If Honda’s Asimo, the world’s most advanced robot, were capable of any kind of human emotion, his recent debut as Miraikan science museum’s newest tour guide would have been deeply embarrassing. Despite years of refinement, development and significant investment, Asimo couldn’t interpret the simplest human gestures, and in the process reminded us that he’s just a machine after all.
The lesson here is that, though it can certainly enhance and improve our lives in many ways, even the most advanced technology is no substitute for real human interaction, no matter how intuitive or ‘true to life’ it may be. To really make an impact, it’s essential to bring together the best of technology and the best of human behaviour in an enriching and beneficial relationship.
This is especially true in retail, which is facing unprecedented challenges from an uneven economic climate, a move in its traditional customer base towards digital and an increased pace of competition across the industry, as businesses strive to gain ground and increase sales.
Power to the people
In this kind of rapidly-evolving retail environment, it’s the people who will make the difference. While access to products and services via web, mobile and tablet has levelled the playing field somewhat between like-for-like stores, it has also ensured that personal, customer-focused service is more important than ever because, all things being equal in price and quality of goods, it’s the key differentiator which will encourage repeat business and customer loyalty.
The relationship between those who want to buy and those who want to sell has a real, pounds-and-pence effect on business – getting it wrong costs retailers a staggering £15.3 billion [source] a year in abandoned purchases and dissatisfied customers taking their business elsewhere.
The power balance has shifted in favour of the customer – they have a purchase goal in mind, and want to achieve it on their own terms, regardless of channel. Retailers have jumped through numerous technical and operational hoops to enable them to do this, providing increasingly sophisticated multichannel presences. However, when asked what would drive them to spend more with a retailer, 40% of consumers cited an improvement in the overall customer experience [source].
The way to redress this balance in a way which not only gives customers the kind of service they deserve and expect but also delivers an improvement to the business’ bottom line is to apply all of the technical and digital advances which have put the customer in this elevated position to those on the front line of sales.
Equip sales staff with the right kind of mobile platform and they will have instant access to everything they require to provide a superior customer journey with significant sales potential.
- Simple stock management and live look-ups across all retail outlets
- Access to purchase patterns and buying behaviour
- Ability to make product recommendations, special offers and discounts
- Ability to connect with co-workers, share advice and achievements and manage activity patterns
And it’s not only the customer who benefits – integrate individual employees’ sales and performance stats, and management of rewards and recognition becomes swift and straightforward.
The end result is an empowered, enabled and connected sales staff which is inherently motivated to raise the bar when it comes to quality of sales and service. And businesses who are prepared to make that commitment – to trust their staff and use technology to put the power in their hands – are going to revolutionise retail.