The Importance of the Empowered Employee to the Future of Retail

Retail, specifically brick-and-mortar retailers, are struggling to bridge to find effective and engaging ways to bridge their digital and physical worlds. Those that are willing to adapt and rethink traditional business models will be the most successful at both gaining and retaining customers. Technology will be key to that success, but it goes beyond traditional technologies like CRM. Why? Because in-store shopping is a familiar, often socially-driven experience that is more than a transactional relationship for many people.  It is and needs to be about the emotional connection.

Working in the CRM industry for years, I saw this need for companies to provide better in-store customer experiences. Even with the right technologies in place, retailers must be better equipped to understand their customers.  How do they do that? By leveraging their most valuable asset – the retail employee.

If you really think about it, today’s consumers lead busy lives and they make buying decisions based on time and need, not an email reminder or promotional offer.  In fact, consumers can research and shop online or via a mobile device, anytime and anywhere. When a customer does in fact take their time to shop in-store, they demand unparalleled customer service. They expect for businesses to understand their lifestyle, their preferences, and what matters to them most. They expect that emotional connection.

Retailers can improve how they prepare their employees to connect with today’s on-demand, discriminating customer.

So what can retailers do in order to empower their employees to not only handle this highly evolved customer, but embrace them, build trust and nurture a long-term relationship? Here a few best practices to implement in any retail environment:

  • Give employees access to the information they need. Start out with the basics. Educate your employees on who the customer base is. Educate them on everything from your customer demographics to recent purchases and especially online behaviors.  If knowledge is power, then the power starts here.
  • Enriching the moment begins before the sale. When given the relevant customer profile and journey information to enrich the moment, employees will be better equipped to use the information when it matters most.
  • Don’t forget about training. Development and training is an ongoing process and something your business cannot get around.  Teach your employee how to use the flood of customer information so that they can apply it in a relevant (not creepy) way.
  • Engagement is the icing on the cake. Encourage your employees to understand that it is no longer just about the transaction, but about the relationship that comes along with the transaction. Employees play a critical role in adding that value.

This may seem like a lot, but we know that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your repeat customers. Additional research confirms that empowered employees sell 87% more on the sales floor. If you can provide your employees with the appropriate platforms, tools, training and educational programs, they, in turn, will be able to provide the knowledge and expertise shoppers are seeking.

David Trice is co-founder and CEO of

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