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Talking Business: How retailers can reinvent the store experience

With UK high street footfall showing its sharpest dip since November 2014, retailers must act now to re-invent their in-store experience.

Many retailers are adopting technology in store to create a fully connected retail experience to combat the impact of a changing landscape and the rise of online channels.

However, in embracing technology are some companies overlooking the golden rules of retail: providing excellent customer service and training staff on this new technology?

There is no dispute that customer service is absolutely key to retail success. In the past this amounted to a warm welcome, a helpful, pleasant interaction and excellent product knowledge. Yet today’s new, tech-savvy breed of shopper requires a new level of customer service that enables them to use the technology in store to create the perfect shopping experience.

Technology is an essential enabler to enhance the customer experience in store

This does not mean store staff can just sit back and let the technology do the talking. Far from it – excellent customer service from well-trained staff is still absolutely key to successful retail.

What is important is how sales associates combine their existing customer service skills with additional ones. Correctly using modern technology to transform the in-store experience and give customers what they really want, when they want it. Technology is an essential enabler to enhance the customer experience in store – as long as you make it ultra-relevant to your shoppers and educate your store staff on how to make the most of it.

Retailers can do this by following some basic rules:

Getting your store staff on board with the technology is absolutely crucial to achieving this. Get it right and it makes for a fantastic in-store experience, increased sales and greater customer satisfaction. Get it wrong and the customer becomes frustrated, leading to lost sales and brand loyalty. It’s important that your sales associates understand why the technology has been implemented and employers must train them to use it effectively, to get the most out of it.

Make the technology relevant. There is absolutely no benefit to a retailer who invests in the most up-to-date technology if the sales associates – and ultimately the customers – are not actually using the devices available. Incorporating technology in store is often a huge cultural change for both parties, so it is crucial that the devices put into the store are well thought out and relevant to the retailer’s customer demographic.

Today’s new, tech-savvy breed of shopper requires a new level of customer service

No one size fits all. Every customer will have different requirements and capabilities, so it is essential to treat customers as individuals. Retailers need to educate staff in skills to assess each customer and their requirements, and then personalise the in-store experience through the use of technology.

Use technology intelligently. In-store devices can assist sales associates in profiling their customers to create a single customer view, highlighting previous shopping behaviours, which is great for upselling and increasing sales. Yet a level of intelligence is still required from store staff to ensure this type profiling is carried out in a subtle fashion.

Traditional customer service alone no longer cuts it in the modern digital world. Technology is changing the face of retail and successful retailers need to have the right sales associates in place, with the right training, to encourage shoppers to benefit from the many technologies available and maximise the return on investment for retailers.

Joe Till is head of multichannel at multichannel retail technology provider One Iota

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