The Retail Transformation Blog

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With ‘digital’ taking centre stage, are ‘people’ still important in retail?

A retailer’s in-store colleagues are often the only touch point a retailer has to engage face to face with a customer, and the only opportunity to create a truly emotional connection between retailer and customer.

Increasingly, a customer journey that involves the store is about a need rather than a want, and is likely to be something a digital channel struggles to offer. It might be to try, touch, see, compare, hear, taste, sample or interact with a product, or it might be to service a digital order via collection, return or exchange. The interaction between customers and colleagues is still vitally important in a digital world, and offers an opportunity to really delight a customer.

A retailer needs to ensure its staff have all the right tools and training to deliver an exceptional in-store experience that a customer embraces and wishes to repeat frequently. These include:

Strong organisational structure

It is important to create an environment in which colleagues have a support network around them. A leadership team that embodies a retailer’s desired customer experience and recognises those who excel in its delivery, is the foundation. Supporting colleagues with dedicated resource, systems, and processes to simplify the day to day roles will build a balanced team with complementary skills and experience, which will succeed in surpassing customer expectations.

Customer-centric direction and engagement

A retailer needs to be obsessive about the customer’s wants and needs, and these should be translated into meaningful actions that store teams can carry out every day, for every customer. Using key store staff to help communicate the vision and actions to their colleagues is vital, as is highlighting what ‘good’ looks like for all to see.

Training and development

The way a retailer ‘speaks’ to its customers via marketing is constantly developing and changing, and store colleagues need to reflect this ‘voice’ in store in the way they interact with customers. Training and development can no longer be considered a one-time activity, it needs to be an ongoing process.

Labour costs and scheduling

An expectation in retail is that a high standard of service is easy to deliver, it is just very expensive; but this view is too simplistic. Optimising labour hours, process execution, and delivery schedules can free up significant cost that can be re-invested in customer service (putting more colleagues on the shop floor) or be returned straight to the bottom line. Having a variety of different working hours is often a win/win for both a retailer and a colleague, allowing a retailer to attract good talent, who may be unable to work full-time hours. Scheduling key store processes such as deliveries and shelf fill to ensure minimal stock touch points, and thinking about optimal schedules, as a warehouse team might, could be the key to unlocking value and savings.

As technology advances the digital age ever more quickly, retailers must not de-prioritise the development of their people in stores – the ones who meet, serve and interact with customers every day. Retailers need to give their staff all the the tools and training they need in order to offer customers an exceptional experience in store, every time they visit. 

To read the full report DOWNLOAD White Paper: Digital store operations – optimising store performance for digital retail.