A couple of years ago I made some predictions about the changing role of the shop assistant. I predicted that as a result of the amount of product information available online, the customer service assistant role would change from being a product adviser to a supply chain adviser. With the wealth of supply chain information available to store assistants at their fingertips, there is potential to take the customer experience to a whole new level.
Looking back over the past couple of years, it’s the role of the bricks-and-mortar store that has changed more than the role of the store assistant. For multichannel retailers, the function of the bricks-and-mortar store has become that of a mini distribution centre. The rise in alternative fulfilment options like click-and-collect and next day delivery means that the store now has to work harder than ever before.
So where does that leave the shop assistant now? It’s no secret that shoppers’ expectations have skyrocketed – they expect a huge choice of products and to receive them quickly via their favoured fulfilment option. In order to do this, there has to be a more specialised worker in-store, armed with enhanced knowledge. The future of the store (and its resulting profitability levels) will be directly connected to the in-store assistant’s skill set.
Store assistants who have a strong understanding of the retailer’s supply chain (or who can have that information at their fingertips via a connected in-store device) can offer shoppers a much better customer experience. Within just a couple of clicks (or swipes) they could find out if a product is available in a nearby store in a different size or colour – and get it delivered to the store/office/home of the customer’s choice!
But store assistants don’t just need to have in-depth knowledge of the supply chain – but of a retailer’s whole multi-channel operation. They need to be well versed in the retailer’s available sales channels, and what fulfilment options it offers.
In an increasingly competitive retail landscape – the store assistant can be a huge competitive differentiator, but only if they are armed with the right knowledge. Retailers need to have a single platform on which store assistants can view network wide stock, regardless of channel, readily in the store.
The retail industry is evolving at the speed of light, leaving some retailers floundering to catch up. As a result, the role of the shop assistant has evolved. But one thing is certain, the role of the store assistant is going to become an even bigger competitive differentiator. But it needs a top-down approach and the retailer’s leadership team needs to lead the change at a process, technological as well as people level. Without a single view of all stock and the enabling technological tools, retailers simply won’t be able to pull the information needed to equip their biggest asset for the fight for competitive advantage.