How store digitalization benefits staff

Equipping frontline staff with powerful technology benefits everyone: customers, management, and store associates themselves.

A lot has been written about how store digitalization and smart stores benefit customers and retailers. However, there’s a third group of stakeholders who are often ignored - store associates. A well-designed store should take their needs into account as well.  

Most store staff actively want technology to help them do their jobs. 60% of them are dissatisfied with the technology available to them and 70% say that improved technology would help them do their jobs better.   

However, frontline staff often feel threatened by the introduction of in-store automation. To them, a self-checkout means a cashier losing their job, and a Web kiosk means less need for a manned customer service desk. If they can’t see a benefit to the new technology, they have no incentive to make it succeed.  

It’s important to show your staff how store digitalization can be good for them as well. They have an essential role to play in making your store successful. Even with new technology throughout the store, customers still need - and want - to engage with staff when they need assistance.  

Automation and AI shouldn’t sideline or belittle your store staff. Deployed effectively, it will actually help them by improving their workflow and empowering them by giving them more responsibility and the ability to perform a wider range of tasks.  

Automate routine tasks 

The most obvious effect of store digitalization is that many boring, repetitive tasks can be done automatically with no human intervention. This frees up staff to take on more varied and more interesting customer-facing roles. 

Putting staff out on the floor interacting with customers instead of at a checkout scanning goods directly affects your bottom line. 64% of shoppers want stores to actively recommend them products. 86% will spend more than expected when given product advice, and 90% will come back to a store where they got good advice. 

Put a knowledge base in your pocket 

Customers expect store associates to be knowledgeable about every product in your inventory. That’s a huge challenge for your employees. Your customers have probably already done their research online, so at the minimum you need to level the playing field and give your staff an easy way to find out everything they need to know, instantly. 

In a digitalized store environment, your store associates should be equipped with mobile devices that allow them to pull up detailed information on every product, including reviews, availability, location, delivery options, pricing discounts, and alternative products.  When a customer asks a question, they can be confident about being able to give an accurate, informative answer. 

The power to do more 

Staff mobiles can be so much more than a glorified Web site. They can enable store associates to assist customers in all sorts of new and exciting ways. For example, they can do mobile checkout, place orders for delivery or pickup, help customers create personalized products, book appointments to meet with product experts or personal shoppers, and so on. Anything that can be done at a service desk or online can be done by a staff member equipped with appropriate mobile technology. 

This greatly expands the role of the store associate and offers them additional opportunities to serve customers and deliver value. 

Increase productivity with mobile task management 

Smart stores also change the way you communicate with staff and enable them to prioritize their workflow. When a task comes in, software can automatically allocate it to the most appropriate staff member, based on their expertise, current workload and location. This can include both scheduled and immediate tasks, such as collecting items for a pickup order, bringing items to a customer in a fitting room, consulting with a customer about a purchase, and so on. 

The system can then send a notification directly to their phone, tablet or smartwatch, no matter where they are. This gives each store associate a prioritized list of all their upcoming tasks, which they can work through. Managers and team leaders don’t need to physically find a staff member in order to give them a job, and staff members don’t need to return to a service desk to find out what they have to do next. 

Reduce stress and churn 

Finally, empowering your store associates has an enormous benefit from the HR point of view. By enabling them to engage directly with customers and solve problems instead of performing boring, repetitive tasks, you make their day less stressful and more enjoyable. You’re also treating them as valuable knowledge workers and experts, which increases their self-esteem.  

This incentivizes employees to stay with you and creates a stable, happy workforce.  

The empowered employee 

Equipping frontline staff with powerful technology benefits everyone: customers, management, and store associates themselves. As Sacha Berendji, Group Property, Store Development and Technology Director of Marks and Spencer puts it, “We have built a culture around serving our customers how they want to be served. Today, a huge part of that is developing digital capabilities in our physical stores.”

Ida Hanne Pettersson

November 04, 2022


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