By Yolanda Wang
Even in a world where consumers consult multiple online sources for every purchase they make, the store associate remains the most important face of the retail establishment.
With over 70 percent of shoppers making their most recent purchase in a brick-and-mortar store, it makes good sense for retailers to invest in tools that allow their store associates to provide individually-tailored, real-time customer engagement.
Lately, that’s meant simple and intuitive mobile apps that can turn even inexperienced associates into expert advisors equipped with insights drawn from data and analytics, the collective intelligence of the enterprise, the latest market trends, and data specific to each customer.
And that’s just for openers, because retail customers want more savvy associates who can ensure each shopping trip has a successful outcome. According to IBM’s recent retail study, the number of consumers who consider it important for an associate to solve an out-of-stock problem via a mobile device increased from 41 to 46 percent in the past year.
Fortunately, help is on the way. In a landmark partnership between IBM and Apple, we are creating suites of enterprise apps that transform the workplace and promise to change the nature of work itself. These apps are distinct from anything else on the market – combining Apple’s expertise in user-centric design and individual engagement with IBM’s vast and deep knowledge of enterprise processes, data analytics and security. Our aim is to create mobile experiences for people at work that are as useful, simple, and empowering as those they have outside of work.
For the retail industry, the Sales Assist app supplies every associate with accurate information on both products and inventory availability, along with suggestions based on the individual customer’s buying history. IBM’s research found that 41 percent of consumers thought it essential that store associates offer personalized promotions based on their purchase history, up from 36 percent last year. The new app enables even the newest associate to act as sales advisor, fashion consultant and personal shopper. This new interchange increases the customer’s satisfaction and basket size – while enabling the associate to take pride in delivering on the brand promise.
The Pick & Pack app helps associates with store order fulfillment by logically sequencing orders to be prepared, pinpointing inventory locations and highlighting important deadlines. This app empowers store associates who, today, are called upon to fulfill a wide variety of tasks, including locating and packing merchandise for delivery or store pick-up. By leveraging store merchandise, the app helps retailers reduce inventory carrying and shipping costs. Meanwhile, speedy order fulfillment leads to satisfied and loyal customers.
These new apps are only the beginning of a transformation within the retail industry. If you are a retailer, look forward to having your store associates demonstrate expertise and exude a sense of pride in the help they are able to render. And if you are a consumer, enjoy invaluable service and engaging experiences.