How store associates can compete with mobile-enabled shoppers

Mobile is getting more involved in people’s life than ever. End of June, Shanghai is welcoming Mobile World Congress Shanghai which is Asia’s biggest mobile industry event where people can discover mobile innovation, while thousands of leaders and tech-savvy consumers will gather to experience a connected life.

Undoubtedly, mobile internet technology is enjoying rapid development in China, which is encouraged by the national strategic initiative “internet plus”. China’s retailers expect to ride the wave of mobile technology and build their bricks & mortar integrated with mobile internet technology.

For instance, companies like Suning is creating social, entertaining and mobile in-store experience for customers. MUJI has its MUJI passport application which helps the company create an emotional bond connecting customers with stores.

These measures do draw customers’ attention. But, to fulfill the integration of mobile Internet technology perfectly, besides technology, empowering store associates with the knowledge and technology is the key. Especially they are now facing mobile-enabled shoppers, who have access to unlimited information, right from the palms of their hands.

Many consumers use their smartphones while shopping in-store, which keeps them armed with knowledge and helps them make smarter purchasing decisions. Retailers are no longer the experts on giving shopping guidance. To improve the shopper’s in-store experience, retailers must raise their game to manage today’s mobile-assisted shoppers. This means they need to provide customers with a highly personalised shopping experience.

The mobile-enabled shopper

Advancements in mobile technology have exposed consistency gaps between the retailer’s own digital channels and the store. Access to online pricing and information has given customers the ability to comparison shop directly from their phones while in the store, which significantly changes the in-store experience.

The wealth of information available on mobile devices has created a knowledge gap between consumers and store employees; shoppers are entering stores armed with an increasing amount of information, while employees’ knowledge levels have largely stayed the same. Many retailers have found that the growth of mobile devices has underscored for consumers the benefits of shopping through digital channels rather than embracing the in-store experience.

As shoppers expect more while they shop, retailers must ask themselves, “How are we enhancing the existing in-store shopping experience?” While answers may vary from one company to another, the consensus is that retail store associates are the key to leveling the playing field. Store employees need better training and improved access to mobile in-store technology to connect digital channels and the store environment.

Enabling the store associate

According to a study made by RSR Research, 76% of retailers agreed that trained and loyal in-store employees are key to their long-term strategy. To execute on this strategy, retailers must place their associates front and center and make sure they are trained to effectively assist today’s mobile-enabled customer.

Previously, the sales role was focused only on selling what was in the store. However, today’s store employees are tasked with selling and having knowledge of the entire network, as well as creating a highly personalised and memorable experience for the customer. To make this possible, retailers must provide store associates with access to mobile technology, arming them with information while also allowing them to be active and accessible on the store floor. Modern associates must also have access to customers’ order histories and personal preferences so they can provide professional knowledge and recommendations to meet customer needs.

Utilising in-store technology

Providing employees with the proper technology will enhance the in-store shopping experience for customers. Mobile POS and in-store fulfillment technologies provide associates with a big-picture view of what’s going on across the company’s network and helps them overcome the challenges and complexities of omni-channel customer service. This includes fulfilling orders made online and picked up in the store and giving associates the ability to accept returns, regardless of which channel initiated the order and how the customer chooses to receive credit.

Mobile technologies can also offer associates full access to the company’s entire network of available inventory and provide visibility of what’s available for consumers and what products would best suit to their needs. Providing this type of in-store technology to the modern store employee will help make shopping at brick-and-mortar locations personalised, as it is online, and memorable for consumers.

Looking forward

Retail store associates have a major role to play in the revitalisation of brick-and-mortar stores during the digital age. Store employees are responsible for delivering to shoppers a tailored selling and service experience across both digital and physical channels. Additionally, the store workers’ responsibilities have changed as they now have access to and are expected to sell the entire network of available inventory, rather than just what’s in their own store. Improved access to information and inventory visibility allow store associates to provide personalised interactions and help retailers to build customer loyalty.

Store associates are also able to use mobile POS to assist customers anywhere in the store. With mobile technology, employees have the ability to roam the store, making themselves available to customers – no longer are they tethered to a desk or work station. Advanced POS technology equips store associates with access to up-to-the-moment data related to customer preferences and needs, enabling them to deliver a higher quality experience across the board.

There’s no question that mobile and digital channels have upped the ante for brick-and-mortar retailers, but technology exists to help them thrive in the new world of retail. ‘Mobile is Me’ is the theme of this year’s Mobile World Congress Shanghai which implies that customer has request for mobile for almost all the activities and mobile is becoming a key differentiator for business success. In retail sector, with the existence of mobile, today’s retailers are not only asking for more from their associates, but they are also empowering them to be better.

By Manhattan Associates China.

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