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April 4, 2020

How the Online Salesperson is Reshaping Traditional Retail Sales

Retail sales have been radically altered by the internet and the rise of e-commerce. Today, most people prefer to buy products from digital storefronts rather than physical shops. This change in consumer habits has turned the retail sales associate profession, once a viable, long-term career, into a largely undesirable position.

However, modern technology and the introduction of online salespeople is reshaping retail sales in a very positive way. So much so, in fact, that traditional retail sales professionals who have been able to tap into this new trend are becoming indispensable assets to their companies, while boosting their own incomes to new heights. Keep reading to learn about:

  • The history of the traditional retail sales professional
  • How e-commerce has completely disupted this centuries-old profession
  • The meteoric rise and purpose of digital influencers
  • The future of digital influence and the role of the online salesperson
  • How TVPage helps traditional retailers tap their workforce to sell more products

We have a lot to get to, so without further ado, let's get started!

History of the Traditional Retail Sales Professional

According to BigCommerce, retail, in its simplest form, is "the sale of different goods and services to customers with the intention to make a profit."

Retail stores have existed for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks built marketplaces where merchants were able to sell their wares to customers. Today, giant retail stores like Walmart, Macy's, and Costco can be found in every major city in America. Other countries have their own chain retailers as well.

Many of these stores need employees to assist customers and facilitate sales. These folks are known as retail sales professionals.

In the past, a retail sales job was considered a viable career, not just an after school job for young teenagers and college students. Between one's base pay and the commissions made from sales, a retail worker could provide a comfortable life for his or her family.

Things are much different today. First of all, the number of retail sales jobs has greatly diminished. 17.4 million American people held retail sales jobs in 1985, which means that, at the time, one out of every six non-agricultural employees worked in retail. These days, less than five million Americans hold retail sales jobs and the number continues to shrink every year.

Also, the compensation for retail sales associates hasn't kept pace with the average cost of living in the United States. According to Investopedia, the price of a new home is 35% more expensive than it was in 1999, when adjusted for inflation. Similarly, new cars are priced 14% more than they were 20 years ago. Combine this with the fact that the average retail sales associate made $36k a year in 1999 compared to just $28k a year in 2020 and it's no wonder that a retail sales position is no longer able to support a family.

E-Commerce: The Great Disrupter

What's changed? Why are retail sales jobs less abundant and lower paying than they were a couple of decades ago? In short, the internet and the rise of e-commerce has completely altered the way modern consumers shop for products.

E-commerce can be defined as the act of buying and/or selling products and/or services via the internet. Some of the largest e-commerce brands in the world include Amazon, Alibaba, and Ebay, which are all digital marketplaces that allow consumers to purchase a wide variety of goods online and have them shipped to their homes. 

You might be surprised to learn that e-commerce has been around for 50+ years, though it didn't begin to take off until the early 1990s. This is when more intuitive web browsers became available to the general public and navigating the net became simpler.

While e-commerce has been a boon to countless shoppers the world over, it's had a less than ideal effect on traditional brick-and-mortar stores and the people who work for them.

In 2019, e-commerce sales accounted for 16% of total U.S. retail, which represents nearly 10% growth in less than a decade. 16% might not seem like much, but many retailers have razor-thin net margins. Even a slight dip in sales means they won't have the capital they need to pay rent, employee salaries, and other necessities.

Case in point: 19 major retailers — stores like fashion-behemoth Forever 21, budget shoe store Payless ShoeSource, and luxury brand Barneys New York — filed for bankruptcy or liquidation in 2019 due to the rise of e-commerce. Longtime establishments such as Sears, David's Bridal, and Toys "R" Us went bankrupt in 2017 and 2018.

Unfortunately, these retail horror stories aren't even the worst bit of news for traditional brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce is expected to continue to grow at high rates, taking an even larger slice out of the general retail pie.

The future may seem dim for traditional retail, but here's the truth: e-commerce doesn't signal the end of every traditional retail store. It's just forcing brick-and-mortar retailers to adjust their approach to sales.

Savvy companies understand that the future of retail is online and they're building platforms to take advantage — platforms that include new avenues for retail sales associates to make more sales, earn higher commissions, and support their families with a future brighter than ever before.

Let's talk more about that!

The Rise of Digital Influencers

A digital influencer is any person who wields influence online. He or she can blog, create social media content, publish podcasts, create videos — the delivery channel doesn't matter. What matters is that these folks have used content to build online followings who trust what they have to say. They can then use this trust to partner with brands and influence purchasing decisions.

Though the influencer marketing industry is still relatively young (in the modern sense of the phrase), it's grown incredibly quickly. In 2020, it's set to become a $9.7 billion dollar industry and 93% of marketers now incorporate the practice into their company's overall marketing strategy.

Why is it so popular? Because it can work extremely well when used correctly. The latest studies show us that influencer marketing campaigns can boost ROI up to 11x more than most other marketing initiatives.

Unfortunately, it's becoming harder to see these kinds of results.

The amount of actual influence that a specific influencer has can be difficult to measure. It's possible for an individual to have thousands, even millions of followers on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter but be unable to convince their tribe to do anything worthwhile for the brands he or she partners with.

A recent example of this comes from Arii, a popular influencer with 2.6 million followers on Instagram. The 18-year-old launched her very own fashion line in 2019 and, per her contract with the company producing the products for her, needed to meet a minimum order of 36 shirts. Arii was unable to do so and the clothing line was dissolved almost immediately.

While professionals in the field have speculated as to why Arii's fashion endeavor failed so spectacularly, the rest of us are left to wonder, "If a digital influencer can't even convince 36 out of 2.6 million people to buy a simple t-shirt, is influencer marketing finished?

The Future of Online Influence

The digital influencer profession is real. Brands have, and will continue to drive value from the followings these people have been able to build. When a social media user, blogger, podcaster, etc. with real influence partners with the right company to help sell its products, both sides win.

However, problems surface when unscrupulous influencers attempt to game the system. It's incredibly easy to buy fake followers on Twitter and Instagram. Brands that judge which influencers to hire based on follower count alone, risk collaborating with partners who don't actually have any influence. This practice is a surefire way to lose money.

This problem has led many companies to question the purpose of influencers and instead redirect their marketing budgets towards micro-influencers, otherwise known as brand ambassadors or digital sales associates.

Unlike digital influencers who are more known to operate independently and seek to grow their own “brand”, a digital sales associate or brand ambassador is an individual who is generally employed by one specific brand and asked to use their online influence to shine a positive light on the brand's products.

Let's look at how the ambassador/brand relationship benefits modern retail sales professionals and the companies that employ them.

For Retail Sales Professionals

As retail sales jobs dwindle and compensation for this profession shrinks, retail sales associates need to find alternative ways to prove their value and boost commissions. Strangely, their savior is the same thing that put their careers in jeopardy in the first place: the internet.

By building an online following (even a small one) of people who trust what they have to say, a retail sales rep can partner with their favorite brand can quickly become a digital sales associate.

Here's how it works:

  1. The retail sales associate creates content (videos, images, etc.) promoting products sold by the brand.
  2. The content contains links to the products being promoted.
  3. The ambassador posts the content to social media followers.
  4. When someone purchases a product after engaging with the content, the ambassador gets paid.

This process ensures that online brand ambassadors aren't judged by the size of their followings. Because of this, they can grow real relationships with consumers through all social channels and immediately begin boosting their income with great content.

For Retail Brands

As previously mentioned, many traditional retailers have struggled to embrace the e-commerce boom. As consumers continue to buy more products online, brick-and-mortar stores have seen their sales plummet, especially in industries like makeup and apparel.

Online brand ambassadorship allows companies to build armies of online advocates, who can all help boost online sales. These folks are also able to give a company's customer base a more personalized shopping experience — something the average influencer can't do — and help increase online sales quicker than many other marketing initiatives.

Why does this process prove more effective than many traditional influencer marketing campaigns? Because online brand ambassadors only get paid when they sell products, minimizing the risk of working with unsavory “digital trend setters”.

Companies also have the benefit of knowing they're properly caring for their employees. By providing their retail sales associates with another potential revenue stream, they can rest easy in the knowledge that their staff has the opportunity to effectively engage with online sales, not feel detached from the fastest-growing store, and of course continue to provide for their families, with the promise of higher income, all from a position of strength and control. 

The TVPage Opportunity

TVPage allows businesses to build a network of online brand ambassadors or digital sales associates (rather than detached digital influencers); an army that can sell their products online at a much higher rate. A complete turnkey solution. No other company gives retailers this same opportunity.

Ambassadors follow three easy steps:

  1. The brand invites their employees to join their ambassador program. 
  2. Ambassadors post shoppable videos and photos to their online storefront in the brand’s online store; they then share all posts on social media and all of the content becomes discoverable on Google search. 
  3. When someone engages with the ambassador’s content and a sale results, he/she receives a commission on the sale.

Companies are able to set content guidelines for their ambassadors and have final say over whether a video is published to their site or not. If a specific video doesn't fit a company's standards, they simply refuse to accept it. When content is approved, it is automatically published as its own "TV Page", a shoppable video landing page that allows customers to easily purchase products and ranks well in Google search results.

A TV Page on Macys.com

TVPage also includes other handy features like broadcast-grade video quality, Video CMS and Dynamic Publishing, which allows brands to source professional content from the web and add it to their own sites, and a complete suite of real-time analytics.

Working with TVPage to build an army of ambassadors is like putting a countless number of retail sales associates into your online store. When you do, customer satisfaction will increase and company revenue will reach new heights!

In Conclusion

Retail is changing. Consumers now purchase products online, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This shift in buyer behavior has left brick-and-mortar stores (and the sales representatives who work for them) in a tight spot.

Fortunately, the growing trend of online brand ambassadorship has arrived to assist both traditional retailers and their sales associates. When retail employees become brand ambassadors, they give themselves the chance to earn more income. When brands unleash digital ambassadors, they seize the opportunity to sell more products.

TVPage is the only platform that easily facilitates the online brand ambassador relationship. Our software has the tools you need to build a team of ambassadors that will grow your bottom line.

Contact us today for a free demo.