At Quinine, experience has proved to us that, yes, customer journey is important but that there are in truth four pillars to a balanced, successful retail strategy: Business, Brand, Customer and Staff.

Balance is the key to most things: diet, work-life ratio, even ‘the books’.

In the ever-changing world of retail, balance is equally important. Too often we hear agencies and clients speak of customer journey as if this is an end in itself - the Holy Grail of retail. At Quinine, experience has proved to us that, yes, customer journey is important but that there are in truth four pillars to a balanced, successful retail strategy: Business, Brand, Customer and Staff.

The retail environment is the perfect channel for design to create successful cohesion between these four. In this perspectives piece, we look at staff as one of the four pillars of successful retail strategy.

Staff and the interconnection of the physical, digital and human are what make bricks and mortar retail a unique channel. Retail, when enabled by staff, unites the consumer with brand and the best retail design facilitates this union. We believe that the role of staff, in customer engagement, will continue to be ever more important for businesses to maximize the strengths of this channel.

Many of Quinine’s clients are world leaders in media, entertainment and communications and we develop and create their retail strategies and environments. For these clients business models are changing. No longer is yesterday’s ‘sales and commission’ approach viable. In fact, today’s ‘balanced sales and service’ model we see as heralding tomorrow’s ‘sales through experience’ philosophy.

The role of the store – how it functions, its adaptability, format and size –will continue to change. Traditional product display (e.g flat table, flat product) will constantly evolve. For example, through using and understanding body posture we can design opportunities for more meaningful interactions between staff and customer. Staff can help bring complex offers and products to life and and make them more understandable and relevant to individual customers.

When a good store design meets great staff, then magic can happen. Store design that enables staff to do their job better, creates a place they love to be, love to work and are proud of. It helps in all aspects of their role, from merchandising compliance, to store cleaning, to customer interaction.

What’s more, training staff to use the physical store itself as a tool and to not just use the systems behind the sales transaction is vital to help meet business objectives.

Consumer expectation will continue to demand experience in store. This will positively impact brand engagement, loyalty and sales figures, wherever the transactions take place. Think how different retail might be if staff were considered performers rather than sales assistants.

The UK retail industry could do no better than to look at the man who flies the toy plane in Hamley’s. If the man who flies the plane in Hamley’s wasn’t there to demonstrate, would the plane sell? Watching the plane is not just a demo of what it can do, pleasure is elicited through spectacle, it is theatre and it creates desire. Staff can provide the key to making the purchasing experience immersive rather than passive.

Encouraging customers to interact and try new services will involve thinking beyond traditional product display.

Digital is one component of user experience and we need to be mindful about what we mean by it and how we use it. Not all screens are equal. Just having digital in store does not automatically mean the store is ‘experiential’. The digital layer, when used properly, can be a vehicle to allow customers and staff to engage and interact with the physical store.

The alternative sees digital used for digital’s sake, dotted throughout the store without purpose, creating confusing touch points for the customer. It can also be costly for the business.

We strive for meaningful experiences and with so many different customer journeys, staff can bridge the gap, connect the dots and create the difference that adds value. Yet we find that staff are often forgotten in the process of designing a new store format. However, when staff journeys are considered in equal measure to Brand, Customers and Business this helps provide more robust bricks and mortar retail.

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