The events of 2020 have forever altered the ways we live, work, eat and shop. As people come to rely on e-commerce for groceries, household essentials and medicine, there's a renewed pressure on retailers to deliver in lighting speed, enable easy returns, and provide a full product profile. This, coupled with the growing trends of seamless customer service, artificial intelligence-powered shopping experiences, and real-time purchase ability has significantly raised the bar for customer experience.
To exceed these expectations and stay competitive, the role of the retail employee has transformed from a one-time interaction to the face of the company, providing a lasting impression on the customer that will determine their loyalty to the brand.
According to recent sales data, e-commerce sales increased by 32 percent in 2020, accounting for 14 percent of total retail sales. With the surge in e-commerce demand not expected to slow down anytime soon, retailers must make the customer experience as strong as possible now. Companies that fail to do so risk customer attrition and losses due to the renewed importance of the moments in which retailers’ staff and customers meet. Right now, those moments are limited, so delivering a unified experience for customers is critical. By digitally empowering employees, retailers can create a well-rounded approach that enhances the customer experience, creating unique touchpoints that retain customers and employees.
A digitally empowered employee is one who:
- quickly and accurately answers questions about inventory and product descriptions to demonstrate passion and knowledge of the brand, improving conversion rates;
- provides a personalized experience by easily accessing customer information like purchase history and preferences to make a customer feel heard, differentiating from the competition;
- enables a seamless and secure click-and-collect experience, demonstrating situational awareness and making customers feel safe;
- saves the sale by ordering out-of-stock items through endless aisle platforms, exhibiting a willingness to go above and beyond and potentially increasing the order value; and
- communicates effectively with other store associates through reliable platforms to increase efficiency, share critical information, and ensure that all team members are equally digitally empowered.
Overall, a digitally empowered employee adds continued value for the customer every time they visit the brand’s store or website and ensures a consistent and smooth experience.
To deliver this experience to customers, retailers must equip their employees with a unified, reliable platform to manage operations at every level. Technology solutions serve as a single platform for retailers, enabling cost-effective, rapid deployment that ensures robust performance and security, and can adapt to the customer’s and retailer’s changing needs. Other edge computing solutions are increasing in utilization, which can pave the way for innovation and advancement.
And as curbside pickup continues to become the star of the e-commerce show, combining the digital and in-store experience, retailers can delight customers at two or more touchpoints. To maximize resources, it's crucial that picking and packing employees are equipped with the latest technologies that lead them down the most efficient path and communicate inventory updates in real time, providing a seamless, safe and personalized customer interaction. When done right, that interaction can be the deciding factor for a customer’s loyalty and brand support.
The events of this year have made the need for retail knowledge and flexibility even more apparent. Every moment — from the customer’s decision to browse a store to post-purchase communication — plays a role in customer loyalty and is driven by employees. Whether it’s having the best e-commerce experience, the smoothest supply chain, or the most dutiful deliveries, it's key to not let any second with a customer go to waste. By using digital operations tools to empower front-line retail employees, brands can make customers feel heard, seen and valued.
This experience is crucial. After all, nothing makes a company more vulnerable to competitors stealing uncommitted customers like an inconsistent customer experience.
Karen Bomber is the marketing director for Honeywell Productivity Solutions and Services.