For most retailers, sales associates are their best weapon
If you only looked at the headlines coming out of next-gen retail, you’d think the future of bricks-and-mortar is some kind of robotic paradise of self-checkout kiosks, locker pickups, or Amazon Go’s surveillance-powered, cashierless tech marvel.
And while there’s undoubtedly value in creating this kind of frictionless in-store experience for consumers, the trend ignores one of a retailer’s greatest assets — the sales associate.
While high labor costs often drive retailers to under-staff storefronts, or cut hours for sales associates, they ignore the real impact salespeople can have on a business’s bottom line. When retailers favor automation at all costs, they’re quite simply losing out on one of their best opportunities to drive customer loyalty and upsells.
While high labor costs often drive retailers to under-staff storefronts, or cut hours for sales associates, they ignore the real impact salespeople can have on a business’s bottom line.
“In one case our analysis showed that every extra dollar the chain spent on payroll would generate anywhere from $4 to $28 in additional revenue, depending on the store,” a paper in the Harvard Business Review reports. “The retailer’s customer surveys revealed why: The two most important drivers of customer satisfaction were the ability to find an associate who could provide assistance and whether that person was knowledgeable…”.
And that gets to the heart of a truly effective sales force — those employees must be equipped with Relationship Commerce tools and training to be truly effective. While data, metrics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence help establish a rapport with consumers, there shouldn’t be anything artificial about it. At heart, Relationship Commerce is a 360-degree understanding of your customer that always comes back to the person.
As former Vitamin Shoppe CEO Colin Watts said at NRF 2019, “The aha moment at the Vitamin Shoppe was recognizing that we could develop with Ordergroove a recurring revenue model that would allow us to take our best sales people and marry them to a subscription program… When a customer walked up to the cash register, our sales associate could say, ‘Hey, it looks like you’ve bought this product once, maybe twice, from us already. Do you think you’re going to be buying this regularly? If so, we can give you a 10% discount right now and we can put you into our auto-delivery program.’ And it created an instantaneous omni-relationship with the Vitamin Shoppe customer.”
At heart, Relationship Commerce is a 360-degree understanding of your customer that always comes back to the person.
That HBR study found much the same: “The optimization approach we’ve developed can be used by omnichannel retailers too. They need to recognize that associates drive sales not only in stores but also on the web—by, for example, encouraging customers to create online accounts with the company.”
Quite simply, no one is engaging in a conversation, or asking advice from, a self-service checkout. And if retailers want to engage with customers in a way that will drive loyalty and convenience, they ignore sales associates at their own peril.