01.31.2018 By: Sue Farah

The “Store Associate Journey”

Retailers are laser focused on improving the “customer journey” and with good reason – understanding how the customer shops and meeting their expectations is critical to omnichannel success.  But not enough retailers are spending time on the “associate journey”.  By understanding what associates need for onboarding, training, access to product and customer information and mobile tools, retailers can make associates more valuable and at the same time more excited about their work.

Executives from Tulip Retail, Indigo, and FitForCommerce recently took the stage at NRF’s 2018 Big Show to discuss how retailers can leverage the benefits of empowering their front-line workers with mobile devices in order to provide customers a simple and seamless shopping experience. During the Exhibitor Big Ideas session entitled “How Next-Gen Store Associates Use Mobile Technology to Drive ROI”, Ambles Kwok, VP of Technology and Digital at Indigo, described how mobile technology can help alleviate the day-to-day challenges retail associates face.

Shoppers today are more tech-savvy than ever before. They expect to receive the same level of personalization in-store as they do when shopping online. As Bernardine Wu, CEO at FitForCommerce, said, “The goal is delighting or thrilling your customer. Part of that is understanding the customer across all channels.” With customers increasingly taking their shopping online, the challenge remains for retailers: how do they increase or maintain foot-traffic in their physical stores. The answer is simple – by investing in their physical stores and leveraging their most powerful asset: store associates. Investing in and augmenting the in-store experience is a way to differentiate from competitors, stay ahead of the curve, and compete with the eCommerce giants.  That’s exactly what Indigo, a Canadian retailer, is doing – enhancing both the customer journey and the associate journey.

The Indigo Associate Journey

Indigo is considered the world’s first cultural department store. With over 100,000 SKUs the challenge for a shopper in their store is finding the product they’re looking for. And with our limited attention spans, if a customer can’t find the product they’re looking for within 5 minutes, they usually leave the store. This is where the informed, knowledgeable and engaging store associate steps in to save the sale! According to Kwok, it’s up to retailers to “step up to the game and provide this information to the associate.”

If a customer walks in the door looking to pick-up the novel they ordered online, the Indigo associate should have the right mobile tools readily available to look up the customer’s purchase history and real-time store inventory. It is no longer acceptable to tell a customer that you don’t have the right system or infrastructure to pull this data. They will, frankly, walk right out because they don’t see the value in your store. Kwok says, “The associate should always be able to provide this information.”

Customers expect a superior level of engagement from the store associate the minute they walk into the store. They trust and rely on the associate to be able to deliver:

  • A personalized shoulder-to-shoulder interaction
  • Transaction data, online purchases history and loyalty information
  • Expert product knowledge and advice
  • Visibility into the complete product catalog and real-time inventory availability

Customers that shop on multiple channels have a 30% higher lifetime value and basket sizes tend to be larger. Retailers need to leverage this in-store by arming associates with the right tools at their fingertips to provide this information.

Line busting – swift and seamless transactions anywhere in the store

In 2017, Indigo launched Tulip’s mobile checkout in stores as a line-busting tool, where the associate can handle the entire transaction process anywhere in the store. Kwok notes that associates should be able to “find the product for the customer, recommend products and actually cash them out in the aisle. That builds a lot of trust and relationship with the customer and the customer loves it. They are walked through the transaction. It’s really engaging.”

Indigo tends to have one of the longest lines in the mall. Yes, this is a good problem to have, but Kwok proudly states that Indigo also has the fastest line in the mall, “with Tulip, associates are able to line bust and expedite the checkout process” from any location within the store. Customers appreciate the time saved, especially during peak shopping seasons when time is of the essence.

Customers expect their in-store shopping experience to be swift, simple and seamless. By implementing mobile checkout, Indigo is executing their vision to reduce the pain-points of the checkout process. Empowered with the right mobile tools, Indigo’s front-line workers are doing their job confidently and efficiently, while simultaneously adding value. Ultimately, the goal is to turn every customer from a one-time transaction into a brand advocate.

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