Specialist article • 27.10.2017
The "connected" associate
With personal consulting at the POI improving the customer experience
A superficial observation of online growth rates can give the impression that e-commerce is continuing its triumphant march and stationary retail is driven back. However, industry experts know this view is too simplistic and a closer look is needed.
If businesses don’t innovate, they will be left behind. The potential lays in making retail shops intelligent and adapting to modern customer behaviour. Business must also consider the equipment used within the physical store including connected devices such as tablets, beacons, mobile checkouts, Bluetooth barcode scanners, and electronic displays but they should also continue to invest in training their salespeople. According to a study the likelihood of a purchase is increased by 43 per cent when the customer is assisted by a sales person, and the sales volume rises to 81 per cent. 
The connected associate
Modern retailers should focus on the new, connected associate. This next generation of salespeople combines characteristics of the good old sales advisor (expertise and a personable manner) with knowledge of how to fulfill the needs of young shoppers and digital natives as well as all other consumers. The next generation of the associate is therefore knowledgeable, technically versed and appreciates a good sales consultation. What does a connected associate have at his/her fingertips?
- Tablets improve shopping experience
An optimal tablet ensures the associate has all the information needed to do their job. As well as giving access to the shopping history of registered customers, the associate can immediately check stock levels and availability. Current promotions, discount campaigns or even a search in price comparison machines can also be offered to the potential customer.
- Speeding up purchases with a mobile checkout
Long queues at the checkout can test the resolve of even the most patient of consumers and hinder the purchasing decision. Self-service or mPOS terminals significantly speed up the cashless payment transaction.
- Intercom for team communication
Most common in the food retail at the moment, the headset is already the standard equipment of the connected associate. Communication with colleagues, the back office or kitchen and the store manager improves considerably. The audacious loudspeaker announcements for customers are definitely a thing of the past.
- Portable devices for filling the shelf
The process of restocking shelves is sped up considerably with the help of a portable ‘ring scanner,’ which connects to the tablet of the associate via Bluetooth. Using data glasses (augmented reality smartglasses), which expand the field of vision with virtual fade-ins, ensures the well-connected associate is even better equipped, for example through a planogram for product placement.
The key it is carried around by the consumers themselves and it’s their smartphone
Studies show that many customers search online for information around their product before making a purchase  Retailers must gear themselves toward customers by providing support for their smartphone from the moment they enter or leave a store.
More devices that are advantageous to the store of the future include large screen displays, which promote product ranges or touch displays, which expand the range online and enable orders in the online shop. A further important component are so-called beacons. These inconspicuous devices can be mounted in many areas of the store and send data to smartphones via Bluetooth, helping customers to navigate or send current promotions directly to the device or smartphone.
For both the consumer and the retailer, the future is about connection with the Internet. This improves the customer experience and increases the motivation of the employee - ultimately resulting in more sales and profits.
Security is mandatory
Tablets, smartphones, beacons and displays – a true flood of devices, are heading their way to retailers. A comprehensive strategy to manage the devices as well as data security is therefore critical.
Retail companies have been offering cashless payment for a long time, which is now enhanced with mobile payments by smartphone. This process becomes increasingly more efficient as the customer pays with the connected associate. It is therefore self-evident that all solutions continue to follow the standards of the Payment Card Industry (PCI DSS).
The conflict between online and offline is yesterday’s news as the well-connected associate bridges the gap between the physical store and the online shop. Brick and mortar retail companies now have the chance to give their business new impetus and improved profitability by equipping their employees and the store with intelligent technology. This technology can establish contact and improve interaction with consumers who have been coming into stores with their smartphones for some time now, and have been expecting better service.
 Mindtree, 2016.