Reacting to consumers’ evolving shopping behaviors, noticeably their transitioning between online and offline channels, retailers have had to make adjustments to their organizations to ensure customers and employees alike are satisfied. Internal departments that used to operate in silos — e.g., web and store teams — have become interchangeable, including how they're compensated for their work.
In a session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago yesterday, Steve Haffer, chief information officer, executive vice president, marketing, e-commerce, IT, American Signature, parent company of Value City Furniture and American Signature Furniture, discussed a new program the furniture company has rolled out to incentivize store associates for transactions that occur both in-store and online.
When store associates aren't incentivized for online sales, it creates tension between store and web teams, said Haffer. In order for American Signature to remain successful, with its 100-plus brick-and-mortar locations and growing e-commerce business, it needed to find a way to better integrate the shopping journey across all touchpoints — store, web and mobile, which is frequently the bridge between the first two. And American Signature understood that its 3,5000 store associates — 2,000 of which are commissioned — needed to be recognized for the role they were playing in driving online sales.
Haffer cited three reasons why American Signature has been able to serve the changing needs of its customers and employees: leadership, company values and culture, and integrated technology solutions.
American Signature President Jonathan Schottenstein is leading the furniture retailer's transformation. He's always challenging the company to think about what's right for our customers, Haffer said. If we get that right, then everything else falls into place.
In addition to his commitment to the customer, Schottenstein emphasizes that American Signature does more than sell furniture; it sells experiences and memories. Furniture becomes part of peoples’ lives. American Signature aims to make the process of shopping for furniture easy and stress-free. As Haffer noted, the company lives by the creed that “everyone has the right to a well-furnished life.”
American Signature has established a transparent culture where employees are encouraged to be open and honest, said Haffer. And everyone is held accountable for their work. This culture has led to trusted team members and better teamwork within the organization.
While people, processes and solutions all need to be aligned, the solutions need to be defined by your customers’ journeys — why are they shopping, how do they feel when shopping with your brand. Gathering this data needs to happen before any solution can be put into place, Haffer said. The data will tell you what the friction points are that require human intervention. What it revealed for American Signature is that it didn't understand the motivations of consumers coming into its stores.
There are two distinct types of shoppers at American Signature's stores: those on a scouting journey, who are in the early stage of the purchase process and interested in researching products on variables such as size, style, comfort, color, quality, cost vs. those on a purchase journey, who are ready to buy and interested in information such as product specs, financing options and delivery.
As such, it was unfair to compensate store associates for only closing transactions on that rational customer who was ready to buy in-store, when a good portion of their time was spent working with up-the-funnel emotional customers that weren't yet ready to buy.
Now American Signature store associates are commissioned equally on generating a lead that ultimately converts online, the same as if that customer made their purchase in-store. The retailer has rolled out what it calls Easy Pass, a solution that enables shoppers to start their purchase journey in one channel and then finish it in another.
For example, a shopper can visit one of American Signature's retail stores, select their favorite items, have a store associate create a “sales quote,” then when they get home they can log onto American Signature's website and retrieve their list of items via their email address. The associate that worked with that customer in-store would get credit for that purchase, even though it occurred online.
Our goal is to incentivize every associate to make it possible for customers to live the well-furnished life, Haffer said.