The most valuable asset that retailers possess is not the products on their shelves, but the tech-savvy associates on their floors. Competition in the retail space is growing exponentially as each day goes by. Big-box retail locations are searching for answers on how to fight off both opposing storefronts as well as online retailers. Less foot traffic into retail locations means fewer at-bats to close more business. Sales are down and at their worst for retailers since 2008 causing some to call today a Retail Recession. While “show-rooming” is constantly looming in the back of every retail manager’s mind, the experience itself is the real issue that needs to be addressed. If shoppers are constantly walking into brick and mortar locations to see the products for themselves, the opportunity still presents itself for that shopper to become a buyer today and a loyal customer for years to come.
Unfortunately, this is not the case because most times when shoppers walk into retail locations they are not given the experience that makes them want to buy. Either there are not enough sales associates on the floor to help, or it seems that when one is available they are not able to answer the questions posed to live up to the “expert” title. The truth of the matter is this; technology seems to be on it’s way to a store near you but that alone will not solve the in-store retail dilemma. Retailers need to put this technology in the hands of their most valuable assets, it’s employees. To stay competitive and rise above the rest, the true differentiator that no online avenue can ever replicate is the expertise that store associates can offer. This is the reason that Apple’s brick and motor template has empowered them to open over 300 stores in the past 5 years nationally and that figure is growing. The experts, or specialists as Apple calls their associates, are the “keystones of the Apple retail model because Apple hires devoted fans who know that delivering the right advice is far more valuable than selling product.” The right advice takes time, so Apple has invested in having more employees on the floor than they know what to do with. Using their in-store analytics, each store schedules at least 1 employee to every 5 customers they believe will walk into their location. There is never a wait for help.
Employees at retail locations want to succeed and do well in their jobs, just like anybody else. It’s hard to be on a sales floor and notice that there are more customers than you can handle while still focusing on the customer right in front of you. While retail is evolving and changing, invest more in the asset that will always be the front line and ultimately decide the fate of your business, the employee. Service, at it truest state, is what the employee brings to the table. At the end of the day, success of the evolving retail experience hinges the shoulders of the people that run the sales floor who can effectively utilize these new technologies.