Re-inventing the role of retail teams

(Source: Bigstock)

Success in today’s retail climate requires a crucial blend of employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Achieving this will differentiate the offer, and ultimately boost both sales and profitability. 

Why retailers need to direct more focus and investment to adapt the role of their retail teams 

Customers are becoming increasingly more demanding, as online retail continues to provide convenience and faster fulfillment of needs. However, nothing competes with the human experience where shoppers can touch and feel products and be informed and guided by well-trained staff who can support the right purchase decision.  A whopping 82 per cent of shoppers indicate physically seeing or touching products is important and 77 per cent place value on positive staff interactions.

Improving customer experience drives loyalty, and retention is key – it is  five times cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. 

According to PWC research, excellent customer experience begins with a superior employee experience. Knowledgeable, approachable staff, consistent application of rules and processes, and access to tools and data for agile decision-making are foundational to creating memorable customer experiences.

Engaged retail teams, as brand ambassadors, are central to driving change and according to Gallup, engaged retail employees make 18 per cent more sales and demonstrate 23 per cent higher profitability.

However, 30 per cent of retail employees say they get little to no training. They are also faced with staff shortages, and having to navigate numerous disparate systems for day-to-day tasks.

This results in over 61 per cent of staff having little time to help customers as they are tied up doing other lower value tasks. Forty-one per cent of retail employees hardly ever look forward to going to work.

Retailers are also under pressure, juggling multiple priorities 

In addition, retailers are facing persistent inflation, supply chain disruptions, coordinating work across distributed teams, and trying to get fast and accurate data and insights to make informed decisions whilst also managing increasing challenges in retaining staff.  

Fostering greater employee engagement and experience through focused investment in the right tools can not only enable retention (a significant cost for businesses – retail faces a 60 per cent employee turnover rate, each employee departure costing 1.5 to 2 times an employee’s salary) it is intrinsically linked to improved customer experience and improved conversion. 

What solutions are needed to enhance the capabilities of retail teams?

Retail teams need solutions tailored to frontline requirements that combine streamlined communications, reinforced productivity, and practical insights. 

A fluid, streamlined and organic communication across the various locations, timezones and languages, and decision centres is crucial to be more responsive to customer demand; test and learn faster, share best practices and drive continuous improvement. 

In-store execution demands structured processes and the internalisation of standards through practice and repetition

Implementing standards such as inventory controls and store procedures at scale involves shaping behaviours and creating new habits through structured processes and practice, which many organizations struggle to do effectively. 

It’s not about training (show me once), it is about infusing change and repetition (do it once, do it twice) at scale into the day-to-day of hundreds, thousands, of front-line teams (rinse & repeat). 

Actionable intelligence using data can enhance both the shopping experience and operational effectiveness, enabling efficient access to knowledge and prompt decision-making.

For example, in the US Walmart has rolled out a generative AI-based assistant to 50,000 store associates to help them with orientation, learning, policies, benefits, careers, etc. 

Luxury group Kering, which owns famous brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, and Yves Saint Laurent, focuses on providing a single view of the customer across all its brands and channels via an app to help associates better prepare appointments with their customers so they can be more relevant and sell better.

What does the future of retail look like?

Recognising retail employees as the industry’s most valuable asset is imperative to help drive operational excellence and deliver memorable customer experiences. The future of physical retail hinges on integrating effective communication, reinforcing productivity standards and harnessing omnichannel data insights to drive continuous improvement and a superior experience to their customer so they come back for more.

Here’s how StoreWise can help – Read our Playbook on Retail Teams, Re-invented