The age of assistance

- the changing role of the employee.
Reading time: 6 minutes

Dr. Watson for Sherlock Holmes, Miss Moneypenny for James Bond and Pepper Potts for Ironman: Each hero has a capable assistant at their side, who can reliably do the work for which the protagonist has neither time nor leisure to do. One that strengthens the hero’s back and keeps him free and thinks of things that might get lost in the heat of the moment.

Why doesn’t each “everyday hero” have such an assistant? Especially the one who is irreplaceable, but is challenged with great competition, a completely new situation in his work environment and also with the lack of competent colleagues: The salesclerk in local retail.

1. The age of assistance – what does that even mean?

When you google synonyms for “assistance” you will get the following results: Support, help, collaboration. Google itself defines its own mission and the associated success in one word: Help.

What does this help look like today in the digital age? The “mobile-first” consumers have evolved into a whole new generation of customers. Thanks to digitization, they are much more curious, informed, impatient and demanding than ever before. These expectations must be met by companies, brands and individual salespeople. Immediately and effortlessly.

In order to meet these expectations with the right digital support, every retailer should be aware of the different behaviors of consumers:

  • The curious and informed customer: Constant access to all information that is used for every decision-making process. It doesn’t matter if the purchase is big or small. According to Google reports, mobile searches for “best xxx” have grown up to 140% and searches for product reviews increased by 35% in the last two years only. Consumers get creative input and compare stores, products and services on their smartphone. 
  • The demanding customer: What used to be the tailored suit once is now the customer experience tailored individually to the customer and his needs. This already starts with the online search for potential shops. “Running shoes for me” or “best hairdresser in my area” describe the expectations of today’s customers: They are the center of attention and the world revolves around them.
  • The impatient customer: Having time is a luxury today, i.e., every purchase decision is taking the time factor into account. “Open now”, “same day delivery” or “waiting times” searches have also increased significantly.

If a brick-and-mortar retailer considers these consumer behaviors, it quickly becomes clear: Without being found online, without being able to provide as diverse and in-depth information as possible about the own business and also being able to advise prospects quickly and effectively in this way, the retailer is not providing a sufficiently positive customer experience. The customer does not experience the kind of support he wants and expects.

Briefly: Today’s customer has an attitude of “what I want now, I can get right away online and on the go”. Retailers and service providers who deliver the best “digital assistance” win.

2. Retail with digital assistance – how does that even work?

It is out of question how important the salesclerk is and remains in local retail. However, not every retailer is aware yet that something must change looking at the large number of (online) competitors to provide self-determined customers and their growing expectations with a useful, personal and smooth experience.

How can the retailer take advantage of the changing behavior of customers which are always online and mobile? Is a website and profiles on social media with posts here and there enough?

Data is the most valuable raw material when it comes to marketing, customer acquisition and retention.

Starting with the search for the best products, offers or reviews, over the first contact via social media, the consultation via the web chat including a payment link up to the self-submitted review – the opportunity to accompany a customer throughout his entire customer journey has never been as great as today. Online as well as offline.

The opportunity to support the customer exactly when he needs it has never been used as well as it is now. With the combination of data from “classic” touchpoints at the point of sale and machine learning, for example through statistics, as well as the automation of recurring tasks, retailers can uncover trends at an early stage, anticipate the needs of their target group and implement appropriate measures. According to a McKinsey study, companies can use machine learning and activity tracking to predict which problems their customers are most likely to face, reduce their response times and shorten interactions with customers. Personalized, targeted, fast customer experience? Check.

3. Digital assistance – support or competition for the salesclerk?

Now we know how valuable data from the digital and classic touchpoints are and how they lead to targeted customer acquisition and retention, but the most important driver for these has remained almost unmentioned so far: The salesclerk. The brand ambassador for local retailers, who should be supported by a digital assistant so that he can focus on his main and favorite task: Personal customer service.

How do innovation and technology affect the required skills of the workforce in brick-and-mortar retail? Should automation be seen as a threat, or does it represent potential?

Already during industrialization, pessimistic voices were raised that saw simple, repetitive tasks and the jobs associated with them endangered by machines. The positive view of such an automation was additional jobs for construction and training, as well as an increase in productivity, cost reduction and the creation of new demands from the automation.

A good example are the electric looms of the 19th century: Fabrics could be manufactured with much less effort and therefore reduced costs. The price reduction caused increased consumer demand, which than further increased productivity through investments in technological improvements. Consequently, also the demand for workers with the right skills increased.

Accordingly, digitization in retail should not be seen as conflicting, but rather as complementary. A strong distinction must also be made between the salespersons tasks and his competence.

If a competent salesperson is not distracted by trivialities and repetitive tasks that are indirectly related to the customer and their consultation but could be automated, the salesperson can fully focus on advising the customer. The customer leaves the store satisfied and is happy to come back. He may even leave an extraordinary review afterwards, which in turn draws the attention of new customers to the store. The innovation of the electric loom from the 19th century has made its way into local retail in the 21st century in form of a digital assistant.

The salesclerk in brick-and-mortar retail will not be replaceable, but needs support in order to be able to master the diverse tasks that have grown around pure consultation due to digitization and changed customer behavior.

Today, this support is provided by digital assistants. A Miss Moneypenny in brick-and-mortar retail deals with repetitive tasks independently and automatically, following instructions from her James Bond, the retailer or salesperson. She assigns tasks to teammates and, if necessary, reminds them of unfinished ones. Miss Moneypenny creates statistics and evaluates them in such a way that 007 keeps the license to sell.

picture source: picture-alliance/ obs

“Assist your customer at every step. What sounds so simple was also relatively simple until a few years ago, was almost the only or at least the main point of contact in the store, in person. Today, the customer’s journey looks completely different, it is much more varied and demanding. It changed to: Assist your sales team on each of the customers steps. The salesclerks and their personal relationship with the customer shape the customer’s loyalty, but a digital assistant empowers the salesperson and uncovers what is often forgotten in the rush.” Markus Demirci, founder and CEO of mPocket.

Do you already have an assistant in your shop which is not made of flesh and blood, but surprises you over and over with his insights and takes over tiring tasks? Or are you still looking for exactly such an assistant to relieve your sales personnel and yourself? Do you have questions or suggestions? Feel free to leave us a comment or write to hallo@mpocket.io. If you liked the article, you are welcome to register for our newsletter to stay up to date or look at www.mpocket.io. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

*For reasons of better legibility only the simultaneous use of male and female language forms is not used. All personal names apply to both genders.

Header picture/title picture/ post picture source: gpointstudio, Freepick.com

Jasmin Janson

Marketing & Communication Manager mPocket

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