RBTE 2017: In-store employees central to shops despite focus on tech

Retailers are grappling with the challenge of reimagining their stores to suit the increasingly mobile-first shopper and rather surprisingly one of the key ingredients will be the in-store sales assistant.

Rupal Karia, managing director of retail and hospitality at Fujitsu, said: “There will never be a point when there are no colleagues in-store. It’s about them making customers feel special and up-selling to them - although we are starting to see the days when the payment element goes away.”

This highlights how as technology such as frictionless payment solutions advances in-store, the role of the employee will change. But it will be no less valuable and could well ultimately be the route by which retailers personalise the experience for shoppers.

Karen Harris, managing director of Intu Digital, agreed but recognised that this should be handled carefully. “There will always be a role for personalities [in-store] but it’s a fine balance between them being in the customers’ way and helping them through assisting with making payments and generally speeding things up for them.”

This has also been acknowledged by Dave Abbott, retail omnichannel manager at The Dune Group, who said it is vital that store employees are given the same power as customers by ensuring they have access to the same smart mobile technologies as the shoppers they are servicing.

“The major challenge is to win the hearts and minds of the store employees. Take the fears away from them when using devices. Their role has seen huge changes and now they need to be able to fulfil online orders, and deal with customers...Retailers need to make the technology seamless for them.”

What’s Hot on Essential Retail?