Are Retail Associates Geared Up for Omnichannel?

Discussion
May 13, 2013

Although many retail executives are considered essential for company growth, and remunerated accordingly, lower level staff often don’t see opportunities to excel. However, staffing experts see the new omnichannel retail world as a means for employees to maximize their opportunities through technology and techniques that better enable them to up- and cross-sell.

Genuine omnichannel experiences enable shoppers to use multiple channels to research, purchase and pay for merchandise, merging previously separate off and online shopping worlds into a "cohesive landscape," according to Chain Store Age’s report, "Solving the Omnichannel Disconnection Gap." To achieve this, technology must be adapted and staff equipped with wireless mobile workstations.

By utilizing "quick, efficient integration of core retail processes, including in-store POS and mobile solutions," the core objective of ensuring consistent customer experience will be achieved. "Product information, inventory levels and pricing promised by one channel are readily delivered by the others," the report states.

In "Omnichannel Leadership – the hidden risk facing retailers," a report from executive search company, Green Park, the authors claim that "a general failure to recognize the steps needed to ensure customers enjoy ‘seamless experience across channels’ is preventing growth and loyalty." It goes on to say employees often "fail to ‘up-sell’, losing both vital revenue and further, future opportunities."

The retail industry is "putting its future growth on the line by not recognising the value of the omnichannel function and the instability caused by under-compensation." Compensation, incentives and benefits packages must "attract, motivate and retain valued employees – particularly top digital talent … to forge ahead in a challenging market."

Although Green Park maintains online retail executives are insufficiently incentivized, The Grocer observed Waitrose (part of John Lewis) recently marked its "increased focus on building closer links between the online business and stores" by replacing its "head of web and online" with a "head of omnichannel." Sainsbury’s expanded its "director of online" remit to "director of online, digital and cross-channel."

On the whole, are store associates currently being given the tools and incentives needed to embrace omnichannel selling? How will the retail push for omnichannel change the way store associates are compensated?

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10 Comments on "Are Retail Associates Geared Up for Omnichannel?"


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Frank Riso
Guest
9 years 3 days ago

I agree that most store associates are “out gunned” by the shopper when it comes to being connected in the store. The shopper has access to more information and is more knowledgeable then the store associates. The BYOD initiative helps, but given the need to protect store data many concerns exists with these devices too. Most retailers in the consumer electronics space and just about all specialty retailers realize that all store level associates need to be connected with a better device.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 3 days ago

I recently had a message on my Retail Doc fan page from a shoe salesman who received top honors in sales last month. His secret weapon, “I can save you $20 off any pair you see today, just see me.” He would then order online via the retailer’s omnichannel interface of their website.

After giving the award, the boss said he should “knock it off” leaving the employee confused.

I think this speaks to the heart of what is wrong with omnichannel—integration means allowing the employees to use the very same tools the brands are using to lure new customers online.

The smart ones figure out how to play the game and shouldn’t be punished for finding the holes. After all, if you are rewarding the customers who find the way around your prices—shouldn’t you reward the employees as well?

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 3 days ago

More often than not, store associates are merely given policies and directives to follow rather than be empowered to become an integral part of the shopping journey in the omnichannel environment. Simply providing them with a mobile device doesn’t solve the bigger picture.

Understanding that valued store associates are your best brand ambassadors and empowering them to become an integrated component in the shopper’s journey is often overshadowed by simple ‘block n tackle’ operations. Trying to minimize the payroll is often the objective. More focus and attention should be given to training, empowering and motivating the correct staff would be far more beneficial to make your store more relevant in the digital landscape. Why put up with rude, unmotivated, untrained and uninformed hourly-waged ‘workers’ when I can shop online and just ‘get things done’?

The correct store associates are invaluable to your omnichannel strategy and its execution.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
9 years 3 days ago

So the consultants think that you need better incentives for the executives? Really? That’s going to motivate the people on the selling floor? Until the folks that are on the floor have a reason to care about omnichannel, retailers can talk all they want, nothing interesting will happen.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 3 days ago

In a word—NO!

Store associates may be more familiar and comfortable with “omnichannels” than the people who manage them.

As I have said many, many times. Consumers don’t shop channels—they just shop.

I don’t see stores paying workers significantly more. If omnichannel (whatever that means) is to develop, it will be pushed by consumers and under-leveraged for quite some time by retailers.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
9 years 3 days ago
Many of the title changes we are seeing are still largely superficial, i.e., replacing a “VP of Online” with a “VP of Omni-Channel” without significantly changing the responsibilities and most importantly, without changing the key metrics/goals of the role. That being said, retail organizations that are truly trying to break down silos and be more omni-channel do need to assign new tasks and responsibilities to in-store retail staff. Those new tasks do give retail employees a new opportunity to shine and be noticed. A great retail employee, who may have given great service to hundreds of customers in their store, might now be able to give great service to thousands of customers via the retailer’s social media and digital touchpoints. Unfortunately, very few retailers are really giving good omni-channel tools to in-store associates yet. I look at a retailer like Best Buy who trains and enable TwelpForce members to serve customers via Twitter and SMS as a great example. Another great example is MooseJaw Mountaineering who provides customers complete web history and shopping cart contents… Read more »
Brian Numainville
Guest
9 years 3 days ago

Unfortunately the policies, procedures and directives of management often get in the way of innovative thinking at store level. Many store level employees, if given the tools and freedom to integrate channels, would be able to do so, especially as we consider the “digital natives” who are totally comfortable with multiple channels.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
9 years 3 days ago

This is shaping up to be one of the big “change management” challenges in business today. Even at retailers that have provided the right tools and incentives, I continue to hear and see anecdotal evidence of an omnichannel strategy failing to land on the shop floor. At retailers that are further behind in resetting their strategy and building the tools, management seems to view omnichannel through their stores as more of a challenge than an opportunity. Retailers that set a strong omnichannel vision and are persistent in the executional work it will take to get there will be the ones who begin to separate from the pack.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 3 days ago

The answer is, “It depends” In grocery? No. In consumer electronics? Yes. I think multichannel selling will increase as merchants embrace the flood of business that they can capture.

Rick Boretsky
Guest
Rick Boretsky
9 years 2 days ago

I find store associates to be a huge roadblock in the omni-channel experience. Outdated policies, lack of training, and lack of autonomy is a real problem at store level for associates who must deal the ever increasing number of savvy omni-channel customers.

I have had 2 recent experiences where I was unable to return merchandise at the store, where I had purchased merchandise online. A lack of properly functioning systems, employees knowing what to do in the given situation, and authority to simply override the system/situation and get it resolved with me, the customer. Retailers who cannot deliver the omni-channel experience will continue to lose customers.

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