Here come the holidays… are your store associates ready to take on a much larger role? As we enter the fall season, retailers seem to have more focus on their e-commerce site and connecting their online store with their physical stores to enable in-store pickup and returns. Ironically, one of the biggest advantages that brick & mortar retailers have over online pure plays is their people and it seems some retailers have forgotten about the potential of store workers to drive sales for them.
We know Retailers have made major investments in new software and technology including new POS, CRM, OMS and e-commerce systems. In some cases, integrations connecting stores with these systems deliver valuable information to the frontlines and enable new types of store applications. We also know that mobile devices have become ubiquitous, are easy to use and that workers love their mobile devices. Two key questions: 1) Are the associates empowered with new mobile apps to take advantage of the retailer’s technology investments? 2) Do associates have the right devices, mobile apps and training to elevate service, drive sales and be more than order takers and shelf stockers?
If you’re a retailer, especially in fashion, luxury, jewelry, and furniture, here are 10 mobile apps you should already have in place or on your roadmap. In some cases, there’s still a chance to implement a few of these before the November and December spikes in store traffic. And even if it’s too late for this fall season, these are definitely solutions to consider for 2019. All of these are ideally delivered via a mobile app on a smart phone or tablet. Here they are in no particular order.
1. Endless Aisle App
This solution enables access to an omnichannel catalog and all of your inventory, online and across stores. It gives store associates the ability to save the sale on out of stock items with an online purchase anywhere in the store. The key is for your associates to be pro-active in identifying and reaching out to customers who may be unable to find something in-store, but willing to place on online order and pay now.
2. Line Busting App
This solution lets you checkout a customer and take payment anywhere in the store. It’s essentially mobile POS. Retailers are using this app to minimize lines at the register – maximizing customer satisfaction and improving store efficiency. All forecasts point to a strong holiday season, so stores will be crowded and long lines will lead to lost sales and frustrated customers. Every associate should have access to a mobile device to check out customers anywhere in the store. It will delight customers and more importantly increase checkout throughput to boost sales.
3. Clienteling App
If you’re serious about building relationships with your customers and elevating service, then Clienteling is a must have. This solution provides store associates with access to customer contact information and communication tools to email and text message customers to proactively reach out to them with recommendations, promotional offers, new looks and store events. If you’re in luxury or fashion, a mobile clienteling app can be a digital black book with automated follow-ups. Associates are now empowered to send personalized communications to build relationships and drive emotional connections with your brand. It will drive traffic to the store and encourage online purchasing. Every customer deserves the VIP treatment.
4. Associate Marketing App
This solution turns your associates into marketeers. Marketing organizations should be collaborating with store managers to execute outreach campaigns using a more personalized approach via emails and text from store associates to customers. Using analytics, marketing teams at HQ are identifying customer personas, segmentation strategies, and local buying trends to enable more targeted product recommendations. These marketing insights need to be shared with store managers. Associates should be given email and text templates for their clienteling tools to use for local campaigns. These personalized campaigns are definitely more effective than mass marketing email blasts from corporate. After all, most people are more likely to click on an email from a real person — someone in their community, someone they know.
5. Onboarding App
This mobile solution enables the rapid training of new store workers with streamlined communications, content distribution to stores and advanced learning tools. With an onslaught of new hire and temp workers coming, fast and effective onboarding will be the key to a successful holiday. You may already have mobile devices deployed to store workers for other solutions, leverage those devices for digitized training including self-paced training modules, tips & tricks and best practices. When there’s down-time, associates can pick up their mobile device and check out the latest training… always be learning.
6. Assisted Selling App
This solution improves shoulder-to-shoulder selling in the store. With mobile device in-hand, empowered associates will sell more if they have access to the entire online catalog with enriched product information and an easy way to present the perfect cross-sells and up-sells. Merchandising has worked hard to come up with new amazing looks and bundles and can share those with store managers and associates who can easily access them via an assisted selling mobile app. Associates will take in-store customer engagement to the next level and really come across as product exports, beacons of knowledge and style guides.
7. Sales Training App
This solution provides associates with all the content and tools they need to do their job well and improve their skills. Not every associate is a natural salesperson or understands the potential they have to drive sales. Simple sales training content can increase their productivity. Provide sales and customer interaction training to improve their customer engagement skills. Provide buyer notes and talk tracks to improve product presentations. Gamify training to encourage participation. Confirm who’s read the content or watched the videos to govern training participation. All this is possible with new sales training apps and mobile is the best way to deliver them.
8. Runner App
This solution enables associates on the sales floor to collaborate with other store workers and runners to retrieve products and deliver a seamless customer experience. An associate engaged with a customer should be able to pull out their mobile phone and access a runner app to broadcast a message to other workers that they need help. With a quick SKU scan, associates request a product from the back room that’s not on the floor. Another associate brings the product out while the customer stays engaged. This small change in store processes improves the store experience dramatically. We’ve seen these in-store communication solutions with walkie-talkies and special ear pieces and devices. These solutions are moving to mobile apps that work on phones and watches.
9. Online Fulfillment App
This solution is a key part of “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) services and empowers associates to pick and pack orders and manage the fulfillment of online orders in stores. If you’ve enabled buy online and pick up instore capabilities, you need to also prepare the store workers to execute the strategy efficiently and effectively. Fulfillment mobile apps for associates enable them to look up online orders and optimize how they pick and pack those orders. These solutions require integrations with a back-end OMS system but are not that difficult or expensive to implement with the more modern OMS systems
10. Task Management App
This solution enables an associate and manager to create and manage tasks including follow-ups with customers. By automating associate tasks and follow-ups, you can be more sure associates are reaching out to customers at the right time – to follow-up on an order or to reach out to them on a birthday or anniversary. If you manage your follow-ups like clockwork and create follow-up campaigns to communicate with customers regularly via SMS and email, you’re more likely to make lasting impressions with customers and drive brand loyalty.
Bottom line, retailers like Apple, Coach, Saks Fifth Ave, Chanel, Nike, Nordstrom’s, and Home Depot have all shown that empowering their store workers with mobile devices and mobile apps can elevate service, drive sales and improve productivity. Of course, you’ll need the right mobile apps and mobile platform to integrate to back-end systems. The good news is that these solutions are generally available, so the time to act is now.