How many stories have you seen or read about how the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the demise of brick-and-mortar retail? Conventional wisdom says that the pivot to online shopping simply added momentum to an inevitable trend. But as it turns out, the rumors of the death of in-store shopping are greatly exaggerated. It’s true that e-commerce sales continue to grow. But even in the midst of widespread lockdowns and an online shopping boom, e-commerce accounted for 14% of total retail sales in 2020.
So, even though the pandemic may have changed the way we shop, a sizable majority of retail transactions still take place in stores—which means the in-store experience is as important as ever. How can retailers ensure that they deliver the experiences that make a trip to the store worthwhile?
Technology is part of the answer. Retailers have to blend the online and in-store experiences in a complementary way that capitalizes on the strengths of both without cannibalizing either channel. Shoppers expect seamless continuity as they move from one channel to another, and technology plays a key role in ensuring omnichannel consistency. But that’s just part of the answer.
Thinking beyond technology to enrich the customer experience
Another component that’s essential to a rich and compelling in-store experience is the workforce that makes it happen. Employees are living, breathing ambassadors of a retail brand. Their knowledge and expertise can make all the difference in whether a one-time shopper becomes a lifelong customer. They’re already capable of doing so many of the things that retailers want technology to do—like offer personalized recommendations based on a shopper’s interests and previous buying behavior.
To make their stores must-visit destinations, retailers need a workforce that’s connected, engaged, and ready to respond to customers. And to attract and retain the best possible talent, retailers must make the employee experience as rich, relevant, and personalized as the customer experience. It should make doing the things an employee has to do as quick and easy as possible, so those employees can focus on what they were meant to do—providing great service to customers.
Retail’s to-do list for a better employee experience
Here are some of the ways that innovative retailers are transforming the employee experience to drive better in-store experiences for customers:
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