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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : January 22, 2015

Retailers: Customer experience also about employees

According to some pundits showrooming has disrupted the way retailers engage in stores. This may be true to an extent, but one expert points out the bulk of purchases are still made in stores, and that leaves a lot of room for retailers to engage.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: Over the 2014 holiday ecommerce spending increased nearly 20% while in-store spending increased around 15% according to different reports. What trends are you seeing in how shoppers are spending?

David Farquhar, Workplace CEO: Thanks to ecommerce, shoppers now have multiple shopping options to choose from, a great help for savvy buyers with time to browse. The perception is that "Showrooming," or the trend of consumers coming into stores to test a product in person, but buying the actual product online, has disrupted the way we create the in-store shopping experience. In fact over 90% of purchases are still made in-store where the emotional hub of the shopping experience still lies. In fact "Webrooming" (browsing on-line but buying in-store) is by far the fastest growing trend.

Kristina: Customer experience has been shown to be incredibly important, both online and offline. How can retailers improve the experience shoppers are having?

David: When a customer steps into any store, their experience is immediately impacted by the service they receive from store employees. Employees can either create a positive shopping experience by providing exceptional service, or cause a customer to turn away due to incompetent service. With so much of a customer's offline experience dependent on the employee, it is critical for employers to motivate employees to behave towards customers as they would have them. Collaborating with employees to create schedules that meet their work-life balance aspirations and giving them plenty notice of those shifts, especially on their mobile devices, has been repeatedly proven to have the highest, positive impact in this regard. The on-line equivalent of this is to ensure the shopping experience is fast, seamless and intuitive so investing in the user experience is paramount.

Kristina: How important are employees to the customer experience?

David: Vital, crucial, pivotal, central: pick any "al" word you like. It's that face-to-face, emotional engagement between your customer and your employee on your behalf. Therefore, employees are #1 to the in-store experience. There is even a popular Reddit thread where contributors list bad experiences they've had that has kept them from returning to a store. The fact that this thread received over 700 comments show how much people tend to remember a bad experience as much as they value a good one and they'll and share a bad experience many more times than a good one.

Kristina: What can retailers do to improve employee interactions?

David: First comes careful employee selection, induction and training, but once you have a "keeper" you need to make sure you do just that. Studies show that the working environment and pride in that workplace is #1 for employee motivation, but hard on its heels is the quality of their shift schedules. 60% of hourly paid workers exiting a consumer-facing business cite disruptive (to their private lives) schedules or late notification of schedules as the main reason they are leaving. Retailers can overcome this by collaborating with their associates to improve their work-life balance whilst delivering on their own business goals. Offering shift bidding and shift swapping, for example, hugely motivates employees on variable shift patterns. Letting them access their schedules on their own devices makes them feel part of the process: like they have a degree of influence. And if you're really smart this means you can turn them into the latest thread of your omni-channel strategy as active brand advocates via those same devices and social media. At the recent NRF Big Show, Workplace announced Workplace Mobile, which facilitates all these interactions.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: customer experience, ecommerce, ecommerce trends, retail trends, Workplace

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