Blog post

4 ways to empower your associates

Among the turmoil of last year's challenges, there’s an opportunity to embrace digital transformation.

  • Topic
    Store operations

CV-19 has presented a unique set of challenges to retailers across the world but, among the turmoil, there’s opportunity.

The global pandemic has heightened the need for digital transformation in retail. Already, we’re seeing the brands who have made digitalization a foundation for the way they operate leaping ahead of the competition. As we move towards a new ‘normal’ - if you haven’t done so already - you should be looking at how technology can empower your associates to ensure your stores thrive and meet customer expectations.

Afterall, stores are nothing without associates and the great stores - the ones that stand out from the rest - are those who empower their associates to deliver a compelling experience to their shoppers. With retail being squeezed and competition fiercer than ever, the brands that win are going to be those who are able to give their customers what they want, when they want it.

Technology and digitalization are key to achieving this. And they have the power to streamline your operations, turn you associates into superheroes, and help you exceed customer expectations at every single touch point.

So what can technology do for your store associates, your business operations and your customers?

1. Give associates the tools to exceed customer expectations

Your customers are more informed and more demanding than ever before. They expect the convenience of all sales channels having the same information and being connected in real-time. They also expect your associates to have enhanced product and inventory information at their fingertips (your associates want this too) giving them the possibility to give customers what they want when they want it.

To meet your customers’ needs in a cost efficient way you need to, not only amplify your store fulfillment possibilities with Click-and-Collect (BOPIS), Click-and-Reserve (ROBIS), Endless Aisle and sell, reserve and pickup in other stores, you also have to turn your stores into fulfilment centers, meaning ecommerce orders can be shipped from your stores and that stores can ship orders placed in other stores. With ecommerce sales soaring it’s also important for the stores to handle returns of goods bought online (BORIS). It will keep the costs for returns down and also stimulates upsales.

On top of this you should empower your store associates with mobile points of sale and customers will expect contactless payment methods. With mobile devices your associates can also quickly adapt to the need for things like curbside pick-up (especially important in a world where social distancing is going to be commonplace for the foreseeable future). These are all features which can dramatically increase sales.

In short, you need to make omnichannel retail a reality. And the only way to do this is by being able to access the same real-time information from all your sales channels. We know, as a forward-thinking retailer, you understand this but many still believe true omnichannel is complicated and costly. It isn’t. Modern cloud-native technology - and the people who understand it, like Sitoo - make it simple.

With a mPOS and unified commerce platform in place you’ll have the tools you need to unify your sales channels in real-time, simplify inventory and order management, to sell and fulfill everything anywhere, and to handle returns everywhere. As a result, your associates are empowered, you’ll exceed customer expectations, and your business will thrive.

2. Make communication & task management simple

CV-19 very quickly highlighted one huge problem many retailers face; communicating with staff is easy when they are all in one place, but when they aren’t, it’s fraught with difficulty.

Many associates won’t have a corporate email address and their personnel files might be missing a personal email address or an up-to-date cell phone number. It’s why using an app to communicate with them makes perfect sense.

Right now, stores need to be able to pivot quickly. They need to start selling again to get products moving.

"And they need to evolve into new versions of themselves - for example by becoming a true unified commerce fulfillment centre as mentioned above. But they can’t do this on their own." As Tristan Rogers CEO of Concrete Platform says, there’s no stores without staff.

"Retailers who have invested in digital tools - like Concrete - for communication and task management, can respond, react, and communicate instantly. It means they are perfectly positioned to adapt and evolve as the current situation develops - and if there’s further disruption later in the year - they are in a much stronger place to deal with it."

Tristan adds: “This situation has demonstrated how critical associates are to retail. If you can't work on an individual level with all of your employees and if you can't educate them, and engage them, and take them on a journey, you’ll always be dealing with a constant churn problem.

“It always comes down to the same thing, you need stores, because customers want an experience and brand stories and experiential retail - all the things the internet can’t deliver. I think there'll be a very strong resurgence of physical retail when this is finally over. And that physical retail will only be brought to life by great store staff. So, now is about making sure you really understand what the value of your associates is and that they have the right tools to serve customers in the best way.”

3. Turn flexible working into a reality

CV-19 has further highlighted the need for flexible working and for this to be built into the work lives of your associates. There’s a relatively high chance your staff will - at some point - be forced to isolate themselves either because they are sick or a member of their household is.

This, coupled with changing consumer behaviours and new times of peak demand, means flexibility has to be built into your schedules and you have to have the ability to be able to change your schedules (and notify your staff) in an instant.

A new report from leading workforce management software provider, Quinyx, found store associates are currently unable to achieve a work life balance, with two in three (68%) giving up sleep, hobbies, and normal eating routines due to inflexible schedules.

Workers say they were also regularly forced to choose between their personal lives and their jobs, with the majority missing social events or holidays (70%) or major milestones such as funerals or weddings (49%) due to inflexible schedules.

It also found that 78% of store associates will go to work when they are sick - with half saying they still did so during the CV-19 outbreak, largely due to inflexible schedules or fear of being fired.

These figures further highlight the need for using technology to make flexible working a reality. From an employer’s perspective, a mobile-first workforce management solution enables you to respond to the needs of your business in an instant. From an associate’s perspective, they have the power to pick and choose when they work, switch shifts, and easily fill new shifts you make available - all from an app. Again, it means you are in a position to be agile and to react and respond instantly.

4. Making the rest act like the best

The pandemic has also forced many retailers to streamline their business operations. Efficiency and productivity have to be priorities as - with revenues taking big hits - many retailers are having to do more with less.This is where services like everyday training from Maze Feedback can help. By diving deep into your data, they are able to give you actionable insight into which best practices truly impact your KPIs. They can help you see what your best performers do to generate results and help you replicate that across your entire organization.

If there is a silver-lining to CV-19, it’s the fact it’s brought to light the need for retail to change with the times and for that change to happen now. These different tools and technologies combine to help you become better at what you do. They help you provide an experience to your customers that’s second to none. They help sell more and sell with greater efficiency. And they make your associates both more productive and happier. It’s a situation where your business, your associates and your customers all win.

Technology is going to play an increasingly crucial role in retail. It will help retailers bounce back from the pandemic alongside helping them prepare for how customers behave in the ‘new normal’ and be ready for any further disruptions in the future.

At Sitoo, we’ve put together a special package to help you accelerate your digital transformation and can get you up and running with it in less than a week. Find out more through the link below.

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