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How Best Buy, Warby Parker, & Saks Fifth Avenue Empower Associates

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Many retailers these days are looking for ways to improve their customer experience with mobile technologies like AI, AR/VR, and more—all with the goal of improving CX. But while learning and applying the right technologies is key, retailers should not underestimate the impact that associates have on the future of CX.

Most in-store conversion rates are in the vicinity of 30-40%, while increasing web traffic is still only converting at 1-2%. This presents a huge opportunity to enable associates and drive traffic and sales online at much higher rates. To make this happen, associates need to be trained, equipped with the right technology, and trusted to serve both online and in-store shoppers without a hitch. This article explores 3 great examples of retailers who are getting associate enablement refreshingly right in 2018.


1. Best Buy

At the recent Future Stores Miami conference, two Best Buy executives described their efforts to invest more in their associates over the last three and a half years: by investing in support for customer and product interaction, they have reshaped employee training. What does this involve exactly? Well, conducting one-on-one interviews with employees across the country to glean information on application and technology usability problems, and other challenges of the job–for starters, according to Timothy Embretson, Best Buy’s director of retail user experience.

Rather than using the previous “clunky, corporate technology” that Shari Rossow, VP of retail operations at Best Buy says “felt more like bricks than tablets,” the company has now taken the plunge and invested in devices employees are already familiar with. “Do you need to train them at all if they’re using applications that they use in their everyday life?” asks Rossow. These efforts have helped drop employee turnover by “well into the double digits,” according to Embretson. “Through redesigning systems and bringing new technology into the stores, we’ve been able to cut our POS transaction time in half. We’ve been able to cut training for that system in half as well.” As Best Buy works to improve associate engagement, highly knowledgeable and friendly customer service is likely to continue to serve as the company’s hottest selling point.


2. Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the distinctive eyewear company started eight years ago by four Wharton B-school students, is enabling associate engagement by equipping employees with the right technology, giving them the right training, and equipping with the right tools to compel effective interactions with customers. In short. Warby Parker sales associates are highly effective at making a sale and doing other integral marketing and sales-related activities–like collecting email addresses, for example–without seeming at all unnatural.

Perhaps the most important use of technology at Warby Parker is streamlining the transaction process by equipping each employee with handy customer-visible devices: every sales associate not only carries a tablet but is also highly adept at using it as a POS (point of sale) device. Being rung up for a sale in this way is so casual for the customer that it fails to break the enchantment of the customer experience. That’s huge. Add to all this the fact that Warby Parker sales associates are carefully selected for their ability to be engaging and genuinely warm, their skill at matching customer pacing, and their incredible attention to detail, and you get a truly winning combination!


3. Saks Fifth Avenue

The fact that most retailers have in-store conversion rates of 30-40% means that the majority of customers leave without making a purchase. Companies like Saks Fifth Avenue are personalizing the online shopping experience with the human touch by offering consumers a single point of contact through a mobile app designed for store associates, Salesfloor, which enables in-store associates to recommend and sell products to their clients. The app empowers associates to connect with shoppers across the omnichannel universe: mobile, web, in-store. While a customer may spend significant time in-store trying on a little red dress she loves, while leaving still undecided, an associate can send a friendly follow-up “great seeing you” email which integrates the clickable version of that same red dress. The customer now has a way to continue her in-store experience online with the associate she interacted with in-store! If the customer chooses to buy the cute little number online after the fact, the associate is still rewarded with a commission—further incentivizing her to keep in touch with her customers—both new and repeat ones alike—by way of follow-ups, new promotions, and collections.

On the other end, customers browsing Saks Fifth Avenue online can connect with a live associate present in their local store; a pop-up appears on the site prompting customers to chat live, email, or request an appointment with a local associate. If a customer has a question about a product, they can get answers right away from a real, live, local store associate. The customer can then make a purchase right away, or they can pay the store a visit and finish the transaction in person. It’s a winning combo either way, and a highly streamlined one: the customer gets quality recommendations from a savvy associate, who in turn earns commission regardless of whether the order is placed online or in-store: all-around great incentive.

The Bottom Line

By leveraging and embracing best practices, you enable your associates to deliver meaningful experiences to today’s ominchannel customer. Customer experience is only as strong as associate engagement, after all. Expand your customer service into the mobile world with a retail app that works to bridge the gap.

Salesfloor is on a mission to unlock the power of today’s omnichannel sales associate by connecting them with shoppers online and in-store. We believe that associates are product experts, trusted advisors and social influencers for customers in their local communities. In today’s omnichannel world, retail chains have a unique opportunity to leverage their biggest competitive asset: their people.

Learn all about how this works by getting in touch today.

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