Retailers recognize and are investing in the link between great associate experiences and great customer experiences. They are enhancing the employee’s ability to engage customers better by providing training and education, implementing technologies to make the associate’s job easier, and some retailers like Walmart are even increasing associate wages. Retailers understand that by creating a better experience for their employees, those associates will service the customer efficiently, and in turn, save the customer both time and money. Retailers are tackling three areas now to create a successful workforce, including:
- Increasing Wages. Walmart recently increased its minimum wage for associates to $11. Similarly, Target raised its minimum wages to $11 at the end of 2017 with the expectation to continue those increases to $15 by 2020. Starbucks will be investing $120MM more per year with increased wages for employees. The new US tax laws have reduced corporate taxes and a strong retail market has led to increased funds available for corporations. With unemployment at 4.1% the lowest in the past decade , these funds can be used to attract candidates and reduce turnover. Successful companies like Costco, with high double-digit growth have seen dramatic success with employee turnover of less than 6% in part due to wages averaging more than other retailers.
- Expanding Training and Education. “… investments in our team members drove solid performance in 2017,” explained Amin Maredia, Sprouts Farmer Markets CEO. Sprouts registered the highest customer service scores in its history and improved team-member retention over previous retention rates during Q4 2017 and across the full year. Walmart continues to expand the 185 global training academies that it created in 2016 and 2017, where students (i.e. associates) are learning skills to better serve customers and to advance in the company.
- Introducing Associate Technologies. Lowe’s is doubling down on its virtual reality (VR) commitment – however, instead of more customer facing functionality, the company is building the “Holoroom How To: Red Vest” platform, which uses VR to teach associates how to use equipment in the store. Walmart is using VR technology through partnerships with companies like STRIVR to reach 140,000 associates each year. Wegmans uses Digimarc watermarking on private label products to improve scanning reliability, create faster (and smaller) check out queues, and make the overall experience much more convenient for customers.
Learn more about the store associate’s evolving role in the following Forrester reports:
- Digital Store Success Hinges on Associate Productivity
- The Digital Store Blueprint Impact to the Customer
And please reach out to me to discuss evolving technologies and processes in the store.