It appears that 2019 is the Year of Loyalty for retailers.
Brand new loyalty programs, enhanced programs, introduction of tiers, and premium loyalty. These changes are implemented to spark customer engagement and drive more purchase frequency and brand loyalty.
While these efforts are highly commended and designed to position retailers for success, there’s one piece of the puzzle that isn’t talked about enough: The in-store associates.
It is critical to ensure your in-store employees are prepared to effectively share your unique brand message.
The Value of Passionate In-store Associates Can’t Be Underestimated
In-store employees occupy the front lines of customer interaction and represent your best brand evangelists.
It is crucial they are fully trained to articulate the amazing consumer benefits associated with loyalty program launches or updates.
Let’s face it: You can have the greatest loyalty program in the world, but if your in-store associates aren’t educating customers about it in an effective way, customers won’t know about it.
The value of passionate and knowledgeable in-store associates can’t be underestimated.
A fully engaged in-store staff can effectively communicate your loyalty program’s benefits to maximize the impact.
How to Train Your In-Store Associates
To give you a real-world example, look at Bob’s Stores.
The Northeast-based family apparel, footwear, and sporting goods retailer was looking to launch a premium loyalty tier on top of its existing and highly successful free loyalty program.
Loyal customers and tenured employees were quite familiar with the benefits and rewards of the free program.
But it required a great deal of support and training to ensure customers and staff were fully aware of the enhanced benefits and rewards within the new premium loyalty tier.
The following points, which were critical to a successful rollout at Bob’s Stores, are recommended for any brand modifying its loyalty program:
- In person, in-store training
- Scripting for associates; what is the “elevator pitch” for the new program
- Simple but descriptive in-store marketing, including but not limited to counter mats, in-store banners, window ads, and in-store radio announcements
- Link to video training
- Incentive program for store associates getting sign ups
We coached Bob’s on the training and scripting and with the creative assets above. But no matter who produces those materials, brand or loyalty partner, they are critical to helping in-store associates evangelize the program.
Make the In-Store Experience Personal
The key to a memorable in-store experience is engaged associates who can personalize their interactions with customers.
In-store shoppers love great deals but crave unique and memorable customer experiences.
Emotional loyalty is a desirable asset for any retailer. There’s no substitute for a personal experience with an associate in a vibrant store environment.
Store associates make a difference. They are the frontline employees who sell your loyalty program and any changes that are made to it.
Take Whole Foods, Nordstrom, and Apple. These companies invest heavily in their store associates and it shows.
A retail store can’t serve as a warehouse for moving goods out the door. It must be a place filled with inspiration and a personal touch.
That will instill loyalty in your customers and keep them coming back.
An Omnichannel Experience Builds Loyalty Moments
When articulating any changes to your loyalty program, store associates must be trained so a seamless omnichannel presence is apparent to customers.
Creating and maintain an effective omnichannel presence requires a consistently memorable experience no matter what device a customer uses.
Omnichannel allows more ways for a brand to reach its target audience. To make this happen, store associates need to be fully versed in a brand’s loyalty program and any changes that occur.
If your brand is truly omnichannel, you’ll be well positioned to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. The more omnichannel a brand is, the more accessible it is and the more valuable it becomes.
In-Store Associates are the Face of Your Brand
Your associates are the face of your brand. They should be armed with all the right tools to deliver a superior customer experience that can build customer loyalty.
As a retailer, it’s critical for your in-store associates to engage customers and get them excited to sign up.
It’s the associate, when given the proper tools, that will deliver the right information at the right time to the customer.
That personal touch is what develops emotional connections.
After all, if your in-store associates aren’t excited and knowledgeable about your loyalty program, how can you expect your customers to be?