The retail landscape is going through massive disruption. Traditional big-box brands are closing down, while online and specialty retailers are opening new ‘experience-centric’ stores. On top of that, consumers now have access to virtually unlimited information and ways to shop at their fingertips. From placing a repeat order on Amazon to trying on clothes through VR or picking up an online purchase in-store, the retail customer experience has certainly evolved.
Amidst all this change, one thing remains constant: the physical store still plays a critical role in the buyer’s journey. A 2017 study conducted by TimeTrade found that if an item is available both online and in-store, 75% of consumers prefer to shop in-store. Further, 88% of consumers say they are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable store associate.
When it comes to the in-store experience, consumer expectations have grown. Shoppers now view the store as a destination center where they can test out products, speak to store associates who are true brand experts and be inspired.
Today’s Consumers Are Prioritizing Experience Over Everything.
Retailers have done a great job at providing digital experiences for consumers, from offering branded apps to personalized advertisements. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the employee experience. Employees are often left behind when it comes to communication and engagement, relying on emails, a company intranet or team huddles to get new information. As a result, consumers are now walking into stores more knowledgeable than associates, creating friction in what should be a seamless brand experience.
If store associates are the first point of contact consumers have with a brand, shouldn’t organizations be doing more to engage them? 90% of senior executives state that customer experience is a top priority for their organization. Yet somehow, there is still a disconnect between strategy at head office and what is being executed on the front line. In reality, only 27% of consumers feel that name-brand retailers are trying to provide exceptional service.
The solution to this disconnect is clear. If happy employees = happy customers, then customer experience strategy should start with your employees.
Two Things To Consider In Revisiting The Employee Experience.
Retailers must reevaluate how they’re engaging with store managers and associates. To be successful, it’s critical to provide employees with the proper resources (the know-how) and tools (the channel) to enable them to perform.
First, the know-how. To deliver an authentic in-store experience, brands need to inspire their employees and provide them with the resources they need to get the job done. Finding a way to continuously educate frontline teams on the latest products, promotions and companywide initiatives is a great place to start. From there, creating an open forum for employees to share ideas and feedback across the company will help to ensure camaraderie and consistency across stores.
Today’s employees want to feel connected to the brand they’re working for, which means having a good understanding of the brand vision, mission and values. At the end of the day, inspiring employees to act on behalf of the brand will be a lot more powerful than repeatedly asking them to get tasks done.
Second, arming employees with the right tools. With an increasing number of Millennials and Gen Z in the workforce, technology has become much more important for workplace training, management and communication. In fact, 93% of Millennials cite modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of the workplace. If consumers are using mobile technology to engage with retail brands, why shouldn’t employees? According to a Microsoft study, 67% of employees will use their phone at work, regardless of the company’s official bring-your-own-device policy.
Forward-thinking retailers are looking to associate-facing technologies to improve the associate experience. When you have retail teams that are highly engaged and equipped with the right technology, they will always outperform against their peers.
To learn how to create an exceptional employee experience across your workforce, you can download our 5-Step Employee Playbook here.
Lindsey Goodchild is the CEO and Co-Founder of Nudge Rewards, a mobile solution that allows retailers to better communicate and engage with store employees. A leader in digital transformation, Goodchild is bringing mobile technology to the non-desk workforce that is fundamentally changing the way teams work. With extensive experience consulting in retail and hospitality, Goodchild has spent years working with global brands to understand employee behavior, improve the employee experience and measurably impact frontline team performance.