How your store teams can help you deliver brand authenticity

deliver brand authenticity

Authenticity in retail is a much-used word and with justification, because it is essential to the relationships front-line employees have with customers, but it needs to be enabled in the right way and supported with the right tools, says Fabrice Haiat, co-founder and CEO of YOOBIC.

Authenticity in the relationships retailers and brands have with their customers has always been important but never more so than in the last two years as a result of the many changes that have taken place. People want to get back together after being apart for so long; they are ready to re-engage and are looking for more meaningful connections in a world where many of the old rules no longer apply.

Many people have become more acutely aware of the impact their very existence is having on the planet. Fear for the future causes people to lose trust in people and things they once took for granted and drives them towards people and things that are trustworthy. This in turn puts pressure on brands to demonstrate authenticity, simply defined as the attempt by businesses to align their actions with their core values and beliefs.

While once this was all about what brands say, now it is much more about what they do, which explains why the likes of Patagonia are held up as exemplars of authenticity – they live their words. The challenge though is how to communicate this, often remotely as the connection with the customer is so dominated by digital.

Only in the store can the customer get strong proof of a brand’s authenticity and that depends on front-line employees being equipped to communicate the right messages, and being trained to articulate them in ways that are authentic in their own lives rather than learned from a script.

It is worth pointing out that the emerging generation of front-line employees are Millennials and Gen Z so they won’t sign up for scripted content anyway; they expect to be able to inject their own personalities into the relationship with consumers and amongst each other. This then puts pressure on employers to find the right people, onboard them well, find better ways to retain and reward them and give them much greater control over their work lives.

In this way, they are better motivated to serve and deliver that authentic experience. After all, the customer expects a lot. They expect at a minimum staff to be knowledgeable about products, as they always have, but they also expect staff behaviour to reflect what they themselves feel about the brand. This is why beauty brand Lush is held up as an example, in that customers’ first experience of Lush on entering the store is through an interaction with an employee before they move on to looking at products. The messages written in store thus acquire credibility and personality, both essential to authenticity.

Staff expect a lot too. In YOOBIC’s own research, 74% of front-line employees felt underserved because 73% of them still use paper forms rather than connected devices. 34% said they felt disconnected from HQ teams while 40% said they were undertrained, being supported once a year or less. Expecting them to deliver authentic, customer experience-enhancing interactions depends on empowering staff, connecting them and training them to acquire the skills they need.

Supporting staff that want to give the customer a more authentic experience begins with equipping them with the tools to help manage their workloads, including task management tools that make processes clear and intuitive, enabling employees to work autonomously and be confident that they have completed everything to an agreed standard.

Learning should be autonomous rather than served up in the classroom, after which most is forgotten quickly. Employees need learning that can be accessed at any time without disrupting their flow of work. This is a better way of helping staff to know precisely how they can progress.

Tools for communication and learning that connect all employees so they can share knowledge, celebrate each other’s successes and learn from each other are also part of making their work lives more authentic. In addition, social learning enables employees to learn and improve collaboratively, strengthening the sense of community across teams and locations.

For employers, once all these processes are managed and served from a single application, it becomes easier to measure the benefits in terms of conversion and loyalty as well as whether purchases were abandoned or the customer switched brands. Measurable too will be the personalised relationships that staff will be able to build with regular, high-value customers, a relationship that depends entirely on authenticity in order to grow.

Digital also bridges the gap between in-store and online. Authenticity must imbue the entire experience, through every channel and touch point on the journey, so that the customer feels at all times that they are dealing with a company that lives its promises, delivered by staff for whom words and actions are almost indivisible.

Contributor: Fabrice Haïat, CEO and Founder, YOOBIC

YOOBIC CEO and Founder Fabrice Haïat