Technology crucial for knowledgeable staff

shutterstock_341236202A key advantage drawing many consumers to the online marketplace is the mass amount of product information available at their fingertips, allowing shoppers to thoroughly research any product before taking out their wallets. Overcoming this challenge is crucial for physical retailers looking to get potential customers in the door and away from their online competitors.

Thankfully, physical retailers have exclusive access to a formidable weapon in the battle for shoppers’ pounds – the sales associate. Armed with product knowledge, sales associates can provide an enormous benefit to the overall shopping experience, sharing their expertise and making recommendations to customers.

On the other hand, unknowledgeable staff can be a major deterrent for shoppers, sending them and their pounds out the door and into a competitors shop.

Unfortunately, retailers can’t realistically expect their entire staff have all the answers and information customers want in their heads. Instead, retailers should look towards mobile technology, such as tablets, in order to ensure their sales associates always have the information they need on-hand.

The mobile solution

Armed with a tablet, fully connected to key internal applications and databases, the sales associate has instant access to all of the information a customer could ask for. Finding the answers to a customer’s questions, such as stock availability, shipping times or features, would no longer require the staff member to check the storage room or call a more knowledgeable member of staff for assistance, essentially leaving the customer alone on the sales floor. Instead the sales associate could remain with the customer for the entire sales process, demonstrating the features of the product right on the sales floor.

A mobile device would also enable the sales associate to demonstrate the entire range of colour options and available SKUs of the product via the device’s high-resolution screen – effectively putting an end to the customer-employee guessing game of how different options may work.

Mobile devices can also bring a level of personalisation to the shopping experience. If connected to a store’s customer relationship management system, the sales associate has access to the customer’s purchasing history and wish-list, allowing them to make informed recommendations and upsell products more efficiently.

In order to compete effectively with both online retailers and other physical stores, retailers must make best use of their sales associates, equipping them with the instant knowledge they need to provide each customer with an efficient and pleasurable shopping experience as soon as they walk through the door.

Killing the queue

An equally challenging obstacle retailers must overcome in order to attract and retain customers is reducing the amount of time they must spend in queue.

In a recent study conducted by Intel and Box Technologies, 41% of shoppers admitted to having abandoned a purchase due to long queue times. Additionally, 86% of consumers said they would avoid a shop altogether if they deem the queue to be too long and 27% said they have been annoyed by other shoppers while in queue, particularly those who budge in line or practice public displays of affection while queueing. Queues, of course, are not an issue with online retailers, but physical retailers also have the tools available to significantly reduce or even completely eliminate the need for their customers to wait in line.

Mobile Point of Sale (mPoS) could make queues a thing of the past. By enabling sales associates to process card payments regardless of location in-store, purchases can be made directly on the sales floor. For consumers, this means they will no longer be required to put up with queues. For businesses, this could lead to a significant decrease in abandoned purchases, more customers coming through the door and a much higher rate of customer retention.

Off the sales floor

The benefits of equipping staff with tablets or other forms of mobile technology aren’t only restrained to the sales floor. When staff are not assisting customers or handling purchases, they can use their devices to facilitate a number of “behind the scenes” tasks.

If connected to the company’s internal applications, tablets can be enabled to manage inventory, order products or check the status of shipments, for example. If other connected devices are present in the retail space, such as Bluetooth-enabled printers or digital signage monitors, staff can also print labels and control the content displayed on the digital signage.

Technology has a key role to play in retailers remaining competitive in a digital world. The retailers who have already embraced these practices are familiar with the many benefits they can bring, as evident by their knowledgeable staff and happy customers.

By Raj Parmar, marketing director, Box Technologies