Store closings and loss of retail jobs continue to make business headlines, and many retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence blame Amazon and the online pure-plays for their struggles.
Their concerns over Amazon’s dominance are legitimate. The convenience, low prices and massive selection that Amazon offers have given them a competitive advantage, but it’s not too late for retailers to turn things around.
New e-commerce solutions are available to close the online gap and provide an online experience like Amazon. More important, retailers with brick-and-mortar stores can offer many things that an online site cannot. The personalized service experience in the store; the ability to touch and feel products; the immediacy of getting the product; and the joy of a great in-store brand experience are all reasons consumers will leave their house and shop in stores. Retailers need to understand there’s a way to beat Amazon … and their stores and sales associates might be the key.
Customers expect online capabilities in the store. They enter with a mobile device in hand and access to the online world. Their expectations for what shopping should be like are high, based on what they’re used to online. Ironically, most front-line workers in stores don’t have mobile devices that they can use to access information and online shopping capabilities. Employers need to close this digital divide. They should empower workers with mobile devices to do their jobs better.
In fact, best-in-class retailers are demonstrating the value of mobile-equipped workers.
Put the right tools and information in the hands of your front-line employees and they will improve their performance. Retailers like Apple, The Home Depot, and Neiman Marcus have proven that providing their store associates with a mobile device and mobile applications for assisted selling, checkout, line busting, clienteling, training and collaboration helps them sell better, sell more and build relationships with their customers.
There is some good news for retailers – in a recent Tulip Retail survey, 79 percent of survey respondents said knowledgeable store associates are important and valued by shoppers, and 72 percent of consumers that dealt with a store associate who uses a mobile device to provide things like product information, credit card checkout, and inventory look-up, said it resulted in a much better shopping experience. Bottom line, investing in store associates needs to be a high priority. With the right tools, associates can become beacons of knowledge, trusted advisors and sales drivers. They can engage customers with confidence, assist them, delight them and have them leave the store satisfied and happier than when they arrived.
This in-store transformation can start with putting the right mobile application platform in place. Software providers like Tulip Retail offer turn-key solutions for assisted selling, endless aisle, mobile checkout, store collaboration and clienteling.
So what does the future look like? In the future, mobile associate apps in the hands of salespeople will be the foundation of the in-store shopping experience. These apps will enable selling to be relationship-centric and automated and more advanced from today’s product-centric or sales-centric approaches.
In the future, all associates will be able to ask their customers questions about needs and wants and capture meticulous notes in their mobile apps to be better serve them. Associates will have access to product catalogs, key product information, inventory, product availability, customer preferences, order history, online browsing behavior, wish lists, and other content to ensure that they proactively present customers with timely offers and accurate information.
Great salespeople will be proactively communicating with customers via phone, text, email and new emerging social apps. They will understand their customers’ wants and needs, and will be well-trained, informed and equipped to personally serve each customer the way they want to be treated. Salespeople will understand the importance of relationships and will be motivated to delight customers, and will also sell and drive new business.
The vast majority of consumers we surveyed believe physical retail locations will be part of the shopping journey in the future. Empowering store associates with the right tools will help ensure that’s the case.
Bill Zujewski is marketing executive VP of Tulip Retail, which enables next-generation retail workers with world-class mobile-first, cloud-first enterprise software.