The Great Digital Divide Between Consumers and Store Associates
In today’s hypercompetitive retail environment, there’s mounting pressure for retailers to leverage their brick-and-mortar presence as a competitive advantage. This reality arguably makes the store associate the most important asset retailers have. Associates can provide the personal service that differentiates their shopping experience from their competitors, including online pure-play retailers. In fact, store associates that effectively engage customers can build important relationships with customers and ultimately drive brand loyalty.
Yet, traditionally these front-line workers are under-served, neglected and not part of strategic technology investments. Stuck with a cash register, stationary POS app and a paper black book, the majority of associates are not mobile-enabled, not as informed and not ready for today’s savvy customer. At Tulip Retail, we call this the great “digital divide.” To better understand consumer in-store shopping experiences, more specifically their experiences with store associates, Tulip recently surveyed over 1,000 consumers and unveiled a startling finding — 83 p[ercent of shoppers believe they’re more knowledgeable than retail store associates. How disheartening it must be for an employee to interact with customers and add very little value to their visit. How demotivating it must be for an associate to ask a store visitor the simple question, “Can I help you?” and not be able to help the customer in the way they expect to be helped. And how frustrating for customers that are left without direction. These issues must be addressed by retailers and the survey reinforces that opportunity — 79 percent of survey respondents say knowledgeable store associates are “important” or “very important” — proving that retailers must invest in their associates and satisfy consumer expectations.
In fact, the best-in-class retailers today are already addressing the “knowledge gap” and the “digital divide” between consumers and workers through mobile devices and mobile apps, designed to provide associates everything they need to better in-store shopping: product information, inventory, customer information, order status, sales guidance, and personalized recommendations. The best-in-class mobile apps also include tools to improve store employees’ effectiveness and efficiency, including self-paced training, black book management, task management, time card management, scheduling, automated follow-ups, appointments and mobile checkout.