By : Tim Burrow
March 09, 2017 12:12 AM
For specialty retailers, the current trading environment may well be among the toughest these stores have ever experienced. While the threat of online retail has been growing for the best part of a decade, in the last year or two, a range of new offers and technologies have made the landscape even more challenging.
For many stores, the biggest challenge is how they keep up with the major online players. Amazon, for example, was responsible for 51 percent of ecommerce and 23 percent of all retail growth in the US in 2015, with offerings such as Prime's free expedited shipping helping convince many consumers to make the firm their first port of call, regardless of what they're looking for.
So, how can brick-and-mortar specialty retailers compete with this? For many, the key advantage over ecommerce competitors is their people. Knowledgeable, friendly sales associates can make a big difference to specialty retailers. And at the heart of this will be technology that gives these associates the tools they need to connect better with customers, give better information, and answer questions.
Meeting the needs of the connected consumers
Today, when a customer walks into a store, they're already armed with more information than ever before. They will have done their research beforehand - including on sites like Amazon - and read reviews, so are likely to know exactly what they're looking for. So it's vital that associates on the shop floor have the right information at their fingertips in order to have an intelligent conversation with these connected consumers.
Arming associates with this information also helps ensure they can improve the shopping experience for customers and help ensure they get what they came for. So if, for example, a customer wants a particular dress, but the store does not have it in the right size, the right tools allow the associate to locate the right item quickly - whether this be on the company's online store or another nearby store.
They can then choose the most appropriate way of getting it to the customer, which could be having to delivered to the original store or sent directly to their home.
Giving associates the tools they need
In order to give associates this power, they need to have the right technology tools available to them. Solutions such as NCR Sales Advisor, for instance, offer a complete enterprise-ready platform including POS capabilities, real-time inventory and product information, and loyalty details that enable them to make more personalized recommendations from the shop floor.
From the customer perspective, this gives them a much richer, personal experience that makes them want to choose an in-store interaction with a human associate ahead of the likes of Amazon. And for the retailer, this technology helps make life much easier for employees on the front line.
In an environment where ecommerce and self-service have become big buzzwords in recent years, the personal touch that an empowered sales associate can provide can play a major role in helping specialty retailers compete. And with the right technology platform in their hands, they can achieve this and help their stores better compete.