Store employees of the future will be affiliates, not associates
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the blog of Nikki Baird, VP of retail innovation at Aptos. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.
Retailers are creating affiliate-like programs to enable associates to create digital profiles, drive online engagement with shoppers, and potentially earn themselves fat commissions. But such programs require adjustments.
In most cases, the efforts include everything from personal, curated web pages to text messages and personalized e-mails, all created by the store employee with a personal connection rather than a corporate ESP acting on some collected behavioral information and basic segmentation. Since it’s easier to track the link to purchases, some retailers are paying commissions for the affiliates’ sales.
Nordstrom has invested in the ability for “personal stylists” to connect with customers digitally. Macy’s offers affiliate status to a limited number of store associates — 300 as of June 2018 — who have a large enough social following. They offer a curated assortment to their followers and get sales credit for whatever transactions their online activities generate.
Yet, I see three possible implications in a move to affiliate selling:
- A split between store staffing and affiliate sellers: Not every employee is going to have the personality or the hustle to make an affiliate relationship worth their time. But some who accumulate an influencer-level of followers could leave the ranks of store associate.
- Commission selling returns: There’s no way to avoid commissions when you’re rewarding an employee above and beyond the weekly paycheck for work they do — especially when that work is on their own time.
- Affiliates show up whenever: For affiliate sellers, some customer acquisition — and maintenance of those relationships — will have to come through face time in the store. How do you manage basic store staffing requirements against the clienteling needs of a “star” affiliate? The easy answer is to schedule basic coverage with store staff and let affiliates set their own hours.
Personally, I love the idea of giving an ambitious store associate access digital tools to enable them basically to sell 24/7 and get paid for those sales. Tapping into store associate influence and brand enthusiasm seems like an inevitable outcome.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the pluses and minuses of enabling in-store associates to drive sales through their digital connections? What adjustments to the traditional store labor model may be required?