The retail landscape has seen dramatic changes. Online brands are opening physical stores, brick-and-mortar retailers are creating seamless experiences online, printed catalogs are integrating social media with online and in-store sales. Customers are not necessarily aware of the omnichannel experience — it is just thought of as convenient, entertaining, engaging and excellent service.
While delivering stellar customer service is certainly nothing new, at no other time in retail has delivering an excellent, omnichannel customer experience been more crucial to converting and retaining shoppers. In the brick-and-mortar channel, digitally savvy consumers are entering stores already well-informed about a product’s features and prices, and expect store employees to know more than they do. A recent white paper from Axsium Group noted that as many as 75% of consumers surveyed said they would walk out of the store if they didn’t have access to knowledgeable associates.
With mobile devices in hand, consumers are ready to showroom — or be engaged and gratified by knowledgeable associates. Retailers that invest in a digitally modernized and well-trained sales staff — the apex of customer experience delivery today — will excel at educating, converting, upselling and creating loyal customers.
Digitally Equipped Associates Improve Customer Experiences
Today’s retailers must arm associates with the training and information access they need to know more than today’s mobile, showrooming shoppers. That learning is best provided in the manner in which most associates are familiar, comfortable and interested: App-based digital resources.
According to a study from IDC Retail Insights, many retail employees “are much more likely to interact with peers and employers if communications are digitally delivered to their mobile devices.” In addition, modern workforce management tools engage employees and enable them to serve the customer better and create a better work environment. In fact, “Best-in-Class organizations are more than twice as likely to invest in mobile learning solutions, compared to All Others,” according to a November 2013 research report from Aberdeen Group.
App-based learning programs can recognize each associate, their role, channel and even language. Employees can see what comes next in their individual learning, which keeps them always engaged in their own development. Personalized learning invites employee participation and achievement. Addressing the challenge of multi-tasking overload, the best learning apps are based on very short segments that maintain interest while allowing associates to click on or off as needed — then quickly pick up the module at the exact same spot.
More than basic learning management systems, app-based learning modules can be cloud-based services that provide two-way communication with the app in real time. These capabilities provide significantly more than basic learning management system functionality: They drive the menus; control local content; and host quizzes, language options program releases via XML over https secure protocol.
The iPad Is Driving Digitally Modernized Sales Staff
According to an IHL study, tablets and smartphones are redefining the retail shopping experience and will be a $5 billion market per year by 2015. More than 2.7 million tablets a year will ship for use in North American retail and hospitality, the research indicated, with specialty retailers deploying nearly half of all tablets shipped to retail.
In addition, the iPad has created price points and form factors for mobile devices that finally allow retailers to arm their associates with tools that will transform the in-store experience. As expensive printed materials are converted to apps, retailers are reinvesting the money in associate’s iPads.
Customized retail apps that work in tandem with existing software and hardware can be created quickly. Retailers can work with a service provider to develop unique apps that provide associates with the exact training they need.
As noted in a previous article in Retail TouchPoints, some benefits of using the iPad for retail training include:
1. Training comes out of the backroom;
2. Interactive bookmarks keep track of progress;
3. Impact of training correlates to business results;
4. High-quality video and audio;
5. Low-bandwidth training;
6. On-floor skill building activities; and
7. Dual-purpose product training for consumers.
Engaging The Customer
With iPad in hand, associates can better engage mobile and other shoppers that enter the selling space. Interesting and engaging product knowledge programs that can be shared with consumers instantly give associates another tool to help explain — visually — the value of product offerings. In addition, an associate interacting with an iPad has a tool for preempting mobile comparison shopping, and can often sell up as well as prevent a lost sale.
As retailers have only just tapped the surface of employee education and empowerment, it will be interesting to see the development and adaptation of brands in 2014.
Dave Harouche is the Founder and President of Multimedia Plus. For more than 20 years, Harouche has developed innovative, technology-driven programs for a broad range of clients, making Multimedia Plus the foremost provider of learning and communications solutions and a resource for market intelligence. Harouche oversees all company operations. Prior to founding Multimedia Plus, Harouche worked at Ann Taylor in a variety of roles, from systems training and support to video production.