Future Stores’ Virtual Event Highlights the Importance of Empowering Retail Employees

April 14, 2021

2020 brought it all. The “new normal,” and the “unprecedented times,” were phrases that shaped a new era of retail. 2021 has brought a new wave of challenges, and the retail community is still leading the charge of the future of retail.

If you’re a retailer in today’s environment, you’re likely exploring strategies that will entice customers to get off of their couch to arrive at your curb. We’re seeing more emerging trends in how customers are spending their time in retail environments. As omni-channel retail continues to build momentum, retailers have to provide a distinctive but consistent experience to get consumers to their stores, make them comfortable, and encourage purchases.

At the Future Stores Virtual Event yesterday, we joined countless conversations with industry changemakers who are focused on creating a seamless customer experience. 

These are our top takeaways from the conversations that we had at this interactive event.

Create Seamless Customer Experiences

Retail innovators agree…Customer experience is extremely critical. Some of the biggest shopping behaviors that have changed today are surrounding digitization and e-commerce. We’ve seen incredible online advancements roll out at lightning speeds when experts thought it would take years. 

Honeywell’s Karen Bomber said it perfectly, “Convenience is no longer just at the convenience store. It is at every store. That is the shopper expectation that retailers are going to support.”

While we coax back shoppers to our brick-and-mortar stores in a shopping environment that has been forever shaped by Covid-19, we are learning how to meet customers where they are. 

“Customers want to get the most out of their time,” says Brad Jewell, Senior Product Designer, In-Store Experience at The Kroger Co. “Our new indoor mapping feature allows customers to search for the items that they want to find and get in and out of stores a lot quicker.”

We understand that customers now expect same-day delivery in-stores, to their homes. Shoppers are choosing brands purely out of convenience, and they are looking for experiences that are quick, seamless, and efficient. 

Interactive mapping tools like Kroger’s “Store Mode” is just one example of ways that innovative retailers are meeting their customer base in the marketplace. We love seeing how brands are working with customers to understand where long-term tech investments can propel the industry into the future. 

“I think we would have gotten there eventually, but this last year really addressed that,” says Karen Bomber, Industry Marketing Director at Honeywell. Karen understands that a retail company that invests in technology is a company that is investing in its customers. 

“As retailers are investing, they’re no longer looking for a solution that just does one thing, they’re looking to consolidate tools and invest in single solutions that address all of these demanding workflows.”

That’s why we built Retail Zipline to solve the unique challenges of communication in retail organizations. Zipline is the only solution on the market that combines communication and task management so that your frontline workers always have the necessary context behind requests. The good news is that we’ve been in your shoes and we understand what it takes to start reaping the benefits of employee engagement.

Stay Authentic & True to Core Values

To keep customers loyal, retailers have to prioritize the customer journey—from point of contact to purchase and beyond. At Future Stores, many industry leaders share how they are empowering employees to build relationships with customers through impactful communication.

Boosting brand loyalty among customers means truly understanding who those customers are. 

“You don’t need to reinvent yourself,” says Mark Cardinale, Director, Retail Store Operations at The North Face. “But make sure to stay true to your roots.”

The North Face continuously conducts surveys and asks questions along the way so they can constantly listen to their stores and customers. What’s more, they merged their customer experience team and their training teams into overall operations, since they are both crucial when it comes to empowering employees to create incredible customer journeys. “We look at every aspect of training as it relates to customer experience,” says Mark. “We can no longer hand them one-pagers, we need to engage them with interactive training experiences to nurture authentic storytelling.”

The North Face knows that its employees are the key to presenting core values to customers. This leads us to the last, and possibly most important takeaway from Future Stores.

Empower Your Associates

Employee engagement is crucial for brand success in today’s retail climate.

“You have to have the technology and the right technology in the hands of your associates to be able to deliver on those experiences that are now the new customer expectation,” says  Chris Rehkopf, Store Operations Manager at DSW. “We can’t forget about our associates since they drive the customer experience.”

With more shopping options available to consumers than ever before, brick-and-mortar retailers need to master the in-person customer experience to stay competitive. And your customer’s experience is shaped by your employee experience.

Kroger’s Brad Jewell agrees. “Of course our focus is on the customer, but it’s also on the associate. If the associate is not empowered to see these experiences to the end, they’re going to fall flat. So we have to empower them just as much as the customer.”

At Retail Zipline, this is our core belief, too. We’re invested in the happiness of retail workers, elevating brands even more. 

Zipline was built to solve the unique challenges of communication in retail organizations. Reach out to learn more about how your stores can remain a vital part of the retail experience!

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