The “Old School” Store Associate of Now, and the Future

Emma Stevens

Once upon a time, the store made it a point to know all their customers, what they liked, what they didn’t, and perhaps even knew some of their birthdays and important anniversaries. When a customer would enter the store, the actual owner of the shop would be there to greet the customer by name, ask about their family and see if they’ve enjoyed their last purchase. The shopping experience was highly personalized and relevant to each shopper's buying behavior.


Much has changed since those days, but above anything else, one thing has remained the same. The store associate. Without a doubt, they have been and continue to be the glue that binds the customer to the brick and mortar store.

Although the retail store has evolved for the better to meet the changing needs of consumers, today’s retail associates still face many challenges, yet they don’t always have the tools to overcome them. They now potentially serve millions of highly informed, price sensitive and often demanding shoppers:

  • According to Manhattan Associates, 7 out of 10 consumers say when they go shopping, they know more than the store assistant.[i]

  • In a recent Retail Systems Research survey, 49% of consumers indicate they get frustrated when they can’t find a lower price elsewhere.[ii]

  • A new study from Adyen shows 79% of consumer respondents have left a store due to long lines.[iii]

We can all agree the retail industry has come too far in innovation to even think about going back to the way things were. But it is possible for retailers to provide the one-to-one personalized customer service in the store that today’s connected customers demand, via the all-knowing store associate.

In today’s retail environment, retailers can’t afford to not invest in their store associates or in-store technologies that can help them do their jobs more efficiently. There is too much at stake and competition is at an all-time high. Recent research from Planet Retail has told us that 56% of consumers want to have technology available in the store. That number will only continue to grow as younger, more tech-savvy generations come of age, join the workforce and increase their spending power. Many savvy retailers have already seen the impact of in-store technologies helping store associates close more sales and focus on being better customer service agents. These include:

  • Mobile payment and self-checkout that reduce checkout times

  • Electronic shelf labels that enable location-based mobile marketing with personalized offers and promotions (via a retailer’s branded mobile app) directly to a consumer’s smartphone.

  • Endless aisle options for improved in-store customer engagement and conversion rates

  • Smart mirror or dressing room technologies for more unique and efficient shopping experiences

Store associates will continue to play a key role in the success of retail stores.

Now is the time to take retail back…to the future.

[i] Retail Week, “Retail 2017,” January 2017

[ii] Retail Dive, Do Consumers Really Only Value Low Price?” April 2017

[iii] Fierce Retail, “63% would shop more if offered preferred shopping method,” May 2017

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Our Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) bring the shelf-edge into the Internet of Things era, helping to create shopping experiences that are more engaging, rewarding and personalised – and profitable. We help retailers optimise sales and margin at the shelf-edge, where 90% of purchases are still made.

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