03.29.2016 By: Anne-Marie Goulet

How to Connect the Retail Store Associate to the Enterprise and Customer Using iPads

How simple tools can bridge the gap and create consistency between head office, the store associate, and the customer

Shoppers still desire a human interaction when they visit a store and are greatly influenced to purchase if assisted by a store associate. In fact, 92% purchase something if they’ve found their store associate to be “very helpful” and 72% still purchase something even when the store associate is only “somewhat helpful”. The experience a physical store offers also greatly impacts the success of the online store, wherein 55% of online shoppers would prefer to buy from a merchant with a physical store presence over an online-only retailer.

Retailers also agree that at the heart of the in-store experience are people on the selling floor. Howard Schultz once said: “the challenge of the retail business is the human condition.” Over 60% of retailers agree that the role of the store associate is moving from a purely transactional one to one that should now be able to provide recommendations and build long-lasting relationships with customers.

So what does success look like? It means having a fleet of highly trained, knowledgeable, and confident sales experts who can meet the demands of today’s shoppers. It’s about the integration of technology that enables, versus disrupts, existing systems for the sake of innovation.

The challenge? Store associates don’t have the tools to execute this mission. They lack the same real-time access to product information and inventory that their customers have on their phones. They lack insight into shopping histories and preferences. They lack access to head office communications and announcements in a timely matter. They are often bound to fixed POS and back office computer access to information while their customers can access more information anywhere in the store.

It’s time to equip them with a set of very simple tools to help them get started quickly and with minimal training. We’ve put together a common shopping scenario with Alice, a potential customer, that starts online and continues in-store. Outlined below and in this infographic are the various tools to help Angela, a store associate, do all of these tasks in an efficient way, so the environment is right and she can be effective in selling and serving Alice.

Meet Alice and Angela

Making that first connection online

Alice receives an email on her phone for a spring promotion, and decides to browse the site for similar looks, to compare prices, and check availability. She adds, removes, and adds a few other items, then logs in once she’s committed to her shopping bag. Alice completes her order and has the items shipped to her work.

Connecting the customer to the store

Unfortunately, some of the items didn’t fit quite right so Alice decides to go into the store and do either a return or an exchange. Angela, an iPad-enabled store associate, greets Alice and with a phone number or email, is able to pull up Alice’s profile that was created online. With a strong product knowledge base and access to Alice’s entire closet, Angela is able to recommend items that would be better in fit and style, as well as have the opportunity cross-sell complementary pieces like accessories or handbags.

Alice and Angela have a conversation

Angela’s Tool Kit

  • Customer Record: look up customer email, phone number, closet, wishlist, loyalty card, and notes that Alice may have added in the past when she was in the store. Angela can use this to send future recommendations if a new product arrives.
  • Product Knowledge: Angela spends her downtime learning about new products, their details, and which are available online or in-store. She can view videos to see how the article of clothing wears in real life, or check out any media hits to see how popular it is. Since two thirds of in-store shoppers check prices on their phone before making a purchase, it’s important for Angela to be able to do the same when asked by customers or to be able to confirm her customer’s findings.
  • Head Office Announcements: Angela receives regular daily and weekly real-time announcements directly from head office regarding new product releases, promotions, weekly looks, all which helps her stay as up-to-date as her customers are. Angela receives HR or security announcements, as well as new branding and content messaging.
  • Group Chat: whether it’s during peak selling periods or being able to respond to customer queries, store associates like Angela can message their co-workers in real-time via group chat. Since Angela wants to stay as engaged as possible with Alice, she’s able to message either a public or private channel and have items run to her on the selling floor.

Head Office Announcements and Group Chat

Alice decides to exchange the items that didn’t fit with something different, and Angela processes her right there on the spot with the omnichannel cart and mobile point-of-sale (mPOS).

Angela’s Tool Kit

  • Omnichannel Cart: Angela can mix Alice’s order by pulling product from the endless aisle or the physical store, then ship to different locations, like her home or work, or to another retail location.
  • Mobile Point-of-Sale via device peripherals: with hardware attached to Angela’s iPad, she’s able to process Alice right on the spot.

Omnichannel and mPOS

Now that the relationship has been formed, Angela can add reminders to follow up or send promotions to Alice via email or text.

Angela’s Tool Kit

  • Clienteling: Angela is reminded of her clients’ birthdays or special events, and can send custom or templated texts or emails to notify Alice of any upcoming promotions. Like Alice, 73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that personalize shopping experiences.

Connecting the Store Associate to Head Office

Creating the ideal store environment for great customer interactions doesn’t happen by accident: it’s the result of thoughtful planning, consideration, and execution orchestrated across numerous retail functions, including merchandising, pricing, training, store operations, labour planning, marketing, and much more.

Store associates play a crucial role in helping bring all of this together to the selling floor, which requires effective training and communications to help direct their activities and to be effective in their jobs. Tulip creates the mechanism to help Angela do all of these tasks in an efficient way, as well as building a retail environment where customers will not only purchase, but return out of loyalty and preference.

Angela’s day continues with a number of tasks, including merchandising, inventory tracking, scheduling, and training. It’s important that she’s able to quickly and easily collaborate digitally with the enterprise.

Angela’s Tool Kit

  • Box: Angela uses Box to find, access, collaborate on, and store content from wherever she  needs to work, whether it’s on the selling floor or in the stockroom. She can sync lookbooks, marketing materials, and important HR policies directly to her iPad. When it comes to remerchandising, Angela can also take pictures directly with the iPad and upload from the device, then share immediately with head office.
  • Training: Angela can easily self-administer any training tasks or surveys from her iPad instead of taking time away from the selling floor. Head office is now able to measure the effects of training to justify future investments and personalized programs specific to job duty, tool, or experience level. By training Angela, head office is ensuring that she is never at a knowledge deficit when interacting with the customer and is able to find and use information easily, without having to dig for it.
  • Scheduling: Alice has left the store, but it’s important for Angela to keep in touch and send Alice communications based on her likes and preferences. Angela can set up client meetings or store events in her own calendar.

Your Turn: How to Enable a Frictionless Shopping Experience

Today, the core to most retail transformation stories centers around the technology, whether it’s iPads, displays, or kiosks. But really, it’s about transforming your business as a whole in order to stay competitive and drive conversions by leveraging the power of the store associate. By integrating with a platform like Tulip, you’re brand is able to deploy quickly in a matter of weeks, not months, while driving change without ripping and replacing legacy systems. Looking at Angela and Alice’s interaction, there were many opportunities for Alice to leave unsatisfied, but with the right tools, Angela was able to meet her at every point with a solution. Angela helped create a frictionless experience while also making it possible to reconnect with Alice in the future.

Here are some of the key take-aways you can apply to your business and drive more conversions:

  1. File Sharing & Collaboration: make it easy for store associates to complete tasks, like merchandising, operations, or inventory management, where directives can be downloaded directly to the iPad and photos can be taken with the device and uploaded to a secure file sharing and collaboration space. Remove the barriers like email, paper, and fax so they spend more time selling, and less time off the floor.
  2. Product Knowledge: provide store associates with a 360-degree view of the product, inventory, and promotions so they are armed with the same knowledge as their customers.
  3. Training: train store associates regularly and integrate programs into on-boarding. Apply gamification techniques to training, just as you would to selling, and tailor programs to experience, duty, and what tools they will regularly be using.
  4. Communications & Announcements: communicate via real-time channels about promotions, new policies and procedures, as well as employee shout-outs to bridge the gap between head office and the stores.

Questions on how to apply some of these tools to your business? Book a demo today.

2014 Store Associate Interaction Study
Omnichannel Challenge

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