The Reality of Today’s Omnichannel Retail Landscape and the Stars Behind the Movement
The past 18 months have reshaped many industries, especially retail. As consumer expectations continue to evolve and many expect a spike in online shopping as we move forward with the recovery period, retailers will need to meet consumers where they are at, which will rely heavily on the workforce composition and the role of the store associate. Retailers are already making this shift, as noted in McKinsey’s survey where 76 percent of U.S. apparel executives said they plan to improve omnichannel integration in stores. For this reason, we need to appreciate and invest in the store associates that are the driving force behind today’s retail landscape.
The pandemic accelerated retail’s omnichannel solutions capabilities to heights never before seen. With the role e-commerce has played in outdating the traditional “four-wall economics'' view and U.S. retail m-commerce sales expected to nearly double between now and 2025, the need for retailers to effectively equip those with the ability to wield and operate these omnichannel capabilities — store associates — is more important than ever before. The new way of shopping through the empowerment of the store associate has finally come to fruition, years ahead of schedule.
With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, it’s quite a contrast to years past when many retailers were hesitant to invest in omnichannel capabilities. However, last holiday season they were forced into expanding their virtual selling capabilities and are now convinced, prepared and more developed in their offerings and expertise. Retailers witnessed the opportunity that lives within an omnichannel model and there’s no turning back. The once viewed experiments of clienteling, social media engagement, endless aisle, live and video appointments, BOPIS, and curbside pickup are now mainstream means of selling.
So what’s the secret sauce behind the omnichannel engine? Store associates. Last year, store associates were lauded as heroes because they were frontline workers, furthering the reason that companies have embraced the fact that they cannot operate without them. The acceleration of omnichannel retail has evolved the role of the store associate for the better. Once viewed as a starter or summer job has now turned into an entrepreneurial role that requires a diverse skill set. Today’s store associates not only have to be technologically advanced, but also personable and well-versed on the retailer’s selection and offerings. The associate now leverages their network, from welcoming a customer who walks into their store to reaching out to their social media network and suggesting items.
At Salesfloor, we’ve been empowering the store associate from the get-go in the best way we know how: providing the right technology to better equip them to do their job. We understand that without the store associate, the service isn’t as personal and customer loyalty isn’t as high. They're a step-by-step companion, fashion expert, and unlimited source of knowledge through the entire shopping process. By empowering the store associate, forward-thinking retailers have seen their sales climb both in-store and online, as they both contribute to the same bottom line — a realization that many have recently awoken to.
As we approach the 2021 holiday season and move into 2022, we must recognize how critical of a role the store associate plays in retail and celebrate these individuals, as we recently did with our second annual Associates of the Year Awards. Retail isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the store associate, yet they will both grow and strengthen together. The store associate will only become more important as the industry progresses. It’s time we start realizing that.
Oscar Sachs is the CEO and co-founder of Salesfloor, a clienteling and mobile point-of-sale platform for store associates.