The store of the future is one that excels at customer experience by making your brand come to life. Customer experience has been hailed as the way to compete against digitally native retailers. Today, in-store human interactions are considered the last defense against the retail apocalypse. While there are many participants in this interaction, the experience centers around the customer and the associate.
Retail Is Still a People Business
Your store associates have the ability to bring your brand to life. The key here is an exceptional customer experience in your brick-and-mortar stores. Focusing on the customer experience and encouraging associates will help your brand survive. It will create better interactions and relationships with your customers.
There is a lot you can do to engage your store associates more. From higher wages and more hours, to better tools and education. This might work but competing on compensation alone isn’t a wise long-term strategy. Instead, you need to find new ways to encourage your associates to buy into your brand. If you are able to get them excited about your brand, then their excitement will cascade to your customers. They will provide them an exceptional experience in your stores.
Engaging Store Associates: The Obstacles
The reality is that most store associates work on a part-time basis. Part-time associates usually have unpredictable hours, resulting in a transient position. They become less engaged and less connected with your brand. Additional realities include:
- Limited Training and Development. The challenges of today’s brick-and-mortar profitability have resulted in reduced on-boarding and training spend.
- Shorter Tenures and Less Product Knowledge. Product Knowledge (PK) is key as a positive influence on the interaction between an associate and a customer. Generally, the higher the PK, the better the interaction. Tenure influences the ability to absorb PK. The longer an associate stays with a retailer, the more PK they absorb. With high staff turnover in retail, maintaining a well-trained team becomes challenging.
- Focusing on Customer Experience. Providing your customers a world-class customer experience is in the hands of your associates. Yet, coaching them to embrace value-added customer interactions is a continuous process.
Strategies for Retailers to Drive Associate Engagement
Spending more time and effort in the hiring process is a good start. Yet, this doesn’t guarantee you a sustainable, positive store environment. Three practical, cost-effective ways to drive store associates’ engagement are:
- Use Pool Labor Requirements. Wherever geographically possible, use pool labor requirements across stores and pop-ups. This will allow your store associates to work at multiple locations, instead of working at only one store. You will increase their weekly hours and increase your odds of retaining tenured, knowledgeable staff.
- Gamify Everything. Communicating with associates on how they or their stores rank in key metrics. Sharing Conversion, Basket, or UPT indicators can create an environment of contagious enthusiasm. Leaderboards, streaks, rankings, and lifetime sales stats all can motivate and engage associates. This happens with automatically reports that are delivered privately to each associate.
- Speak Directly to Your Associates Through a Communication Platform. Provide them with information that is useful and that creates interest and a shared vision. Use these tools to collect feedback from your front line. Allow your store associates to interact with each other to create your brand community.
Engaging store associates is a difficult task that, but failure to engage can harm your customer’s experience. This can happen at your brick-and-mortar stores or even through your online channels. Don’t leave your associates unmotivated on the sales floor and – try to find the right strategy to have them engaged with you and your brand.
Dave Loat is the President and co-founder of StoreForce. Dave has over 25 years of experience working with some of the best-known brands in retail and has incorporated these learnings into the StoreForce solution. He is truly passionate about store operations. Prior to StoreForce, Dave was a founding partner of Karabus Management, which grew to become the second-largest retail-specific consulting firm in the world. While at Karabus, Dave had the experience of working with over 100 retailers.
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