The Guru, The Problem Solver, The Seller, The Slogger, The Personal Shopper? What is the role of the future store assistant?

02 March 2017

Role-of-the-future-store-assistantThe PwC 2017 #TotalRetail Survey identified that the most valued attribute for a good in-store experience is store advisors who have deep product knowledge. It got me thinking - with so much change happening within the retail landscape and in particular the good old fashioned "shop"- what is the future role of store staff and what skills do they need to be developing?

Retailers are having a tough time. With footfall in stores down and the national minimum wage increasing by 11% in the last 2 years, the temptation is for retailers to reduce the number of store assistants to cut labour costs. Yet this can be counterproductive because fewer staff means a poorer customer experience = fewer sales.

The challenge is the role of the store is changing. Customers are visiting stores for different reasons. They want to "see, feel and try" products or displays, get inspiration for outfits, meals, home decor, speak to the experts to ask questions but not necessarily buy there and then. They are likely to research on-line for the best price/other alternatives/stock availability and then may order in-store or online. Customers now have access to a global market, with more choice and more data to make decisions.

So the trick for the retailer is how do they develop the best in-store customer experience so that they create loyalty to the brand so their customers spend more. This is where the store assistants have a massive part to play - so what is their new role

The guru?

As identified in the PwC survey, the expert that knows their stuff, deep product knowledge and access to data at their fingertips to answer your questions. They help you make an informed decision amongst the 100s of similar products e.g. what is the difference between dishwasher A and dishwasher B (apart from the price).

The problem solver?

There to sort out your issues face to face. Calm. No effort spared. Able to access your customer data, knows your customer loyalty and happy to change goods whatever the reason. They can locate that "packet of raisins" you are trying to find in an instant (through their mobile?) and takes away your anxiety so you are happy to shop there again.

The seller?

The person who can predict a customer need and sell you more than you were expecting. They know as a click and collect customer coming to pick up your new TV that you may need an extension lead or TV stand to go with it. Or even better, help with installation and seamlessly sell you additional products and/or services.

The slogger?

The super-efficient employee that speeds your order through the check out – or at least acknowledges when you are in a rush. You know these employees are the ones that are the multi-taskers that will also be working in the background to unload deliveries, stack shelves, merchandise products in store at lightening speed. They know they are efficient because they have access to productivity data and tools to make them sell more, quicker.

The personal shopper?

The all-rounder. Personable, knowledgeable, super-efficient, hardworking, helpful and with the ability to on-sell and identify all those products the customer never even knew they needed.  They create a shopping buzz that you just can't get from that "one click" online purchase.

This enhanced in-store customer experience that "us" as consumers are demanding, has raised the bar on the skills (and tools) needed of sales assistants. Retailers will be paying higher wages and so can rightly expect a higher skill level, but where will they recruit these staff from? What training will be needed? What technology will they need to adopt so that assistants have access to product knowledge and customer history? Those retailers that can recruit, motivate, upskill, uptool and retain a team of "Personal Shoppers" - are going to be the ones in the winning seat.

Here is the link to the Total Retail Survey if you are interested in reading more about the latest retail trends.

Stephanie Bloor | Director
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