With the rise of online shopping, retailers have to work harder than ever to attract and retain customers. Contrary to the old saw, shoppers only care about price; what shoppers are really looking for is relevance.
Shoppers often find relevance in retail employees who are knowledgeable and passionate about the products they sell. When that is lacking, retailers often find that their customers feel irrelevant and unimportant. One way to fix this is by first making employees feel relevant and confident.
The opportunity is for retailers to invest in their employees and make them feel like an important part of the shopping experience.
What is relevance? The state of being connected to something more than yourself.
The need for human connection is powerful, but instead of joining others and coming together for something positive, many people today only find relevance from being hypercritical on social media.
Part of the reason is they feel alone when in-person shopping. They are either ignored by store employees or asked the same impersonal questions. Those poor customer service experiences are a result of untrained or relaxed standards.
Associates also feel irrelevant because the retailer they work for doesn’t train or challenge them to grow. The opportunity here is for retailers to train their employees, so they feel relevant and automatically pass that on in their interactions with customers.
By investing in their employees, retailers can ensure that shoppers feel heard and valued when they come into the store.
Here are five ways to build relevance with your retail crew:
- Create a Sense of Ownership Among Staff
- Encourage Positive Customer Interactions and Feedback
- Invest in Employee Training and Development
- Build an Inclusive Retail Culture
- Assign Relevant Tasks to Employees
Creating a Sense of Ownership Among Staff
Giving retail employees ownership over their tasks can help them feel empowered and valued. When they are trusted with specific duties or projects, it helps them feel like an integral part of the team. Retailers should encourage their staff to take the initiative and develop new ideas for improving customer service or increasing sales. This helps motivate employees while creating a feeling of ownership in their work and the store itself.
Lisa-Marie Hanson shared her story about an early job with an exceptional manager in this post.
“She knew that developing others fit into her work of being a leader. She challenged me daily to do my best and enjoy and find meaning in everything we did. One day while working together on the floor – she said, “On Mondays, instead of you being the Assistant – you can be the Manager – the actual Manager…, and I’ll be YOUR assistant!” Monday came – and right off the bat, a buyer from New York called… I heard Laura say with a smile – ‘Let me put on the manager. What? I had to take the tough call, and handle it while she beamed, watched me sweat, and figure out how to be successful at the same time! Every Monday thereafter, she deferred to me in customer situations and fashion-merchandising moves that I thought were fun. I learned through experience.”
Encouraging Positive Customer Interactions and Feedback
Retailers need to ensure that their customers receive exceptional customer service so that they keep coming back. Encouraging employees to build relationships with customers, give personalized recommendations, and collect customer feedback can help make their interactions more meaningful.
Employers should reward positive customer interactions by praising employee performance and recognizing their efforts. Keeping customer relevance in mind helps employees feel appreciated while motivating them to do even better next time.
I had received a nasty sunburn and was supposed to film in a few days. I went to Nordstrom in Santa Monica, where an associate, Nui, helped me get all the right products so the redness would go down. Coincidentally, my face started peeling the next day, and I drove by that store.
As I walked in, Nui spotted me and said, “What have I done to your face?” We both laughed, she grabbed some samples, told me what to do, and I left confident I’d be all right. She stayed relevant after the sale.
Investing in Employee Training and Development
Creating a successful customer experience starts with investing in employee training and development. That means retailers need comprehensive onboarding programs for new sales staff. It has to go much further than how to ship from the store, clock in, and have rudimentary skills.
Those new associates need to understand how to interact with customers more than how to use the POS system. Ongoing training sessions should be provided on customer service best practices, product knowledge, promotion strategies, and upselling techniques. With regular training and support from management, employees will stay motivated while building their skillset.
I walked into a Maceoo shop in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. After a few minutes, a woman came over and asked, “Can I help you?” I asked for my size. “Let me see if we have it in the back.” I continued to look around when a nice young guy dressed head-to-toe in the brand asked, “First time in our store?”
I said, “Yes,” and he told me how the designer moonlights in fashion; he writes code for a living. He continued about the quality of the materials and esthetic. She came over to me and told me they didn’t have my size. “It’s last season’s.” I left without buying, but my interest was piqued.
I stopped at yet ANOTHER Maceoo store where two staff members were working hard together, just like old friends. The saleswoman invited me in and made shopping fun. She encouraged me to try things on, she matched outfits, and it was clear she was a pro.
I said you have to be the manager, she introduced herself as Angelique. I asked if she was named after the old Dark Shadows soap opera character. She was. She was confident and stayed relevant throughout the sales process by joking around and sharing stories. We found we had a lot in common.
Building an Inclusive Retail Culture
Retailers must create an inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and respected. This Retail Management strategy creates an open dialogue between employees and management, encouraging feedback and providing recognition for performance.
Employers need to create a culture of belonging where employees feel like they’re part of the team, not just another cog in the machine. By fostering an environment of inclusion, retailers can help employees stay motivated while improving their customer service skills.
Assigning Relevant Tasks to Employees
For retail employees to feel relevant, they must be assigned tasks that align with their skill sets and interests. This helps them stay engaged while giving shoppers a personalized experience that meets their needs.
For example, if someone is passionate about fashion or technology, assigning tasks related to those products can make them feel more involved in the shopping experience. By giving employees tasks relevant to their strengths, retailers can ensure that customers have access to knowledgeable and passionate sales staff.
You can do more with relevance
By creating an environment where retail sales staff feel relevant and valued, retailers can improve staff morale.
That is the heart of increasing sales.
Investing in training and development programs, fostering an inclusive culture, assigning relevant tasks, giving employees ownership over their work, and encouraging positive customer interactions are all effective ways for retailers to increase sales by making their employees feel relevant. It’s not only good for them but what your customers seek as well.
We are pleased to mention that the author Bob Phibbs aka the Retail Doctor (who has contributed to BRA with outstanding articles like this one and so many others that we have reposted over the past couple of years) has also contributed to BRA monetarily. We value his relevant retail insight and encourage you to learn more about his offerings by clicking on the following link to his website: www.retaildoc.com
– Doug Works, Executive Director BRA
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