Why in­vest­ing in front-end store staff is the best brand mar­ket­ing strat­egy

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Editor’s Note - By Udit Mit­tal

Brands tend to ig­nore the front-end re­tail staff and in­stead fo­cus ex­clu­sively on in­vest­ing in mar­ket­ing not re­al­iz­ing that cus­tomer touch points are vi­tal to mar­ket­ing suc­cess.

Re­tail op­er­a­tions in­clude many as­pects such as store de­sign, dis­play man­age­ment, cus­tomer ser­vice, staff man­age­ment and in­ven­tory op­ti­miza­tion. All these com­bine to make a ma­jor part of the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence but the key to a store’s suc­cess de­pends on ex­em­plary cus­tomer ser­vice.

SOME PEO­PLE MIGHT SEE MY EM­PLOY­EES AS A COST TO BE MAN­AGED BUT I SEE THEM AS PO­TEN­TIAL PAS­SION­ATE BRAND AM­BAS­SADORS. — Richard Bran­son Vir­gin Air­lines

The In­dian re­tail in­dus­try is the fifth­largest re­tail des­ti­na­tion glob­ally and the fastest grow­ing in the world. To­day, as brands – both home-grown and global – vie with each other for a larger share of the cus­tomer wal­let com­bined with the rise of e-com­merce, the re­tail in­dus­try has its fair share of chal­lenges. To­day’s in­creas­ingly dis­rup­tive en­vi­ron­ment has forced brands to stand up, relook their strat­egy and adapt to the chang­ing times.

Suc­cess­ful re­tail­ers agree that the key to suc­cess in e-com­merce or brick and mor­tar re­tail is to of­fer amaz­ing cus­tomer ser­vice. In times to come, this as­pect will be­come even more vi­tal. In-spite of this known par­a­digm, brands tend to ig­nore the fron­tend re­tail staff even as they in­vest heav­ily in brand mar­ket­ing, not re­al­iz­ing that your cus­tomer touch points are vi­tal to mar­ket­ing suc­cess.

Re­tail op­er­a­tions in­clude many as­pects such as store de­sign, dis­play man­age­ment, cus­tomer ser­vice, staff man­age­ment and in­ven­tory op­ti­miza­tion. All these com­bine to make a ma­jor part of the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence but the key to a store’s suc­cess de­pends on ex­em­plary cus­tomer ser­vice. It helps stores in­crease their com­pet­i­tive­ness and helps the lit­tle guys com­pete against the big guys and also with­stand the pres­sures aris­ing from grow­ing on­line re­tail.

Here, it be­comes im­per­a­tive for brands to in­vest in tal­ent. Com­pa­nies tend to skimp on the fron­tend whilst in­vest­ing in their mid­dle and se­nior man­age­ment on-board­ing them at fat salaries but are re­luc­tant to in­cen­tivise the front-end sales per­son­nel. This is the big­gest fal­lacy that proves to be detri­men­tal to a brand’s health and they are then left star­ing in the face of stag­nant or fall­ing sales.

To hire the right tal­ent and ef­fec­tively train them on prod­uct knowl­edge, groom­ing, soft skills, and sug­ges­tive sales fo­cus­ing on cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence that be­fits the brand is the call of the day. The best em­ploy­ees demon­strate a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity, drive and brand own­er­ship. Build or­ga­ni­za­tional con­nec­tiv­ity by show­ing your em­ploy­ees that you care, men­tor them with a fu­ture ca­reer growth plan and equip them with tan­gi­ble and in­tan­gi­ble tools on how to treat cus­tomers and de­liver su­pe­rior ser­vice.

A su­pe­rior cus­tomer ser­vice is the key dif­fer­en­tia­tor to on­line re­tail. Giv­ing cus­tomers a rea­son to visit could be­come your ad­van­tage over e-com­merce and it can be com­ple­mented by of­fer­ing a seam­less omni-chan­nel ex­pe­ri­ence that in­te­grates con­ve­nience and per­son­al­iza­tion for cus­tomers.

Brands would do well to have clearly de­fined job de­scrip­tions, up­dated to re­flect re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, em­ployee re­views and feed­back that should be taken reg­u­larly. There must be com­mu­ni­ca­tion trans­parency in eval­u­at­ing per­for­mance, com­pen­sa­tion, and sales in­cen­tives. No mat­ter what the fu­ture turns out to be, cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence at your store touch points will be the key to suc­cess and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion in a largely clus­tered on­line and off­line re­tail en­vi­ron­ment.

The au­thor is Founder and Manag­ing Di­rec­tor, Uni­son In­ter­na­tional, one of In­dia’s top hu­man re­sources con­sult­ing firms.

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