The New Identity of Retail Associates: Sales Floor Superheroes
Retail associates today are doing more than stocking shelves and working the cash register; they’re providing expert guidance to shoppers. This shift in retail associates’ responsibilities reflects larger trends in the retail industry. Brick-and-mortar stores have weathered the “retail apocalypse”; forcing themselves to adapt in the face of the rising online marketplace. This adaptation is largely focused on capitalizing on the aspects of brick-and-mortar retail that cannot be duplicated in e-commerce, most notably personal interactions with customers. Realizing that retail associates have an immense amount of influence on shoppers, many retailers are working quickly to expand their roles and expertise to be the sales floor superhero and meet the changing needs of consumers.
“The role of the sales associate will change and evolve from a ‘doer of tasks’ to a “creator of experiences,” predicted Rob Oglesby in The Role of the Store. In retail stores that are leading the pack, this evolution is being seen in all areas for retail associates – from job titles, to training, to the experience itself. For example, Apple has evolved their famous Genius Bar to be a “Genius Grove” in their latest Apple store openings, in which Geniuses and their recently established Technical Experts roam around and service customers in a tree-lined area of the store. Others have fallen in line with this evolution as well – from Microsoft’s Advisors to Lululemon’s Educators, providing associates with unique identities and developing skills that focus on more than being a sales person have given these retailers a leg up in the industry.
“Providing effective soft skill training programs has and will continue to be a vital component to retailers’ success in the customer service game,” says Scot Maurath, BDSmktg’s Director of Learning Design. “With how fast technology products are hitting the marketplace, it also has increased the expectations when it comes to retail associates’ knowledge and behavior. Retailers can’t survive just training associates on speeds and feeds anymore. Now, consumers expect them to know how products across categories and sectors sync up to each other amongst the many different operating systems. The consumer’s question has evolved from ‘How fast is this product?’ to ‘I want to be able to do this in my house, how do I do that?’ The training industry has made some huge strides in technology innovation, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning – paving the way for better learning experiences that lead to better consumer purchasing experiences.”
Statistics suggest exceptional customer service, like that offered by Apple’s employees, go a long way toward increasing sales. According to a survey by Dimensional Research: “52% of shoppers said good customer service influences them to purchase more and 58% of shoppers said they recommend companies with good customer service to others.” This proves positive customer service experiences benefit companies in an ever-expanding ripple that increases in the moment sales and long-term recommendation rates.
At BDSmktg, we understand that the future of brick-and-mortar retail rests firmly on the shoulders of the nearly 4.5 million retail associates working in stores around the country. The ability of these associates to initiate positive, real, expert interactions with shoppers is the key to having consumers come back for more. BDS is here to work with your brand to develop and grow these sales floor superheroes to provide the expertise you need, so contact us today to learn more about our various retail training services.