Despite great leaps and bounds in the gadgets and devices available to in-store associates, nearly 50% still say that customers have better technology than they do, according to a recent survey by Tulip Retail.

This perceived gap means that very often customers are entering the store with greater product knowledge than the employees themselves, which limits associates’ ability to provide the in-depth product knowledge today’s customers expect.

Lack of Technology Hurts Relationships and Retention

The survey shows many store employees (almost one-third) don’t even have the ability to look up inventory in stock in real-time at their own store. This undercuts their ability to offer a level of service and product knowledge on par with e-commerce rivals, and frustrates customers looking for accurate information about what’s in stock.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey also reports that most store associates feel they would benefit from access to the latest mobile technology, which they could use to access information about inventory, customer history, product information and even online price comparisons. Lacking this technology hampers retailers’ ability to place online orders for customers looking for items that are out of stock at their store.

Most survey respondents (65%) say they don’t stay in touch with customers by text or email once they leave the store, which squanders a real opportunity to build on those customer relationships, adversely affecting customer retention efforts in the process. In fact, just 17% of those surveyed said they actively interact with customers outside of in-store interactions. Engagement with customers is further diminished with the plethora of daily tasks unrelated to building customer relationships, with 44% saying they spend a disproportionate amount of their time on things like folding clothes and stocking shelves.

Putting the Right Tech in Associates’ Hands

Stores are catching on to the importance of equipping their staff with better technology, but only 39% of the employees surveyed say they currently have the mobile devices necessary to deepen their ability to serve the customer. Today’s most successful retailers seamlessly meld their brick-and-mortar experience with their online presence. A big part of that is ensuring their staff has unfettered access to not only the in-store inventory information, but the ability to check their online stores and place orders for customers right then and there.

Thanks to the internet and mobile technology, today’s customers usually arrive at a store armed to the teeth with pricing and other product knowledge. If brick-and-mortar stores hope to keep pace with online retailers, their staffs should have every available tool at their disposal to match and even exceed their customers’ knowledge.

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