There is broad agreement that the role of the store associate needs to change, along with all the other seismic changes rattling the retail industry. In a 2012 study published by Deloitte, they asked a small group of thirty-nine retailers what they thought the new role of the store associate will look like in the next five-plus years. Based on the changing role of the physical store, these are what the respondents believed to be the primary tasks and skill-sets of the store associate of tomorrow:
- POS assistance
- Purchase selection assistance
- Specialized product knowledge
- Technology savvy
- Brand ambassadorship
Fast forward three to five years and arrive in 2016, where survey respondents put specialized product knowledge and brand ambassadorship to the top of the list, ahead of POS assistance, as a store associate’s most important roles. The report then predicted that within the next five or more years–or 2017 and beyond–the store associate is expected to become a technologically-savvy brand ambassador with specialized product knowledge.
Yet, store associates are still the last frontier of workers without access to the information they need in order to help meet the growing demands of their customers. The list of today’s retailers who boast a fleet of store associates with “specialized product knowledge and brand ambassadorship” is dismayingly short. Retail systems are legendary for their level of complexity and their resistance to change once implemented and used widely in the field. This is especially true when it comes to product information, content management, omnichannel inventory, store operations, and communications, all of which lay the foundation for the “store associate role of the future”.
Make it happen and take no hostages. In order to be successful in deploying a content management system, a process needs to be established at the executive level in order to gain company-wide momentum and buy-in. Multiple departments, including marketing, IT, communications, and ecommerce will need to digitize information and processes including document scanning, email, and fax.
In a two-part series, we’ve outlined an example of how Linda, Store Operations & Communications Manager at a women’s fashion and apparel brand, works with Angela, a store associate, to complete a number of tasks by using the Tulip Store Associate App and Box.
360° communication to and from head office
Provide access to real-time information
Store associates are systematically under-informed and it is difficult and complicated to get information into their hands. They are dependent on each other or their managers to gain access to information, which often loses accuracy as it moves from officially sanctioned channels to word of mouth. When it comes to looking up information, they often need to reference shopworn binders stuffed beneath POS terminals, find reference guides taped to cash-wrap stands, or leave the selling floor and go to a manager’s office or the break room to find information pinned to a bulletin board, where they are hard-pressed to know if they are looking at the latest version.
With a Tulip-enabled iPad, Angela is immediately able to:
- Use Box to review new communications or documentation Linda has pushed down from head office.
- View new versions or updates so she’s always certain of what document she should be reviewing.
- Provide usage and access statistics to Linda, who can measure the efficacy of certain types of content across users or stores.
Here’s an example of head office announcements with relevant attachments being consumed in real-time
Accuracy of information
A lack of modern content management is a problem for most businesses, but especially so for enterprise-level retailers. In fact, professionals who work in corporate roles and who have access to a personal computer, spend 50% of their time searching for information. For store associates, it cumulatively can take hours every week to locate important information and this time is often spent off the selling floor, away from customers.
Retailers are manually deploying information to tens of thousands of store associates, and managing timing, accuracy, and accessibility of this information at the same time, through antiquated media including fax, sign-off forms, and printed news bulletins. However, with Tulip, Angela not only receives the information necessary to answer customer policy questions, but is made aware once anything has been replaced through automatic versioning.
Clarity of information
Angela receives clear and concise directives on what work she needs to do and by when. For any task that requires a set of instructions, like updating displays based on complicated planograms, she needs to know what it should look like and be able to quickly and easily share with Linda at head office. Angela must be able to multi-task throughout the day without needing to leave the selling floor, so easily opening the chat module to send Linda direct messages, helps her get things done faster and more efficiently.
Linda dispatches a set of directives for Angela to follow as she sets up a new display
Angela shares an image of the display by taking a photo directly with her iPad and sharing it immediately
24/7/365 information management
By ingesting disparate information systems from marketing, IT, inventory management, and ecommerce, Linda is able to create different sets of communications for different stores while maintaining consistent messaging, graphics, and directives. She’s able to send targeted content to different countries, territories, or districts, including advertising images, promotional materials, training videos, lookbooks and product line instructions easily across teams.
The moment content has been created, Linda can:
- Regulate when out-of-date documents should be deleted and can control merchandising consistency, pricing, and packaging across each channel.
- Spend time curating and creating content in a variety of formats to appeal to different types of learners, like short, “how-to” videos instead of long-form PDFs.
- Focus on creating a regular cadence of communications to go out to the teams so they’re always informed of the latest policies or promotions.
Gain usage insights
Linda can quickly and easily gain insight into whether or not store associates are viewing or using particular documents, and change course without incurring additional printing and resource costs. By integrating with Tulip, the speed of deployment enables Linda to test out different media, and be able to tailor certain types of content to specific user groups and learning methods.
Linda becomes more efficient and can:
- Create, distribute, and catalog assets with metadata tags and build automated workflows to easily share assets through multiple channels.
- Build and publish lookbooks for the latest product line and manage rich-media assets like images, logos, and videos across every channel.
- Dispatch any kind of document format or medium, whether it’s a PDF, .MP4, or others, to store associates without needing to provision numerous licenses for different kinds of software.
Traditional, print-based documents, like Look Books, are synced in Box for immediate access to the entire product line
How do we get to the “2016 store associate” in 2016?
Without a single, consolidated view of brand messaging, content, customer information, inventory, or communications, store associates will continue to struggle to become the product knowledge experts their customers are not-so-patiently waiting for, while losing more sales to online retailers. As a retailer, you must first solve for how your content is stored, communicated, consolidated, and secured across tens of thousands of store associates.
In Part 2: Document Management for Retail Store Associates, we’ll discuss:
- Elite power-selling
- Real-time collaboration between the store and the enterprise
- Data and information security