Retail and digital: how the role of shop assistants is changing

Retail and digital- how the role of shop assistants is changing

What future awaits the world of traditional retail and its protagonists with the boom in online shopping?

In front of a PC screen, immersed in a virtual showcase, contemporary customers – forcibly made more digital by the restrictions of Covid-19 – could get by on their own: browsing the products in the assortment, reading the information sheets, selecting the ones they prefer and concluding the purchase.

An entirely impersonal customer journey, then?

Potentially yes, but there is another side to this: left to their own devices, customers get bored shopping, feeling lost and not involved and, if at first – that of the tightest lockdown – they had to give in to the need to buy only remotely, they demand something extra in the future.

They hope, for example, to recover a bit of normality by sometimes returning to bricks and mortar stores and, even online, they want more assistance, closeness and human warmth: the experience that was offered by shop assistants in yesterday’s world.

To satisfy customers’ needs, the question to ask is, how can you reconcile the evolution of virtual shopping with the exquisitely physical dimension of selling with shop assistants?

Let’s find out together.

Involving the customer today: shop assistants must digitise

Extensive research has confirmed that customers who shop online buy more – and spend more – if they are helped by a sales assistant.

This may seem counterintuitive – virtual buying and human support? – but that is not the case: thanks to digital tools, being close to the consumer at the time of purchase is not only possible but also very advantageous to support turnover and design a new role for the traditional shop.

Where to start? From the idea of mentally leaving the four walls of a brick and mortar store to access, via a tablet screen or a mobile phone, the daily lives of customers. How’s it done? Hooking and nurturing them with every possible tool: messages, emails, newsletters and social networks are some of the modern Trojan horses, perfect for entering consumers’ homes without being a nuisance.

Once approached, customers become fascinated and involved.

Using which tools? The current trends place videos as the protagonists of the new way of shopping. It is now known that 2020 was the year that witnessed the explosion of videos in the retail sector. Take China, where digital commerce is accelerating incredibly and where 37% of online shopping last year did so through video shopping for a total of 74 billion dollars of purchases on Singles Day alone. According to Bloomberg, at least 20% of online shopping in China will be done via video by 2022.

Bringing it back home, and to the change that the role of sales assistants should support, it is worth keeping in mind that also in this case the video is the protagonist. To engage and entertain customers, so-called“one-to-many videos” are perfect: through social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Youtube, shop assistants can transform themselves into modern influencers and have fun presenting the products available in the store with creativity and momentum, to give the customer information and entertainment. A salesperson in a clothing store can take on the role of a model, trying on the clothes and providing promotional fashion shots. A beauty saleswoman can post make-up tutorials on the store’s social page using the new season’s beauty products. A pastry chef in a confectionery shop could have fun teaching customers, how to make trendy decorations for cakes through a series of video episodes.

In short: in this new era, sales assistants become the face of a brand, embodying its personality. Through video content, they give shape to the soul of the store and establish a new, friendlier and more social relationship with customers.

Not just communicators and influencers, multi-channel salespeople are called upon to provide tangible support to customers to buy online quickly and easily.

The most effective way to do this is to take advantage of a video medium for shopping: a novelty in this field is ShopCall, the first one-to-one video channel for shopping that, with a simple video call between customer and store, allows every craftsman and retailer to continue offering advice on purchases, maintaining a central role in the narration of products and the relationship with the consumer.

The advantages of a video call shopping platform like ShopCall? They are twofold both for consumers and shopkeepers: whoever makes purchases is followed by a sales assistant throughout the purchase process, benefitting from their personal professional advice and seeing the products in the store in detail. Retailers can finally regain their position as experts and specialists and, through video, can give more visibility and value to what they sell.

Salesmen as personal assistants: knowing the customer is a must

In a framework devoted to multi-channelling, where online and offline merge and where customers move freely from one space to another, the shop assistant becomes a connecting element and a crucial point of reference to give stability to consumers.

However, knowing how to sell and convince is no longer enough today: in this new context, sales staff are facing a great challenge and, to win, they must evolve by developing communication and digital marketing skills.

They must learn the art of personalisation, striving to offer customers a customised shopping experience, both offline and online, and work – also through digital tools and technologies – to get to know each person and their tastes in depth.

Shop assistants become modern consultants, perfect for creating and offering value on every contact opportunity with the consumer.

Once again, shop assistants shall refine their talent of storytelling and narration: building a story behind each sign and enhancing the products on sale via coherent and convincing storytelling, which is the best weapon to capture the attention of users and start a long relationship with them.

Communicate, fascinate, guide the customer: those who thought that shop assistants were on their way out in the digital world, will have to rethink that notion.