What does the future of work look like for store associates?

Mila Budeva
Mila Budeva
Jun 6, 2017

Cornerstone Capital Group’s latest report predicts that nearly 7 million retail jobs are likely to be automated out of existence in the coming years, leaving a large portion of the retail workforce at risk of becoming ‘stranded workers’ [1].

The latest figures may seem to support pessimistic predictions of tech-caused job-cuts but the assertion of smart technology in retail does not necessarily spell out the redundancy of store associates. Rather, it suggests that the responsibilities of store associates are undergoing a transformation to meet growing customer expectations of a first-class, personalised experience in-store, perfectly synchronised with all digital touchpoints of the customer journey.

With the automation of high volume, low value manual tasks like merchandising, inventory audits and product checkouts, the role of store associates is becoming increasingly focused on the highest value task and providing customers with enhanced, personalised customer service.

Today we look at three examples of how implementing technology on the shop floor can help the transition of store staff to a customer-centric and information-rich way of work.



Bring Your Own Device!

A recent study conducted across Europe shows that 25% of European consumers want better-informed store staff who can offer e-commerce style services such as sharing detailed product information, access to online reviews and real-time stock checks. A quarter of shoppers also expect sales associates to be equipped with a mobile device [2]. In response, retailers are shifting from no-phone-at-work to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. According to Cisco Consulting Services, BYOD creates an annual average value of $1,650 per employee [3].  Making the abundance of data on product availability, pricing, promotions, customer reviews etc. available to store associates on their own mobile devices, enables them to instantly respond to customer queries and make relevant recommendations.

With the right software and mobile security on their own devices, store associates can facilitate customers’ in-store decision-making and maximise upselling and cross-selling opportunities. For example, a store associate is approached by customers, enquiring about the best-rated baby diapers. A quick check on their mobile, and reps can not only offer the consumer-favourite brand but also recommend the best-reviewed baby laundry detergent which is currently on promotion.


Clienteling In-store Made Possible

To provide a truly personalised shopping experience, store associates need a 360-degree view of customers’ online and offline shopping experiences and preferences. Using data about consumers’ preferences, behaviours and purchases enables store associates to provide tailored customer service also known as clienteling. Clienteling, previously exclusive to e-commerce, helps to create a better engagement between store associates and customers and to provide a truly customised shopping experience, with personalised offers and promotions.

For example, a customer comes in to pick up their click and collect order. On their mobile device, or at the till, the store associate can see that the customer has reached 2,000 points on her loyalty card and can double them if she spends £20 on homeware products. The store associate can also see that the customer has recently purchased a 12-piece dinner set and can recommend a matching tea set that will double her loyalty points. Too much shopping to carry today? No problem, the tea set can be delivered to her home address in less than a day!


Endless Aisles

With real-time visibility over inventory availability across channels, store associates can also provide consumers with an endless aisle experience. This way, customers have the same abundance of choice that they are accustomed to online and store associates can save the sale even if the product is not on the shelf. For example, a customer is looking for a specific hair spray brand in their local supermarket. Unfortunately, only bigger outlets stock the brand, so the store associate can check which ones have the product available and can have it shipped to the customer’s preferred location for next-day collection.


Take a look at the future of store operations!



[1] http://uk.businessinsider.com/how-automation-will-impact-the-retail-industry-2017-5

[2] http://www.digitalstrategyconsulting.com/intelligence/2017/02/omnichannel_demands_shifting_instore_expectations.php

[3] http://www.retaildive.com/news/the-new-bring-your-own-the-pros-and-cons-of-byod/383204/