory, and still offers the consumer more choice. Introducing a saver scheme is also a great alternative, reducing the cost per delivery, and it can also ensure customer satisfaction, and loyalty as a result. JD Sports has offered saver schemes for a number of years and is undoubtedly a contributing factor in their recent 10% increase in sales. Meanwhile, Next offers next-day delivery to homes and stores, meaning consumers are able to receive what they’ve shopped for as and when they want it. By operating a ship from store model for example, retailers can improve the overall profitability of a retail unit if footfall is flat or decreasing.

 

At the same time, this boosts efficiency and utilises store staff. The pay-off of adopting a multi-channel offering and digital technologies is clear: enhanced delivery channels, satisfied customers and increased footfall.

 

  1. Train up your current workforce

Retail assistants and employees on the shop floor are there in order to ensure the best customer experience possible, increasing loyalty, and spending as a result. As such, they are an essential component to the overall success of your business and should not be overlooked.

 

Training up your current workforce and recruiting those with excellent communication skills, specific product knowledge and key industry insight will create a shopping experience where the consumer is immediately engaged and transitions into a purchaser, not a browser. With engaged and loyal staff, you create brand ambassadors and people willing to go the extra mile for your business.

  1. Reduce the queues

Instead of trying to cut costs, look at how your staff can be best utilised in order to create greater value through training. According to statistics, retailers lose up to 10% of footfall as a result of large queues in store. Keeping hold of staff, especially during busy periods such as Christmas, will make a huge difference when it comes to reducing queues and limiting these easily avoidable customer pain points. Using technology to keep track of your store data and determine customer habits during peak times can further tackle the issue of long wait times.

 

This will allow you to plan ahead and arrange appropriate staff numbers accordingly. Wireless point-of-sale terminals and intelligent cash drawer tracks are other effective tools that speed up the checkout process, allowing you to make sales anywhere in the store, perfect for those particularly busy times. These tech additions will improve the overall experience for customers and increase the likelihood of future visits.

 

Retailers in the UK now have the ability to entice more customers into stores, by offering consumers a new unparalleled shopping experience, and taking full advantage of technological advancements. Loyal and well-trained employees, combined with cutting-edge technology, are some of a retailer’s most valuable assets, and when adopting these retail practises with a watertight strategy and unified approach, the results will speak for themselves.

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