Store closings and loss of retail jobs continue to make business headlines, and many retailers with a brick and mortar presence are blaming Amazon and the online pure plays for their struggles. Their concerns over Amazon’s dominance are legitimate. The convenience, low prices and massive selection that Amazon offers have given them a competitive advantage.
But retailers are fighting back, especially those with brick & mortar stores that can offer many things that an online site cannot. The personalized service experience in the store, the ability to touch and feel products, the immediacy of getting the product, and the joy of a great in-store brand experience are all reasons consumers will leave their house and shop in stores. Retailers are finding ways to beat Amazon, and their stores and sales associates are often the key.
In fact, Best Buy just announced their quarterly earnings yesterday. Year over year same store sales handily beat expectations and the stock catapulted 22%. One executive there credited their knowledgeable store associates as one of the keys to driving sales growth. In fact, Best Buy made a huge investment in training them the past year.
One other data point: just this past week at eTail Canada, one of the keynotes was an executive from ToyS R Us and Babies R Us. She discussed how their store associates, when empowered with mobile devices and the right tools, were their best defense against Amazon.
Customers expect online capabilities in the store. They enter a store with a mobile device in hand and access to the online world. Their expectations on what shopping should be like are high based on what they’re used to online. Ironically, most front line workers in stores don’t have mobile devices that they can use to access information and online shopping capabilities. Employers need to close this digital divide. They should empower workers with mobile devices to do their jobs better.
And it is happening. Progressive retailers are demonstrating the value of mobile-equipped workers. Put the right tools and information in the hands of your front-line employees and they will improve their performance. Retailers like Apple, Best Buy, ToysRUs, Bonobos, Home Depot, and Neiman Marcus have proven that providing their store associates with a mobile device and mobile applications for assisted selling, checkout, line busting, clienteling, training, and collaboration helps them sell better, sell more and build relationships with their customers.