Live from Internet Retailer: Do your employees have a clue?

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SAN DIEGO — Store employees have it hard these days. For one, said RSR Research partner Nikki Baird, it’s difficult for them to gauge why customers are even coming into the store in the first place.

“Are they here to use you as a showroom?” asked Baird in her seminar at the Internet Retailer Convention & Exhibition this week. “Or are they here because they’ve done all of their research online and just want to buy?”

A customer’s shopping trip, Baird continues, no longer begins and ends in a store. But your in-store employees still have an influence on online sales, which is why training and employee retention is just as important as it was before the Internet boom.

Some of the biggest problems Baird sees is a disconnect between in-store salespeople and the online department, and overall employee training. For example, if a store decides send an SMS coupon to the phones of its customers, in-store employees should be trained in how to redeem the offers.

“Store associates by default are a level one help desk,” Baird said. “So if your employees aren’t onboard in terms of following through and making it happen, it’s a bad experience for the customer.”

And, because of the wide range of information available online, store employees may know even less about the products they’re selling than their customers— especially when you consider the notoriously high turnover rate that affects the entire retail industry. So keeping employees informed about new products, and happenings in your store, is important.

Finally, it’s imperative that you know which departments get credit for sales. If a sale is made online, does the store itself get credit, or does the online department get credit? If an item is purchased online but shipped to another store, which store gets credit? And will these credits ultimately affect your in-store salespeople? Whether they do or not, you should tell them. “[Salespeople] don’t make a lot of money to begin with,” Baird said. “So if it affects the way they get paid, you really have to take into account who you’re impacting and how they make money.”

More from the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition:
SHOP TALK: Where to place your in-store pickup counter
Business tips for economic survival
Tips for competing against e-commerce giants
Consumers research online but prefer to buy local
Producing budget-conscious videos
Convenience top reason to shop with smartphones