Arm staffers with tech to build sales

June 19, 2012

Employees empowered by technology improve the shopping experience, say leading retailers in RSR survey.

Shoppers don’t come into stores like the sci-fi Stepford Wives—docile, compliant and uncomplainingly ready to accept whatever your banner has for sale.

Quite the opposite is true:  shoppers have the Internet at their fingertips, and retailers are in a technology arms race to satisfy them.  

While that technology is sometimes meant for consumer use (a price-check scanner, a self-checklane, an instructional video), the merchants that tend to perform best “understand that employees hold the key to an improved store experience,” says the RSR Research study, The 2012 Retail Store: In Transition. 

Winning retailers (those with year-over-year comp store/channel sales growth above 3% in 2011, as defined by RSR) indicated in the survey that their Top 3 opportunities for make shopping better are to:
•    Educate and empower our in-store employees using technology (65%)
•    Provide the ability to locate and sell merchandise from anywhere in the company (47%)
•    Focus on a more convenient customer experience (47%)

“Customers expect more from store associates than most currently provide, and those that are already leading in sales are investing in increased employee pre-screening, product training, and for those customer questions that can’t be anticipated—the tools and technologies to access the answers required to save the sale,” the report states.

Looking ahead, these better performers cite the technologies they believe have the most potential to deliver value in the store—and help them to sustain or accelerate their growth. They said:
•    Cross-channel customer and inventory synchronization (69%)
•    Customer-facing self-service touch points in the store (56%)
•    Distributed order management (50%)
•    Software that schedules the right mix of labor (50%)
•    Employee selling tools on the sales floor (44%)

This research demonstrates that leading retailers bank on empowered employees. The Lempert Report has long advocated for knowledgeable service in supermarkets.  A tablet in the hands of a specialty foods staffer, for instance, could prompt a sale with photos of plated foods, recipes on demand, or an instant discount incentive.