Retail’s Most Powerful Weapon
Shoppers have more power than ever. They’re highly informed, do their research, are less loyal to brands and are more value conscious.
In years past, retailers saw them as hunters, for bargains, discounts and steals. Today, our multi-screen world and the economic downturn of ’08, they’re behaving more like gatherers than hunters.
For the gathering shopper there is one advantage that brick and mortar retail holds over any current online retailer: the retail sales associate (RSA).
This person at retail who stands between a customer and a purchase decision, is for the most part, unclaimed higher ground in the marketing to sales cycle. Few have recognized the delicate and dynamic importance of winning the heart and mind of this retail professional, but if brick and mortar retail is to thrive, not just survive, they need to understand how to reach, treat and train RSAs.
There are three significant sales associate attributes that will help retailers gain this higher ground and leverage over ecommerce purchase considerations.
1. Train to engage
The role of the RSA has changed from a provider of information to one of a facilitator of an engaged conversation. A well-trained sales associate is taught to inform a relevant purchase decision with a customer. This customer-to-sales associate exchange creates a pivotal engagement that drives purchase decisions.
The most innovative retailers and manufacturers are investing significant resources into creating more human, current and innovative training tools and platforms.
One example is Apple. While every Apple product sold in store can also be purchased online, they spend massive amounts of time and money educating RSAs before they are allowed in front of a customer—and they have the highest dollars per square foot than any other retailer as a result.
Through their robust training program code named “Pathways” they train their sales associates (aka Geniuses) first on human interaction, going so far as to infuse Empathy Techniques into their training. In other words, the human interaction with customers comes first. Sales take a back seat.
2. Connect them digitally
Because a customer is already doing online research, they are more apt to trust a sales associate that is digitally connected on the store floor. A 2014 study by Forrester Research shows that less than a quarter of US adults see the sales associate as the best source of product information.
However, when a sales associate is armed with a connected mobile device they transform into a trusted advisor. The information, either fed through an app or online content, allows an engaging sales associate to make informed product recommendations to customers while in store.
This product recommendation from a trusted sales associate creates an 85% product purchase rate. So, don’t underestimate that power of a recommendation.
3. RSA as researcher
The sales associate is a direct conduit between intelligent information and brands (both retailer and manufacturer).
In addition to creating a more personalized and relevant shopping experience, sales associates gather important customer feedback on products that are new to shelves. Mined properly, this has the potential to fix software bugs, improve product updates or inform new product development.
This critical customer-first facing insight can make the collective retail experience more beneficial to shoppers. By ensuring that sales associates have their proverbial finger on the pulse of customers, retailers and manufacturers can gain significant competitive advantage over ecommerce experiences.
These three significant sales associate attributes will help retailers gain this higher ground by distancing the customer experience from the competitive world of ecommerce.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Winning At Retail series, What is “Omnichannel” Retailing and Why Does it Matter?