Retailers are having to work harder to make sure that the positive experience their customers have online can continue in store. Staff are the crux of success, and their ability to represent your brand depends on giving them the right tools. Mike Eaton, Product Strategist at retail business process expert Retail Answers explains.
The growth of customer-centric shopping has challenged the retail industry as a whole, but nowhere has it been more strongly felt than within bricks and mortar stores. Keeping up with the convenience, immediacy and responsive capabilities of ecommerce has increased the need to deliver compelling in-store experiences, and this pressure is being felt from a strategic level through to customer-facing staff.
For omnichannel retailers, driving profit from physical as well as virtual presences relies on bridging the gap between consumers’ online and offline experiences, to unite the benefits of online shopping with the ability to see, touch and try products; the unique hallmark of the store.
Consistency across all consumer touchpoints is key to successful omnichannel retail and, as obvious as it sounds, aligning in-store and ecommerce activities is only possible if you have impeccable internal communications around promotions, product ranges, merchandising and pricing data. Without clarity, transparency and hierarchy of messages, the priorities and timescales for these core activities are set by individual retail outlets, and can easily become disconnected from your overall business objectives.
Connecting staff for practical tasks, such as rolling out price changes and seasonal displays, involves much greater time and co-ordination across store networks compared to online, and historically many retailers have found it difficult to centrally control these projects. Strong communications is the heartbeat of good execution in-store, and this can only be achieved if messaging is consolidated into a single channel. Distilling the plethora of phone calls, emails, faxes and post into an online system ensures that the information all employees require to do their job is contained in one place, and senior management can send streamlined instructions to each location, in line with activities taking place in other channels.
Digitising the communications process saves cost and reduces confusion, but it also empowers customer-facing staff to carry out administrative and logistical jobs more effectively, so their time is focused on sales and consumer experience. For instance, uploading new planograms will enable store managers to execute promotions quicker, and ensure they adhere to a consistent merchandising layout across the store network.
By responding swiftly and efficiently to fast-moving trends, the store maintains pace with online activities, but the crucial challenge for omnichannel retailers is getting consumers to buy once they’re on the shop floor. Here more than anywhere else in the business, connecting and communicating with store managers and their team plays a crucial role, so they know who’s in the store and how to serve them.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few years, you’ll be well aware that technology is changing consumer behaviour within the store. For example, webrooming – looking up products online before purchasing in-store – is on the rise. Despite lucrative opportunities such as this, however, many retailers are not equipping their personnel with the right information and tools they need to interact with increasingly complex and sophisticated consumer purchasing patterns.
No matter how positive a consumer’s interaction with a retailer is online, the number one ‘make or break’ influence when they reach the store is their face-to-face encounter with sales personnel; according to the Institute of Customer Services, 58% of shoppers who experience poor customer service won’t return to the same retailer again.
Manners aside, customer-facing staff can only serve people to the best of their knowledge. This in itself is nothing new, but the growth of webrooming has resulted in shoppers often being incredibly clued-up about products by the time they enter the store, which leads them to ask detailed and complex questions. The development of mobile technologies has revolutionised the way that retailers can transmit and collect data through the store network, empowering their staff to offer greater consumer satisfaction by arming them with more information than the customer.
For instance, a customer enters the store in search of a particular garment, but their size isn’t available on the rack, so they approach a