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Ben Rodier Chief Client Officer & Co-Founder Salesfloor

The Omnichannel Retail Associate: 4 new trends

Luxury retailers have invested so much to create a premium experience inside the store, with a specific focus on personalized service from their most valued asset: sales associates.

Think about shopping for a Mother’s Day gift at a premium department store. If you were to visit a store, you would be greeted by a friendly, helpful sales associate ready to assist you with expert advice. The objective would be to find the right gift based on your particular set of needs. This dedication to personalized service is the cornerstone of shopping at a luxury store.

Now consider the same shopping scenario, online. Regardless of your needs, the website would likely feature the typical Mother’s Day merchandise to all visitors: lingerie, perfume, spa products, etc. But what about the premium experience? Where is the personalized service? How is it that in today’s omnichannel world of ‘supposed’ seamless experiences, that customers are driven to what essentially resembles ordering from a product catalogue 30 years ago.

Until recently, retailers have not leveraged their most important asset when it comes to online shopping. Although the sales associate is what connects the in-store experience seamlessly to a premium web experience, the sales associate has been excluded from serving the online customer.

With the help of the right technology partners, today’s leading omnichannel retailers are creating new ways for customers  to shop online with their local store and associates. In order to achieve this, they are redefining the role of sales associate to be as responsible for the online customer experience as they are the in-store customer.

4 new ways retailers are using omnichannel associates to serve online customers

1. Customers have a new place to shop online with store associates. Real-life associates are a retailer’s biggest asset, converting higher than any other selling channel. For example, sales associates at Saks Fifth Avenue can create their own personalized version of the retailer’s website, so customers can shop online the same way as they do in-store. Associates are empowered to curate their own products and to serve the online shopper regardless of time or physical location. Recent data for customers who purchased online directly from associates show a 75% increase in average order value. 
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2. E-commerce is being differentiated with personalized service from local stores. Online shoppers should experience the same level of personalized service that they receive in-store.  Who better to serve the online customer then the local store associate that has product training and knows how to sell. By creating a bridge between online customers and their local store, retailers can differentiate their service offering online, increase conversion rates and create relationships at scale. Retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales have started connecting their website shoppers to real associates in local stores, resulting in a 10x lift in online conversions.
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3. Associates are marketing directly to their local customers. Your associates know more about their local customers than anyone else. With the right tools, retailers can use associates to market directly to customers with expert advice and personalized offers. For example, when clothing advisors from menswear retailer, Harry Rosen send email marketing messages to their customers, email open and click rates skyrocket by up to 300%. Customers prefer to receive a personalized message from their sales associate compared to an impersonal, national newsletter.
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4. Influencers are being empowered to become virtual associates. Retailers are creating their own communities of sellers who drive sales within their local and social networks. Equipped with their own version of the retailer’s e-commerce site, these virtual associates can promote the brand and drive sales. Imagine a network of stylists and personal shoppers being able to represent the entire assortment of a luxury department store to their local customers? 
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In the last year, customers have demonstrated that they want to shop this way and retailers have proven how valuable their associates are when it comes to online shopping. The result has been an increase incremental sales, online conversions and new customer acquisitions. 

How are you leveraging your stores and associates?
Write to me at ben@salesfloor with your ideas or add your comments below.