Saleswoman and customer at checkout counter

The Significance of In-Store Associates in the Digital Age: Part I

As retail continues to confront changing technology trends, experts are analyzing the importance of in-store associates and their participation in the omnichannel retail space. We’ve concluded that associates play a vital role in reviving the brick-and-mortar. Associates are brand ambassadors, who can single-handedly elevate a brand’s reputation and a customer’s experience. Through presentation and knowledge regarding merchandise and inventory, an associate has the ability to create a personal and memorable in-store experience that will gain customer trust and ultimately, their loyalty.

Today, associates are not only responsible for delivering a tailored selling and service experience in the physical store, but also through digital channels. An associate’s role has expanded to include selling the store’s entire inventory, not just what’s in their own individual store.

While some retailers thought the digital world of sophisticated data systems and robots would lessen the need for these employees or even replace them, we believe that this technology should merely enhance the retail experience. We believe associates should be given access to technology to further personalize a customer’s in-store experience such as order histories and personal preferences. This will allow employees to provide intelligent and thoughtful recommendations to earn trust and loyalty. While technology can capture and retain this data, only well-trained store associates have the ability to create this interpersonal human connection.

To achieve this connection, associates must be trained accordingly. Well-trained employees are far more likely to become the power-sellers contributing to company profits. Some retail giants effectively train their employees by empowering them to think on their feet, using their best judgment during a sale or customer service issue, according to Forbes contributor Micah Solomon.

This is in stark contrast to archaic employee training involving memorizing scripts and handbook regulations, or relying on managerial assistance for anything beyond the employee’s scope of responsibility. Instead of strict adherence to the rulebook, these retailers emphasize a high level of autonomy while following a general standard, which in turn cultivates confident, knowledgeable employees and a distinguishable trust between them and their customers.

Check back later this month to read on our next blog on exploring the costs and benefits of staffing retail stores with well-trained employees and why some retailers are reluctant to pay.