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Empowering the Store Associates in Retail

Technology has powered the evolution of Retail over the years. Today, it's an interactive world and customers thrive on an enhanced shopping experience and in-store engagement. The biggest breakthrough has probably been the advent of E-commerce globally. However, despite the rapid evolution of retail over the years, one thing has not changed. That being the role of store associates and their role of being in the front line of customer service and interaction on a regular basis. Today, the rising expectations of customers from retailers call for an empowered team of store associates.


The Modern-Day Role of Store Associates (SA)


Gone are the days when the retailers' job was to only stock shelves and merely see through a particular conversion. In today's interactive world, there is no end to the expectations of the customers. Years back, store associates were required to provide insights on the customer's items of interest. Today, customers can easily go online and figure out product info themselves. What they do want is expert product advice and enhanced in-store engagement within the store. Customers appreciate associates who are knowledgeable and convincing.The following figures reflect the validity of this fact.


  • A recent report by Tulip Retail revealed that 92% of shoppers would purchase something if the store associate was very helpful. The study also found out that when customer service reached to a point of being 'very helpful', 97% of customers showed intentions of purchasing more than they intended to.


  • Another research by Experticity states that 73% of shoppers believe that product knowledge is what they expect most from a sales associate.

Retailers are understanding this fact and are looking to empower their store associates with the necessary tools and training so that they can be more aware and up-to date with the latest technology and product developments. According to data by A.T. Kearney, 75% of retailers are planning to invest more in training and additional staff over the course of the next year.


Besides enhancing Customer Shopping experience, In-Store technology can also empower SA


According to a survey conducted by Retail Systems Research, 47% of retailers worldwide feel that in-store technology helps them improve the customer experience. However, 24% of retailers also feel that it makes their employees smarter and better informed. But, when the retailers were asked to identify the opportunities that could potentially improve the in-store experience, plenty of responses featured the empowerment of store associates. Consider the following illustration:



The above graph reveals that 53% of retailers feel that there is definitely an opportunity for technology to improve the in-store experience by educating and empowering the in-store employees. 47% feel that finding ways to increase the productivity of the store employees can also improve the overall experience.


Technology Empowering the Store Associates


Mobile POS


According to the 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey conducted by Boston Retail Partners, around 40% of retailers believe that mobile tools are definitely on the top of their priority list with regards to empowering the store associates. Guided sales tool for sales associates, clienteling and suggested selling accounting for 73%, 63% and 51% respectively were the major capabilities according to the retailers. Customers expect SA to know everything about the product and their requirement. With mobiles and tabs, the associates can be equipped with entire product knowledge, reviews, customer tastes & preferences, customer-brand preferences, etc. It will also be easier for the SA to provide personalized offers and turn mere shoppers into brand advocates if they have a 360 degree view of their customers' purchase habits. Mobile tools will enable the SA access to real time customer data, which will effectively empower the associates and result in an enhanced shopping experience for the customers.

mobile pos


Smart Technology


Smart technology has the power of considerably empowering employees. Across all product categories, smart technology is empowering the SA by allowing them unparalleled ease and innovation while selling. For instance, mention can be made of how the beauty cosmetic giant Sephora is making use of smart technology. They partnered with the Pantone Color Instutute to establish a device called Color IQ. This device effectively scans the surface of the consumer's skin and allocate a distinct Color IQ number. This would then be used to reveal specific concealer, lip, and foundation matches. This considerably empowered the SA as he could confidently walk up to the customer and offer the best possible solution with utmost conviction. Here, we get a clear idea of how smart technology can empower and educate a store employee.

color iq technology

image source: Sephora website


Digital Displays


We all know that digital displays elevates the overall customer shopping experience to a whole new level. But it also empowers the store associates. Apart from the customers, all the information and product reviews, etc are available to them as well. They can easily assist the customer with his purchase by reiterating all the information that is displayed just to ensure that the customer feels secure with his choice. On the other hand, it also makes it considerably easier for SA to propose a new design or choice of item to the customer based on his understanding just because he can be sure as ever. Say for instance, the digital mirror helps an individual try out as many options of clothing at just a click of a button. The SA can easily provide his insights as to what looks best on the individual out of his own judgement as it is so readily and visibly evident.

A suitable example in this case is of The Adidas Interactive Video Wall. The images and features of shoes, the inventory, etc on the wall was available to both the customers and the associates. Thus, it can be said that digital displays helps the store employee in devising an effective communication strategy for their customers, wherein they can indulge in an interaction with the customers at a personal level.

About Shakuntala Sarkar

Shakuntala is a marketer with 15 years of experience in Marketing Strategies & Operations, Brand Communications, Customer Relationship Management and Corporate Communications. An economics graduate from St Xavier’s college, Kolkata and a IIMC she, has worked across different industries like IT & Retail, with consumer marketing in both B2B and B2C segments. Before joining Tickto, she was the Head of Customer Relationship Management at Spencer’s Retail. Prior to that, she has been a part of the Global Marketing & Communications team of Satyam Computer Services.

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