Empowering sales associates in an information-enabled world
The way people shop has completely changed over the past five years. A large part of this change in behavior has been driven by online access to information. Shoppers now have easy access to more product information than ever before. Yet as the modern buying experience has changed dramatically, the in-store experience at most retailers has remained frozen in time. In particular, most sales associates do not have tools at their disposal that might allow them to keep up with the information-empowered shoppers they now serve.
The result is shoppers are increasingly frustrated that sales associates don’t have access to the information needed to serve them while associates are left wondering why they can’t get at any more information than they could a decade ago. Technology is finally making it possible to enable sales associates to deliver the type of breakthrough customer service that shoppers expect.
Some retailers have already deployed mobile devices to their sales associates and many others are contemplating a similar move. Doing so helps sales associates take care of customers more effectively. In our experience in working with retailers, we find the greatest return comes from focusing on projects and capabilities that give associates access to deep information that can help them answer questions more effectively, make better product recommendations, and transact sales quickly and easily. In our work with retailers we have seen a 20% to 50% uplift in sales when shoppers are assisted by an associate with a tablet and access to product information alone.
For retailers looking to leverage the power of mobile technology to enhance customer service, there are four main areas where our experience with clients suggest retailers have the greatest opportunity. They include:
- Access to deep product information — Associates need to be able to answer detailed questions about products. Providing ways to make accessing product information as easy as scanning a bar code is a critical first step in giving them the ability to answer customer questions. Imagine if your sales associates, armed with a tablet, could share detailed product specifications and measurements, product reviews, price comparisons, assembly instructions, videos and press coverage with a shopper while they are considering a purchase. This information is available today but it is locked away in back-office systems and paper documents or spread across multiple sites online where it is useless to associates trying to help customers in the store. Unlocking the value of this information and making it easily and quickly available to your front line sales people is a good first step for a retailer that wants to quickly demonstrate the ROI of empowering associates.
- Access to customer profile information — Many customers have interacted with a retailer’s website before coming into the store yet associates rarely have access to customer profile information that would help them deliver better service to shoppers. Associates with access to past purchase details, wish lists or registries could help them make more informed recommendations for products that work with or match previous purchases, or items that shoppers have already indicated an interest in. That same customer profile information should be readily available should a customer want to have an item shipped to their home address to avoid having to re-capture a customer’s address information.
- The ability to sell items that aren’t physically in the store — Associates should be able to sell any item and have it shipped to a customer’s home even if that item isn’t immediately available in the store. Associates can offer an “endless aisle” of products and options to choose from and help shoppers get exactly the item they need quickly and easily.
- A way to communicate with each other — Equipping store associates with a mobile device can not only enable better interactions between associates and shoppers, it can also facilitate communication between associates. Group chat and forums can help associates share tips and tricks, get questions quickly answered and learn from each other.
While online access to product information has changed the way that customers buy, mobile technology is finally giving retailers a way to take the information assets they have access to and use them to transform their in-store experience for customers. Sales associates represent an untapped sales asset for most retailers that technology can transform into a source of customer delight.
April Dunford is COO of Tulip Retail (http://tulip.io), a provider of store associate tablet solutions designed to give retailers’ store associates a customer service advantage.