There’s an interesting discussion happening in the retail space at the moment. Battle lines have been drawn, and camps have been pitched.
On one hand you have the nay-sayers of human contact. The ones who profess the demise of the in-store sales team. After all, people are useless, and robots just do things better (they probably complain less too).
On the other you have the pro-human movement. These are the ones who see unequivocal value in having people on their front-line and are even prepared to invest in having more. They’d like to see their sales team injected with some fresh talent.
We’ve seen this argument before with e-commerce. The online stores which were said to make bricks-and-mortar defunct. And again, its seems to be the retail juggernaut Amazon leading the charge. This time they’ve spilled over from the virtual world into a physical one.
So, what’s a retailer to do? How can anyone possibly do well in an industry where people are telling you you need to take such extreme measures in order to be successful?
Go big, or go bust…...Or perhaps there’s a smarter alternative.Before you rush to make any rash or irreparable decisions, here’s six steps to help you decide whether or not your sales team is worth keeping:
(HINT: They are)
1. Don’t let FOMO ruin your customer experience
The fear of missing out runs rife in retail. All the time we see businesses innovating in new and exciting ways.
Sure, copy-catting may yield positive results in the short-term, but this isn’t a truly customer centric approach and the risk of alienating your audience is high.
Also think of it this way; if you decide to slash the size of your sales team for the sole reason that it's because that's what your biggest competitor has done, then you may find yourself faced with the problem of figuring out how to build a sales team from scratch (and fast), if things don't pan out.
2. Define your position along the retail spectrum
First of all, you need to take a long hard look at your business and decide what ‘type’ of retailer you want to be. This is a very important step, because the retailer that you want to be and the retailer that you currently are will, more-often-than-not, be different.
Once you know this then you can start to set a strategy for where you sit along the spectrum of retail - are you majority virtual or majority physical? Or perhaps now, more importantly, are you majority tech or majority people?
Knowing this will help you refine your sales team structure, and even reinvent your sales team responsibilities.
3. Decide what role your sales team plays in your customer experience
The next step is realising that there’s no right or wrong place to be, but what is important is figuring out how you can make your customers love shopping with you. Do you need to delight them with human interactions, or do you need to wow them with fancy new tech? Once you know what it is that makes your customers tick you can start to design and implement a strategy to deliver the delight to your customers.
Perhaps it’s rolling out in-store tech like; shoppable windows, mobile payments or augmented reality. Or it could be that your frontline staff need training on how to provide the best experience possible to your customers. To keep customers in-store you need to offer them something they can't find online, or in many other stores - awesome customer service. That's why it's so important to invest in retail sales training and give your team the tools they need to keep customers engaged.
4. Keep in mind these key facts
90% of purchases are still made in-store, and the main reason is that customers like a tactile experience. They want to touch it, they want to smell, they want to hold whatever it is that they’re considering purchasing.
Check out this talk by RedSeed CEO and Co-Founder, Anya Anderson, on the transformation of retail.
5. Test, test and re-test
Taking the above two steps is almost futile if you’re not constantly trying to innovate. So, make sure that you’re testing a number of different opportunities in your business to find out which one lands.
6. Once you’ve found it... don’t stop!
The rate of change in the retail industry is exponential, and now more than ever is not a good time to rest on your laurels. The last two years has seen a max exodus of well established retail brands, both here and abroad. The common problem seems to be their ability to keep up with the pace of change, seeing them lose touch with the customer base.
To get around this, be agile. Test lots of things in small pockets and see which ones deliver the best results. This allows you to keep costs down while still finding something that works for your business and for your customers, and could potentially save you from having to unnecessarily cull entire sales teams.