Employees who become true 'Brand Ambassadors' are growing in importance in the multi-channel retail world, due to their ability to combat the 'Showrooming Effect' - in which shoppers use bricks-and-mortar stores to research products before buying them online - according to a study published by retail training company Beyond The Box.
There has been a lot of press coverage recently surrounding traditional bricks-and-mortar retail outlets and the threat from the growth of online shopping and the increasing Showrooming trend. As a result, the company's study concluded, retailers must now put their staff at the forefront of their marketing efforts.
One critical advantage that bricks-and-mortar retail brands have over their online competitors is their staff and the study highlighted the important role that engaged employees play in communicating the brand proposition along with product information and features. Where many expensive brand marketing campaigns have failed, staff training is proving to be effective at supporting in-store sales.
Of the customers surveyed, 96% felt they got a sense of a brand when shopping in-store compared to only 72% who felt similarly when shopping online. Of those 96%, one in five (20%) bought complementary products in-store, compared to only 7% who did so online - suggesting that in-store shopping is still able to engage and connect customers with brands in a way that online shopping doesn't.
"Having staff who are motivated and empowered to be as brand ambassadors is securing brand buy-in from customers and driving up sales," explained Christine Knott, managing director for Beyond The Box. "It's an advantage that needs to be taken seriously by retail brands and it must be carefully protected. Great brand marketers are using skilled retail staff to represent their brand with distinction."
There are clear opportunities ahead for retailers to empower their staff and improve their customer's experience by ensuring that staff are at the forefront of retail marketing efforts. Training staff effectively about the products they are selling helps them become brand ambassadors with the confidence to discuss a product's features and benefits with the customer and answer any questions they may have. That alone can inspire confidence in the brand and assure customers that they have made the right decision to visit the store in the first place.
"Improving the team's communication skills can also add to the overall customer experience. Retail staff play a significant role in brand building - the need for a 'human to human' conversation is the reason many people avoid online shopping," concluded Knott. "But if the visit doesn't meet their expectations, what's the point of traveling to a store in the first place? Not only is training the way forward but service is also critical in helping bricks-and-mortar retailers gain back their competitive advantage."