Customers are shopping online more than ever before. So, when they choose to go to a store to shop in-person, they want even more than they get can online — additional advice or service, unexpected products or promotions, and one-on-one interactions. Yet, more and more stores are eliminating staff and opting for self-service.

How do retail establishments meet higher customer expectations, while at the same time meeting their own staffing and financial needs? The answer is through advanced technologies; specifically, a combination of mobile technologies, integrated with back-end and e-commerce applications, chatbot or help desk support, communication tools and artificial intelligence (AI).

Combining these technologies into a mobile app can help retail stores alleviate a range of pain points. From a customer-satisfaction perspective, these technologies can help develop and communicate product promotions quickly and effectively. They can even help sales associates understand more about each individual customer, so they can provide unique recommendations about specific products. From an internal business perspective, mobile apps can help onboard employees more quickly and easily adapt the size of the in-store team when customer traffic increases unexpectedly.

The results are happier customers, happier employees and improvements to the bottom line.

Enhancing the customer experience

Store personnel are key to extending your online brand and providing a refreshing, new customer experience. When customers shop online, browser or account history ensures they are recognized and known; AI is there to formulate a relevant “next best offer.”

Empowering store personnel with information that can help them focus on customers — answering customer questions and ensuring a positive customer experience — is the key.

The first step toward this empowerment can be accomplished by implementing mobile apps for sales associates. At their most basic level, mobile apps can provide a secure communication mechanism and up-to-the minute product, promotional or company information. There are a range of advanced apps through which a sales associate can, for example, scan an item for a customer and automatically recommend — specifically relative to in-store in-stock information — similar items based on style, color or purpose.

The outdoor apparel company North Face, for example, uses AI to help consumers figure out what type of coat would be ideal for them by combining factors such as gender, use (hiking vs. walking vs. commuting), location (San Diego vs. Toronto) and even time of year. Mobile app technology can put this knowledge in the hands of in-store associates and provide a far more customized experience than a competitor that does not use this level of technology.

Enhancing the bottom line

Mobile applications can also help improve employee satisfaction, as well as the quality of their work, by providing online how-to guides, training content and examples of good performance. In fact, scheduling apps can automatically create work schedules based on employee availability, talents and known store traffic patterns. They can use automated workflows to approve shift-change requests and notify stakeholders. Algorithms can factor in holidays, school schedules, weather patterns, local community events and more.

Mobile apps can also help managers efficiently manage task assignments and monitor task progression in conformance with company policies. Shift assignments published via the mobile app can also include push notifications to employees to quickly solicit willing staff for a last-minute extra shift. These tools also help employees track important data such as sales or bonus totals, paycheck information, hours worked in a shift, task and training assignments, and more.

Profit and growth are the business outcomes that measure the effectiveness of any solution. There are multiple examples of companies successfully serving their in-store customers as well as their online customers — with the profit and growth to show for that success. The key is empowering sales associates with the knowledge to provide that unique, in-person experience the customer cannot get online.