As you plan and execute your omnichannel retail strategy, your ultimate goal is to create a seamless experience for your customers across all channels. You are linking your brick-and-mortar locations with e-commerce sites and attending to details to deliver consistently in every conceivable scenario. There might be one component of your omnichannel strategy, however, that you are overlooking – your sales associates.

Regardless of how smart your systems get, people will always play an important role in brick-and-mortar retail, whether they enhance – or detract – from the experience you want to create. Here are four compelling arguments in favor of training sales associates as a vital part of your overall omnichannel retail strategy:

  1. Sales associates should be at least as smart as shoppers. Shoppers are more informed than ever before. They expect your sales associates to know at least as much as they have learned by looking up information on their smartphones. iVend Retail’s report Great Omnichannel Expectations,based on a survey of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. and Canada, found 48.9% of shoppers research an item online once before purchasing and 43% research an item multiple times before buying.
    As a part of your omnichannel retail strategy, your sales associates should be trained to access information that will not only help them intelligently discuss the information shoppers have found in their research, but also to change the direction of a conversation about a competitor’s offer to a conversation about why to make a purchase from you instead.
  2. Sales associates should be able to answer questions and take in-aisle payments.Considering many shoppers prefer to buy online, a trip to the store could be driven by the need for more information. Besides touching and seeing an item, shoppers may also have technical questions or just want an opinion from someone familiar with it. Although your sales associates can’t possibly memorize every spec sheet and product description, your omnichannel retail strategy can include training them on how to quickly find this information stored in your databases.
    Sales associates should also be able to access catalogs, sale flyers, and promotion details from their mobile point of sale (mPOS) devices and to take payments when and where the shopper is ready to buy. iVend Retail’s research found about 1/3 of consumers prefer that sales associates provide information and take payments with their tablets (line busting) — this is especially important to shoppers older than 55.
  3. Customers expect personalized service. Technology enables your company to intelligently identify customers and to enhance their shopping experience with personalized service and offers. This is commonplace online, where shoppers are greeted by name, they receive special offers, and items are suggested based on their preferences, past purchases, or “wish lists.” A sales associate can provide the same experience in the store, if armed with customer histories — and training to teach them how to engage shoppers and help them identify and find what they’re looking for.
    This not only makes for a better customer experience, it can also drive additional sales as your associates speak with shoppers about consumables they may be running out of or whether it’s time to replace an older item.
  4. All channels should feel like parts of the same business. A necessary ingredient for a successful omnichannel retail strategy is a consistent experience regardless of when or how a customer interacts with your business. It should simply feel the same — the same messaging, the same tone, the same brand image. Your sales associates need to be trained on your corporate mission and how to deliver the same level of service regardless of whether they are engaging a shopper in-store, helping a customer pick up an online order, signing a customer up for a loyalty or rewards program, or answering questions about a return.

Without a doubt, the ROI from your omnichannel retail technology investments will be impacted by the people who use them. Make sure you also invest in training your sales associates so you can have the best possible return, and ultimately, the most growth across all channels.

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