This is the latest installment in FN’s series “Tech Tuesdays.” Each week, FN will take a closer look at an area of digital innovation and explore how these technologies are impacting the way footwear operates. The shoe industry is known for combining heritage craftsmanship with the latest advances: This column will examine that intersection.
When stores closed last year to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, sales associates found themselves in a new retail landscape. Unable to serve customers in-store, associates had to search for alternatives – and increasingly that meant engaging with shoppers through digital communications. Now, as stores re-open, retailers are discovering the value of handheld mobile devices for their brick-and-mortar staff.
“Without exception, the biggest gap in technology for retail sales associates is in how they receive communications at work, and collaborate with their peers to deliver an exceptional customer experience,” said Jordan Ekers, chief operating officer at digital communications platform Nudge.
Increasingly, this means supporting associates with a mobile device that is equipped with the right software to close the information and communication gap. With traditional desktop computing, sales associates would be forced to leave their customer in order to look up critical information. As a result, the shopping experience would become fragmented and customers would be more likely to abandon their purchase.
With a mobile device, store staff can gain access to important information on the go, allowing them to serve customers at any location within the shop. Particularly as consumers themselves opt to use mobile for e-commerce purposes, it is critical that employees be able to keep up with this technology and meet consumer needs.
“We need to empower associates with product information, images, inventory and methods of communication to ensure they are able to support the customer and provide an exceptional service,” said Saira Zia, VP of retail excellence and client success at clienteling platform Tulip. “Having one omnichannel view of their customer allows associates to provide customers with a high level of service in a timely and relevant manner.”
The right technology must combine key store data points, such as available inventory, with added functionality so that associates can complete the customer journey within one application. The ability to process various shipping options and checkout the customer are expected features; added capabilities to understand previous shopper behavior and purchases can help elevate service.
Whichever software program is used, brands should be looking for tools that can integrate across their omnichannel services and incorporate data from across the retail ecosystem. Not only can this improve the quality of customer service, by allowing for greater personalization, but it can improve the employee’s experience and therefore increase loyalty.
“Improving the customer experience relies on employees having the ability to do three things: access relevant information, share timely feedback and receive reinforcement for making a positive impact,” said Ekers. “It doesn’t matter whether you provide recognition, rewards, or use gamification and points – the important thing is that you find the right way to consistently acknowledge and bolster the people behind your brand.”
With a platform like Nudge, retailers can incentivize their staff through challenges and rewards-based activities, while also inviting them to share feedback on a regular basis. This can create a sense of commitment and engagement with the brand, boosting their attitude towards their work. This is even true for customer-focused mobile tools, such as clienteling service Tulip .
“It improves associate morale and lowered churn,” said Zia. “We hear from our Tulip clients that in-store associates feel empowered and supported to do their job when they are given tools designed for them like clienteling. They feel that the brand is investing in them and their success.”
Critically, the right mobile application provides an added support layer for the sales associate wherever they are in the store. Armed with information and on-the-go support, staff can approach their jobs with higher confidence and greater company buy-in. And as unofficial ambassadors for their brand, encourages sales associates are likely to perform better and bring in more revenue.