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Why digital sales associates are vital to the future of retail

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19 December 2016

Alison Wiltshire

Blogs by author:  Alison Wiltshire , Global Practice Lead, Retail and Consumer Goods, BT.

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Today’s digital consumers want shopping in a physical store to be more like it is online — engaging, convenient and personal. Find out how to achieve this.

Supercharge your sales associates.

Paradoxically, it’s the retailer’s real-life sales associates who are key to delivering that experience. After all, what algorithm can compete with a cheerful and enthusiastic human being?  Eighty five per cent of people buy more when helped by a knowledgeable sales assistant. [1]

With digital sales tools and processes, retailers can supercharge their associates, magnifying their impact and creating a whole new customer dynamic in store. In a digital store, highly informed and engaged sales associates can give everyone a personal shopper/VIP service.

Seamless transactions and product knowledge.

The proportion of time traditional sales persons spend on selling can be as little as 15 per cent.[2] But a digital sales associate, freed from restocking shelves and manning paypoints, will be ready to:


•Check inventory on the spot and find the item the customer requests.
 This requires the retailer to have real-time inventory information, to track goods as they enter, circulate and leave the store — and to make that information available to all who need it.


•Discuss with the customer online reviews, competitive offers and pricing.
 It’s embarrassing for sales associates to know less than their customers. Today, 90 per cent of people use their smartphones in store when shopping to compare products, check prices and read online reviews. [3] And 70 per cent of shoppers say they know more than the store assistant either some or all of the time. A digital sales associate can be as well informed as the customer.


•Seamlessly access an individual customer’s purchase history and preferences.
 This makes it possible to act on information about customers by providing them special deals or personalised offers.


•Conclude the transaction seamlessly.
With the right technology it’s possible for customers to pay using mobile POS, loyalty points and arrange for delivery or collection if required.

This transformation isn’t just about handing out mobile devices. Access to information and processes is what matters. The real baseline is a digital store platform, a single infrastructure that brings together customer records, real-time inventory data, digital content, POS and third party services so that any associate, in any shop, can access them on the sales floor.

The magic of mobilising store associates.

Sales associates are the magic ingredient in a bricks-and-mortar store. Equipped with digital tools and processes, they will make the greatest contribution to an amazing customer experience.

Mobilising store associates is one of five steps retailers must take to reshape their physical stores for the digital age. The others include seamless consumer engagement, digitising store operations, security and data analytics.

Alexander Black, BT’s newest concept store, shows how to do this in practice. We’re also responding to the challenge of a changing retail landscape by joining with other technology leaders in the Acuitas Digital Alliance, to make it easier for retailers to develop and roll out their digital store platforms.

To find out more about how you can overcome today’s digital retail challenges, have a chat to our experts at the NRF 2017, Retail’s Big Show, from 15 to 17 January 2017. They’ll be in booth 3181 on level three.


[1] Retail Next (2016). The store of the future. Available: http://retailnext.net/blog/retail-store-of-the-future-infographic/

[2] Retail Next (2016). To the Rescue: The Sales Associate as Retail Superhero. Available: http://retailnext.net/en/blog/to-the-rescue-the-sales-associate-as-retail-superhero/

[3] Retail Week/Manhattan Associates (2016). Technology and the role of the store associate: An evolving retailer-customer relationship. Available: https://www.retail-week.com/analysis/analysis-the-role-of-store-associates-in-the-digital-age/7007077.article