Home Store Manager: How Critical are Store Associates to Omnichannel?

Store Manager: How Critical are Store Associates to Omnichannel?

This is an archived post from OrderDynamics, now Tecsys retail division.
Store Manager: How Critical are Store Associates to Omnichannel? Retail technology has changed over the last 10 years, from having legacy in-house systems to having cloud based SaaS systems. Through it all, one thing has remained constant -  the human element. But the days of store associates just “manning” the store and waiting for customers are gone. Customers want one seamless experience from online to offline - which includes features such as buy online, pickup in store.  This means store associates are now a part of the online sales cycle. They play a major role in that seamless customer experience at the face-to-face level. However, it is not just about the customer experience, it also add the potential for upsell at the retail location. But to do something like Buy Online, Pickup In-Store is not simple or easy.  Getting online orders picked, packed and ready for pickup in a timely manner is essential. And you cannot do this without your store associates. Training store associates in the function of omni-channel retail can mean a value added service to the customer. More so, a store associate that can provide timely pickup service. Perhaps they can answer potential questions about the web order. Alternatively, they can upsell items complementary to the main purchase - which increases customer satisfaction, too. All of these increase the chance of that customer will return to that particular retailer. Loyalty - returned!

Technology Helps Store Associates

With the right omni-channel technology store associates have a wealth of information at their finger tips. This information includes a purchase history, either from the website or from in-store transactions. This includes helping customers find products that are not in the actual store but in other brick and mortar locations, distribution centers or at dropship vendors. This leverage of inventory visibility is a “save the sale” approach. It provides the customer exact information about an item that they are seeking. Without this inventory visibility at the store level, store associates revert to manual methods - like calling around. How much time and resources could they waste on these calls? How much effort do they put into it, when a customer is standing in front of them, expecting results? For consumable goods and frequent purchases this could be even more advantageous. After all, these customers usually don’t want to wait for information. They expect there will NOT be delays on when they can receive their product, either.

Less Pain With Returns

One area that all retailers would like to avoid is returns management. Retailers would prefer that customers not return items. But in the retail world, especially with items like apparel, this is just not our reality. Retailers are waking up to the fact that if returns are easier at the store level this not only keeps a customer loyal but also leads to them purchasing more items. Another strategy that more retailers adopt is to let customers return online items at their brick and mortar stores. For this purpose the store associate is key. They can use OMS technology to look up customer information to confirm return item/s information, and process the return. In addition, they can facilitate shipping it back to the distribution center or even add the item back into store inventory, immediately. Many retailers still have a painful returns process. Retailers with 'returns-savvy' store associates can ensure an excellent customer experience. When 66% of customers bringing back a product for a return, make new purchases while in-store - you want an excellent service experience to entice that customer (UPS 2017).

Keeping the Human Element

Store associates act as a crucial link between the online and store experiences that customers often find impersonal. Store associates trained in good omni-channel practices can offer a more personable and human experience. The interaction between customer and store associates will always be key in driving sales. After all, they can offer customer experiences in a way that just cannot be done online. The death knell of malls and brick and mortar stores haven’t materialized. As such, Store Managers - I implore you to train your staff on the omni-channel technology you have. Helping the store associate provide amazing in-store service will be a key element of your continued retail growth.   Author: Joseph Martin is the Inside Sales Rep at OrderDynamics. Joseph has 20+ years’ experience in Sales and Management across various IT and SaaS Technology businesses. Previous roles include Account Rep, Social Media Advertising Advisor, and SMB Solutions Architect. Joseph has held roles in brand name firms like Twitter, Dell and OrderDynamics.       Related:   
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