Empowering Store Colleagues: The Key To Meeting Rising Consumer Expectations

28 February 2023

TPP Retail Managing Director, James Ussher-Smith, recently delivered an insightful talk at Smart Retail Technology Expo that explored how to meet the growing demands of today’s consumers relies heavily on adopting the right technology to empower store colleagues. Here’s a write-up of the seminar content:

We live in a world where almost everything is available on demand – the latest film or that takeaway we’re craving. With endless amounts of content or physical product readily available at the tips of our fingers, long gone are the days of waiting.

The rise of technology, the internet and eCommerce are ultimately what has set the gold standard that consumers expect today in every part of their lives and their encounters with brands. We are all consumers, and we’re accustomed to the benefit that brilliant technology brings to our daily lives – why wouldn’t we expect the same when it comes to our retail experience?

What Do Consumers Expect?

Today, we live in the “now” economy where consumers expect greater convenience. We want products and services available to us when we want them, exactly where we want them – and delivered to the highest possible level of service too.

We’re faced with overwhelming choices and the buying journey is far from linear. It has been calculated that there are a staggering 3,240 routes to the end consumer, making it even more important to deliver a seamless experience at every touchpoint. Each interaction with a customer is your opportunity to create a perfect and memorable experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been credited for the rise in eCommerce, and yet it simply accelerated what was already in flow. We’re now seeing the balance between in-store and online restored but with one clear message – shoppers want a hybrid model of online and in-store.

The Rising Effect Of Social Commerce

Social media is nothing new, but how we use it continues to evolve. Did you know that social networks are now the second most popular way in which consumers find information about products? This market alone is worth more than $1 trillion and is set to double by 2025.

For those operating a traditional retail model, you might be concerned that the growth of built-in commerce capabilities within social media platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok will lead to a loss of shoppers in your stores. But why can’t these two worlds converge?

The beauty of social media is that it really is there for anyone and everyone to get involved in. Even better, authenticity wins every time over picture-perfect, and too-good-to-be-true. Your store colleagues are ideally positioned to raise your brand profile and take ownership of store-level social media on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Customer Service Is Changing

Every single week, one billion consumers contact brands using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. We expect a response, fast. With so many platforms for retail customer service teams to support, meeting this expectation can be challenging.

But why not empower store colleagues to help? After all, they are closer to the product and closer in proximity to the customer. Think how powerful it would be to ask a question to your local store via WhatsApp, and then book an appointment for an in-person visit with that same colleague to carry on the conversation.

How Does This Translate In Your Stores?

It’s clear that the speed at which customers’ expectations are evolving is outpacing the evolution of retailers’ infrastructure to support them.

How to close this gap can feel overwhelming and it can be difficult to easily translate the shift in consumer behaviour into actionable and impactful changes in your retail stores. Let’s break down a few areas of focus:

Accurate Stock Is Even More Important

If a consumer needs your product now, a visit to the store is still the best way for them to get it and this makes brick-and-mortar stores more relevant now than ever before. If store colleagues don’t have visibility of your stock in real-time, how can they tell customers with confidence that the product is there?

Out-of-stocks motivate nearly half of brand switches and a whopping 46% of consumers will move to a competitor rather than wait. Inventory accuracy within the supply chain is a problem, on average accuracy sits at less than 75% which simply is good enough to support rising consumer expectations.

With stock availability a core reason why shoppers come into the store, it’s imperative to transform your stock management processes to improve both the availability of stock and the accuracy of inventory. This is something we are well versed in, helping numerous retailers take back control with our Stock IQ solution.

The Evolving Role of Store Colleagues

Recognising that the role of store colleagues is evolving, your in-store team is your chance to show off passion, knowledge, and service. They are an in-store USP and play a significant role in creating the experience that consumers crave.

Looking beyond existing operations, consider how your store teams could support customers. With greater insight gleaned from your customer data, your store colleagues could be empowered to provide an enhanced and personalised service. From instantly signing up customers to your loyalty programme to setting up a new subscription to lock in that repeat business, your store staff could even place an online order right then and there for that out-of-stock item to be delivered to the customer’s home, preventing them from leaving disappointed and without a purchase.

Don’t underestimate how valuable the physical and emotional interaction with both your staff and product truly is. Customers will often pay a premium for the experience.

Empowering Your Team With The Right Tech

With the right technology in hand, you will save so much time for your store colleagues. No longer will they spend their shifts fighting a losing battling with old, unfit-for-purpose technology or hidden away using a clunky, immobile PC. Instead, give them one device – or at the very least, one platform – for all their tasks.

Enterprise technology doesn’t have to be ugly either, in fact, today enterprise devices are modern and offer a familiar user experience similar to that of consumer Smartphones. Give everyone a reliable device, with flexible connectivity options and a battery that will last the entire day. With robust device management tools available, you can control, secure and protect your mobile devices with ease.

Make your devices both useful and critical to operations but be imaginative – use your tech to stand out from the crowd.

Integrate Your Online and Offline Shopping Experience

Your customers don’t differentiate between your online and offline brand experience so why do you? Many retail businesses still take a siloed approach, and this is as frustrating for store colleagues as it is confusing for customers, leading to poor perceptions and a poor experience all around:

“I arrived when they said my order would be ready and they had trouble even finding my order in the system. It took 2 employees to figure it out.”

“I had to ask for help as the cashier did not acknowledge me for the first few minutes. She had to ask a manager for help as she was not trained for online orders. I was confused why she couldn’t help me.”

A true omnichannel experience allows customers to seamlessly interact with your brand, products and people across all platforms and to do this, you need to ensure that your internal structure and operations fully embrace omnichannel thinking.

Making Solid Data A Priority

To place insight about your products and customers at the fingertips of your store colleagues, you must get your different systems talking. Find all the data you can about your stores and products, and surface it on the device that is now in the hands of your staff.

Taking this one step further, think about how can you use this technology and the data available in your business to drive the “next best action”? With this insight, your teams are supported to deliver exceptional and personalised service that anticipates a customer’s need before they ask.

Get Your Store Colleagues Connected

Connecting your colleagues with useful tools and technology such as Bluetooth headsets opens so many possibilities. Suddenly, how knowledge can be leveraged is revolutionised. Store colleagues are enabled to better communicate and aid one another, all while still undertaking other tasks in-store.

Letting customers access in-store expertise from the comfort of their homes, link to your stores and empower colleagues to join customers on a Teams call, available to offer valuable advice to support additional sales. And what about the other way around, why not use in-store interactions to drive relevant follow-on engagement after the customer leaves?

We’ve already talked about how store colleagues could be valuable assets when it comes to local social media strategies and supporting customer service, but really, the possibilities are endless. It all starts with prioritising connectivity and harnessing what additional value this enables you to deliver to customers.

How We Can Help Your Retail Business?

The face of retail is changing. There’s a lot that can be done to keep pace and meet the growing expectations of your customers with the support of the right technology. But you don’t need to do it all at once, and retail technology experts like us are here to help.

We’re working with lots of household retail brands to help them innovate their store operations and better serve customers through smart yet simple solutions. To learn more about how we can help transform the way your store colleagues work, get in touch today.

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