Mobile Tech Helps Retailers Harness Their Best Asset—Their Associates

E-commerce sales continue to boom but 85 percent consumers still prefer shopping in stores. That's because customers still value the personal experience of the physical store. Consumers still want to see and handle products, interact with a knowledgeable associate to discuss their personal needs, and get the instant gratification of walking away with their purchases. Often shoppers have done their research or discovery online, then go into the store to get help with their final purchase decision.

Today more than ever, the mobile-savvy shopper is going into the store with device in hand, ready to compare prices, features, and functions. Now a nimble and sophisticated new mobile associate communication platform—or mACP—is changing how retailers educate, inform, and evaluate their most powerful and expensive asset: their in-store associates.

mACP is a sophisticated, highly branded, private broadcast network with instant-on, non-streaming video; a self-publishing interface; granular targeting; real-time metrics; field accessibility; instant, internal global broadcasting from an iPad or desktop; and a simple dashboard interface.

Retailers must respect their stores as a key link to business success—not just a place to make transactions. A cross-channel strategy converts an initial inquiry into a high-value in-store experience, and retailers must give customers prompt service with a knowledgeable store associate. In-store expertise drives purchase volume.  The premium in the future will be on creating unique, brand-defining experiences that keep customers coming back.

Only those retailers who invest in effective associate communications and training strategies and in up-to-the-minute, on-floor communications can keep their employees one step ahead of today's demanding, tech-savvy consumers.

Game-Changing On-Floor Video Engagement

mACP is a reality because on-demand non-bandwidth mobile video learning and other communications delivered to associates on the sales floor, in between customers (IBC), has changed the game in retail associate communications and training.

Mobile-equipped associates accessing up-to-the minute video-based knowledge can create these remarkable 360-degree in-store experiences that consumers now demand. In support, digital tools such as the iPad, already used in many stores for mobile point of sale (mPOS), inventory lookup, and other applications, can deliver continuous non-streaming, instant-on app-based video learning and communications IBC—thereby extending iPad ROI.

Until recently, however, effective video communications could not easily be delivered into the hands of an iPad-equipped associate.

The Void Finally Filled: mACP

The business case has been strong for app-based interactive mobile training and communications technology, deployed locally or globally, to strengthen the product knowledge, selling, and conversion skills of individual sales associates, without taking talent off the selling floor.

Successful apps are vigorously optimized for mobile deployment and clearly demonstrate how video training and communications can be executed accurately, intelligently, and successfully on the sales floor, across retail and other service industries.

These apps work as a private broadcast network between HQ and associates to deliver information and analytics via a dashboard interface. It is delivered on a highly secure, PCI-compliant SaaS-based platform and was developed by retail industry veterans with feedback from clients that represent some of the most successful fashion and lifestyle brands worldwide.

Smooth, high-quality video and large multimedia files are available on iPads even in stores with low bandwidth. This is a key benefit, since even retailers with higher bandwidth often reserve it for mission-critical activities such as credit card transactions. In addition, upgrading bandwidth, especially in a decentralized company, significantly increases operating costs.

Improving KPI with Compliance

Industry-wide, training completion hovers at roughly 30 percent for associates whose individual engagement and results are not visible, or are unaware of monitoring. Some retailers aren't comfortable with "tracking" an employee, but once they realize that the majority of their communications and training efforts are in vain, many scramble for simple tools that help assess participation and progress.

For retailers who provide field leaders the visibility to follow and assess individual progress, the rate of completion has reached as high as 98 percent. The same completion rate holds true for key directives such as in-store tasks, price changes, promotions, etc.

Without regular reinforcement and confirmation, even the best communications and training programs could be ignored or distorted, resulting in poor performance.

The Importance of a Great Customer Experience

The growth of cross-channel retail has transformed the role of the physical store and particularly its associates—from conventional salespeople to essential brand ambassadors. Today's consumers enter a store to enhance their own research, engage with products, test functions and fit, get personal one-on-one assistance, and—among other pursuits—acquire products instantly. How well today's associates inform, up-sell and cross-sell, even engage customers with brand Web sites and other digital tools directly impacts ultimate brand success. mACP helps companies thrive in the competitive in-store universe by creating a brand-defining experience that keeps customers coming back.

David Harouche is the founder, CEO, and chief technology officer of Multimedia Plus. For more than 20 years, David has developed innovative, technology-driven programs for a broad range of clients, making Multimedia Plus the foremost provider of learning and communications solutions and a resource for market intelligence.

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