The Human Touch: Why Retail Staff Are Key to Joined-up Customer Journeys

Woman smiles at camera while serving customer

In an era of fast-moving technologies and changing shopping behaviours, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the future of retail lies in its ability to keep pace with new digital tools. However, you’d be wrong.

Yes, we lived in an increasingly connected society. Yes, a consumer’s buying journey might start on their smartphone, progress to an in-store visit, then be completed via tablet. But to assume that creating a joined-up customer journey is merely a matter of investing in the right tools and technologies leaves out one important factor: the human touch.

The Power of Retail Staff

Smiling retail employee hands customer their purchase

We may live in an increasingly digitalised society, but that doesn’t mean consumers no longer value the expertise, support and engagement that only a skilled retail employee can provide. For example, according to one survey:

  • 61% of shoppers said they value or highly value asking retail staff for product recommendations.
  • 72% of shoppers said they would be inclined to ask retail staff if a desired product was in stock at another store.

These findings are telling, as in both cases the shoppers could self-fulfil their needs using a mobile device. Nonetheless, the majority still preferred to engage with an actual person.

In other words, while consumers certainly value factors such as convenience and value for money, the power of excellent customer service should never be overlooked.

Retail Staff & The Customer Journey

Saleswoman showing two customers a hiking boot in climbing shop

So how does this tie in with efforts to provide your customers with a more connected, joined-up journey?

Importantly, according to the same survey cited above, consumers value useful interactions with retail staff, and expect staff to have access to the same information and tools as they do. For example:

  • 45% of shoppers expected retail staff to be knowledgeable about online-only products, in addition to those available in-store.
  • 69% of shoppers expected retail staff to be equipped with mobile devices that enable them to quickly look up product and inventory information.

The message here is clear: if you want to provide your customers with a joined-up journey, investing in the latest technologies is not enough on its own. You need to invest in your staff as well.

How to Improve Customer Journeys by Empowering Staff

Retail staff can play a vital role in providing customers with a positive, joined-up experience – whether they’re offering in-depth product knowledge in-store, advising on delivery options via live chat, or using an iPad to order an out-of-stock item.

But how do you get your retail staff to a position where they can offer the highest level of support, along every step of the customer journey? Your strategy might include:

  • Ensuring that retail staff have access to the same technologies as customers – for example, equipping in-store retail employees with iPads.
  • Giving retail staff instant access to complete, real-time inventory and product information.
  • Allowing retail staff to access customer information that enables them to provide personalised customer service.
  • Holding regular training sessions regarding new products, in-store technologies and services (including those that are only available online).
  • Providing in-store, help centre and delivery staff with similar capabilities and training.
  • Enabling retail staff to communicate with consumers digitally – for example, via live chat or text message.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, no amount of new technologies can replace the human touch. The services you offer are only as good as the people providing them and, in the fast-moving retail sector, it’s more important than ever to invest in the recruitment and training of high-quality staff.

What’s more, it’s important to remember that, by providing a joined-up journey, you are simply meeting today’s customers’ expectations – not exceeding them. This is not enough on its own to differentiate you from the competition. Having helpful and knowledgeable staff on hand, however, can make all the difference.

Interested in learning more about the different ways you can provide your customers with a truly joined-up journey? At K3 Retail, we can help. Take a look at the services we offer here.

What’s your strategy for helping retail staff provide customers with connected journeys? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below.

Ace retailers serve up their Wimbledon best

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Wimbledon embodies everything that is quintessentially English. We form lengthy orderly queues, we sip Pimm’s and politely applauded the talented players while indulging in the delicacy that is strawberries and cream. Tie in the fact that this is one of the few sports Brits seem to do pretty well at and it becomes quite a big to do. With an engaged and captive audience, we couldn’t help but wonder, ‘How are retailers cashing in on the sporting event of the summer?’

The nearby Tesco stores have taken advantage of the Wimbledon spirit, being a stone’s throw away from the grounds they’ve engrained themselves into Wimbledon fever. Although this year hasn’t provided the sunshine we usually associate with Wimbledon, Tesco put together survival packs – complete with sun cream and water – for dedicated fans in the famous queue. Tesco Metro Wimbledon replaced their sign’s ‘O’ with a tennis ball and hosted strawberries and cream tasting competitions.

Tesco Metro - Wimbledon - Strawberries and Cream Sampling for the Tennis Crowd - 2/7/15

What would Wimbledon be without those famous towels? The tense break point moments go hand in hand with the ball boy towel being beckoned by the players. Wimbledon’s official towel supplier, Christy, has now launched their own website, offering even those who don’t make it on to Murray’s Mound the chance to bag their very own iconic towel. Not stopping at the traditional Wimbledon towel, Christy have also produced a child poncho towel, a child wash mitt, guest towels and pop art themed towels for the Wimbledon collection. Prepare to see pop art strawberry towels throughout your summer holiday!

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Links of London is celebrating its 23rd year as The Official Jewellery Licensee of Wimbledon. With the Wimbledon themed collection ranging from strawberry and racket charms, to respectable rose gold cufflinks, the delicate pieces are a perfectly tasteful nod to the sporting event.

 

Retail and social media now go hand in hand. It’s almost alien to think of the days when retailers weren’t engaging with their consumers via social media. So what better way to leverage the Wimbledon buzz. From Simply Be tweeting their perfectly themed all whites collection to Boden’s discounted promotion and Sports Direct seizing the social moment to increase tennis ball sales, retailers are seizing the social moment to promote their Wimbledon offers.

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And last but by no means least, we couldn’t leave out the incredible Wimbledon inspired shop window displays.

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We’re looking forward to seeing how the finals this weekend play out.

It’s less about channels, more about journeys

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As the online world becomes as real as the high streets we walk down, retailers need to focus more on the customer journey than on individual channels.

With the digital revolution, the concept of ‘online’ began. In the early days, e-commerce had a very separate identity from traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping – with online shopping considered fundamentally different from shopping in-store. But in a world where nearly everyone is online, there is no offline. The result? Retailers need to think less about individual channels and how they fit together, and more about the overall customer journey – a journey influenced by the digital world.

‘Navigating the new digital divide’, a report by Deloitte Consulting, explained how the new ‘divide’ is not the gulf between online and offline, but the gap between consumers’ digital behaviours and expectations and what retailers can offer.

Rather than focusing on driving customers to buy on each channel, retailers need to find the value in each channel as part of the customer journey. And the concept of the customer journey itself needs a rethink. Too often retailers drive consumers towards making a purchase, which is then considered the end of the journey. When in fact, the post-purchase stage is an essential part of the journey, and should be where you can convince a shopper to return to your store or website.

There are plenty of myths around how the digital world affects how shoppers behave – most of them negative. Research published on ThinkWithGoogle puts some of these fears to rest.

Myth 1: Online search only drives consumers to e-commerce websites. In reality, online search is driving consumers to find both local information and global websites – and searches will lead to shoppers heading out to the high street. Google reports that three out of four shoppers who find local information in search results are more likely to visit stores.

Myth 2: Showrooming is a threat to retail. According to Google, 42% of in-store shoppers search for information online while in-store. Some 64% of these shoppers use search engines, but almost half head straight to the retailer’s website or app, and only 30% look up a different retailer’s website.

Plus, according to the Deloitte digital divide report, almost one third of customers said that using digital devices during the shopping journey caused them to spend more – with 20% of these shoppers converting in-store at a 20% higher rate than shoppers who didn’t turn to their mobile device in-store.

As the digital world becomes commonplace, retailers need to reconsider how they think about channels. The overall customer journey is more important and the digital experience is something which has a constant – and positive – impact on this journey.

Charity donations made easy with Pennies and Evans Cycles

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We live in an ever increasing digital world, where more and more people are choosing to become cashless. With the rising popularity of contactless payments, shoppers are choosing to avoid the cash points and decline cashback in favour of a lighter purse or wallet.
So in this digital world what we need is a digital charity box and that’s where our partner Pennies comes in. Pennies have developed the perfect solution for this – their digital charity box, encourages and facilitates charitable giving through technology that makes it easier for everyone to give.
So how does it work? Whether it’s by card, online, in store or even by mobile phone, at the point of payment, you will be prompted to add a donation chosen by the retailer from 1p to 99p. The donations are never more than 99p, but just a few extra pennies from each of these transactions will in time add up to millions of pounds for charity.

Robson Green describes the Pennies digital charity box.

A wide range of retailers are already using Pennies Digital Charity Box including Evans Cycles, Hobbycraft, Topps Tiles and Notcutts to provide their customers with the opportunity to make digital donations to support the retailer’s charity of choice. The idea is to add a few extra pennies which can all add up. In 5 ½ years, the Pennies Digital Charity Box has raised over £6.5m for more than 100 UK charities.

Watch how our customer Evans Cycles are utilising the digital charity box and supporting Cyclists Fighting Cancer, a charity making a difference to the lives of children and young people living with cancer in the UK.

To find out more about the Pennies Digital Charity Box, visit Pennies.