In a retail climate where the omnichannel experience is everything, stores need to make sure every customer interaction is optimized with the experience in mind. Retailers have made heavy investments in mobile apps and rich commerce websites, trusting that these investments will keep prospective customers from taking their business elsewhere. But the focus on online and mobile channels shouldn’t come at the expense of the in-store shopping experience – the last mile of the customer experience.
While retail customers continue to embrace mobile commerce, data shows that they are still not abandoning the in-store shopping experience, but are actively relying on a combination of channels to make their final purchases. As an October 2015 ETailing survey of shoppers found, 84 percent of respondents said they enjoy a combination of online and in-store shopping. Despite their online shopping habits, consumers remain drawn to the unique qualities that brick-and-mortar offers – The excitement of perusing the aisles, the advantage of actually seeing a product – and the benefit of in-person service.
Today’s informed consumer base expects a higher standard of in-store service than ever before. According to the ETailing survey, three-quarters of shoppers value the help of associates in their final buying decisions. But tech-adept consumers aren’t looking for general support – they’re expecting in-store associates to answer the specific issues that a web search cannot. For retailers, that means having a knowledgeable hourly workforce on hand.
Unfortunately, many retailers struggle to build a committed hourly workforce that can meet these growing expectations. From performance recognition to cross-company communication and training, retailers aren’t doing enough to improve the overall work experience of their hourly staffers. Here are three key ways retailers can build a more engaged staff – and lay the groundwork for happier customers:
- Show you value your employees: If you’re never recognized for great work, what’s the point of doing it? Retailers can often sideline employee recognition, leaving hourly workers feeling like their efforts aren’t valued. If retailers want loyal and engaged employees, they need to show they champion these qualities. That means moving beyond broad, generic announcements and the occasional one-on-one feedback session to a more dedicated approach. Retailers can do this by implementing tools and resources that create direct channels of top-down outreach, enabling positive feedback to be efficiently shared across an organization.
- Open up channels of employee communication: It’s not just shoppers who want cross-channel communication; employees do as well. Retailers should make an effort to provide hourly workers with digital solutions that empower better communication. That starts with enhancing scheduling technology with improved mobile and self-service capabilities. In addition to streamlining the scheduling process, this solution should provide hourly staffers with immediate visibility into relevant updates, company events and activities and other helpful information that’s important to them.
- Bring training up to speed: Employees need to be well-trained in order to be engaged and constantly improving. But too often, retailers rely on decades-old training methods like paper manuals and shadowing. These outdated solutions won’t cut it with an hourly workforce that’s primed for digital learning. Retailers can modernize their training solutions by rolling out digital communication models that emphasize interactive and multimedia-driven education that make training not only more accessible for the employee, but also more timely, more fun and engaging.
Today’s retailers may be tempted to prioritize cross-channel growth above everything. But while building an omnichannel experience is important, so is the in-store experience. By taking steps to create a more engaged hourly workforce, retailers can ensure that the brick-and-mortar shopping environment stays up to par with every other customer touchpoint.