The COVID-19 pandemic has, in many ways, moved traditional retail technology five to 10 years forward. But what does this future retail experience look like post-COVID-19? What new habits will stick? Are consumers looking forward to the return of the ‘old normal’? It will be years before we can truly assess the impact of the pandemic, but one thing is for sure: the way retail sales associates work will change.
Today’s associates are expected to upsell, cross-sell, meet customer expectations and handle countless other tasks that make a store successful. Yet oftentimes they are dealt a losing hand as they are evaluated against antiquated metrics and not provided with the technology necessary throughout the store to meet these demands, let alone thrive. This results in employee frustration, depleted motivation, shopper dissatisfaction and ultimately fewer sales.
As such, it’s essential that retailers focus on fueling excitement among associates in today’s retail store, and to provide them with the tools they need to be successful. Studies show that retail employees who are engaged and motivated bring in higher levels of revenue than those who are not. This means embracing new ways that recognize associates’ true impact and enables them to thrive throughout the entire store, especially in the fitting room.
Assessing A Modern Sales Experience
Retailers have traditionally relied on in-store sales to gauge how their associates are performing — a reliable and meaningful metric 30 years ago. In today’s omnichannel world, however, purchases take place in stores, online and via mobile. Although the store experience has evolved, the role of the associate in many ways hasn’t. In the modern retail landscape, associates should be assessed on a criteria that shows the true level of service they’re providing. Their success should be measured on how well they:
- Service customers during critical buying moments
- Help shoppers find complete outfits
- Curate and personalize the experience
- Create “remarkable” experiences that makes every shopper feel important
The reality is that an associate can do all of this, and a shopper may still pull out their phone and pay online. In the antiquated system, this looks like a complete failure on the employee’s part, and the employee would be graded as such. It’s important that today’s retailers have the ability to accurately track associates’ in-store contributions to a sale. When retailers are more informed about in-store associate engagement with shoppers, especially during the fitting room experience, they can ensure that employees get recognized for their success beyond the stores’ sales quota being hit or not.
Expanding Associates’ Domain
In addition to a system that’s sometimes stacked against them, too often associates are being deprived of the necessary tools to succeed. According to a survey from enVista, 72% of consumers say that personalized assistance from a sales associate is an important factor in determining which store to shop. Yet the same survey concludes that only 34% of retailers say customer identification/personalization was a top priority coming into 2020.
That fact is that retail employees are often deemed as “underperformers” simply because they don’t have instant access to critical information that enables them to do their jobs better. We see technology lining the aisles and checkout areas of many stores, but the fitting room still remains the one area of the store that is largely neglected.
It is a challenging dynamic — shoppers in a fitting room don’t want an associate to bother them while they are in the middle of changing, but many will walk out empty-handed if an associate isn’t there at the exact moment they need them. The fitting room has traditionally been a blind spot where communication between the associate and the customer abruptly ends, but it really should be an essential piece of the dialogue as the customer continues through their shopping journey.
A re-envisioned fitting room with tech-driven customer service should offer shoppers direct access to associates when they need them most, allowing shoppers to request new items/sizes and offering shoppers inspiration for new items or outfits they didn’t even know they wanted. The modern associate will be there with them, outside of the fitting room, providing a higher level of service at a time when key purchasing decisions are being made.
Equipping associates to support customers at the front of the store and being aware of when someone needs assistance in a fitting room through technology can make the shopper experience better, drive productivity from associates and, ultimately, lead to more sales.
Modern Solutions For Modern Stores
The modern store expands beyond the sales floor into mobile, digital channels and the neglected fitting room. Despite this vast domain, with many roads for shoppers to make their purchase, too many retailers are stuck in an outdated, ‘sales floor or bust’ mindset. It is time for retailers to transform the try-on journey and gain visibility to the blind spot of fitting rooms. With the right tools turned on inside the store, retailers can empower store associates to improve conversion and, more importantly, enhance customer loyalty for years to come.
Matthew Cyr, CEO and Co-Founder of Crave Retail, has spent most of his career helping brick-and-mortar retailers drive revenue and create better shopping experiences. In 2011, he moved to Asia to grow the sales and store operations strategy for Skechers. In 2015, Cyr relocated to Austin, Texas and joined the Edgecase team, which was acquired by GroupBy, an e-Commerce solution, in 2017. In 2018, Cyr founded Crave Retail to help retailers transform the highest converting spaces within the retail store, fitting rooms. Crave Retail’s turnkey digital fitting room technology is being launched at several Fortune 500 retail companies globally.