As technology improves and becomes an ever more ubiquitous part of our lives, we regularly hear about how it will replace employees in jobs such as retail. Many people fear that retail technology solutions will eventually replace store staff altogether, especially as customers become more accustomed to online and other digital shopping experiences.
But while it’s true that retail technology is changing the store, effective retailers recognize that employees and technology go hand-in-hand in creating a better shopping experience. Rather than replacing employees, technology will require these workers to have new skills, and empower them to use these skills more effectively. Staff will spend less time scanning products and stocking shelves and more time assisting customers, increasing service levels, and providing an experience that is impossible to duplicate online.
From Behind the Register to In Front of the Customer
Technology such as mobile POS, advanced analytics software, inventory management systems, and other in-store equipment is converging to make customers, and employees, the center of retail operations. One of the biggest advantages of this technology is that it empowers store staff to move out from behind the register to be in front of the customer when they need them the most. This shift can make the difference between a lost sale and a closed one.
Imagine your analytics software detects a customer lingering in front of a high value item, such as an appliance. An alert is sent to the salesperson with expertise in this category, and, armed with a mobile POS system, they head over to offer assistance and answer any questions the customer has. This scenario is difficult to duplicate online, as the customer is able to get in-depth product knowledge while also being able to see, touch and try out the product before buying.
But the real game changer is when it comes to making the purchase. Traditionally, the customer would get a piece of paper to bring up to the front cash for checkout. This walk from the aisle to the cash is all time the customer could hesitate or change their mind, resulting in a lost opportunity. Instead, with the mobile POS in hand, the salesperson can process the transaction on the spot, offer any warranties or other upsells, check inventory in real-time, and arrange the best delivery option for the customer.
By leveraging technology, the employee was able to identify an opportunity, provide product knowledge and customer service, and close the sale all in one shot.
Having the Right Skills for the Job
Of course, this approach requires a whole different skillset than simply being a cashier, but it also adds far more value to both the customer and the retailer. To take advantage of these opportunities, you need to adjust your training and hiring policies to get the right skills and abilities into stores.
Any time a new retail technology solution is deployed, employees must be trained to understand how the equipment works, how to use it to benefit customers, and what to do if something breaks or requires maintenance. And new positions may need to be created to fully benefit from the new equipment. Over time, there will be a shift from low skilled workers to those with sales skills, product expertise, customer service, and a strong understanding of technology.
The Changing Face of Retail
Your employees are the face of your company - they’re the ones dealing with customers on a daily basis. Each of these interactions can make the difference between a great shopping experience and a frustrating one. As more retail technology solutions are introduced to the store, effective retailers will need to make sure their store staff have the skills and expertise needed to leverage these technologies and offer more value to shoppers. In a world where customers increasingly turn online, combining expert assistance with the ability to touch and feel a product can be a true differentiator that gives stores the edge.
Technology is creating the Store of the Future. Make sure you’re ready with our expert report: It’s Time to Enter the Store of the Future.