Human Touchpoints: How Soft Skills Drive Retail Sales Numbers

The latest numbers show that monthly retail sales were up about $710 billion, rising .7% from the previous month, according to Reuters. Though this is welcome news, the question remains: how will retailers keep these gains going? How will they in fact capitalize on these gains, driving sustainable growth across the digital and brick-and-mortar channels? The answer, surprisingly, lies in large part in associates’ soft skills – their human touch. Enabled in the right way, frontline soft skills are an incredibly cost-effective way to do retail clienteling.

In the world of retail, success isn’t just about having the latest products or competitive prices. Today, customers are seeking something more meaningful: a human touch.Today, as retail expert Francesca Ricci states, consumers want more sustainable, human brands. And associates can in fact go a long way toward establishing that humanity.

As much as data and analytics play a role in understanding consumer behavior, it’s the soft skills of associates that can truly set a business apart. Skills such as empathy, communication, teamwork, and creative thinking create memorable customer experiences that drive sales and customer loyalty.

Empathy: Building Stronger Relationships Through Retail Clienteling

Empathy allows retail associates to understand and relate to customers’ emotions and needs. By actively listening to customers and offering personalized solutions, employees can establish stronger relationships and build trust. 

This trust leads to increased sales and customer loyalty, as shoppers feel valued and understood. Empathy can be as simple as acknowledging a customer’s frustration or asking about their day, but it makes a world of difference in their shopping experience.

Empathy must be a core part of any in-store, brick-and-mortar strategic practice. As Anthony Sloan, Senior VP of Merchandising and Planning at Swarovski, says in our interview with him, associates are “creating that community connection, that real local feeling.” 

Customers today want a brick-and-mortar experience that is connected to the digital one, yet provides something that online shopping cannot: human connection. AI chatbots might be able to do a lot, but they cannot tell a customer “that looks great,” or “maybe try this style.” Or they can, but a customer won’t believe them. That’s something inimitably human.

Communication: The Key to Connection in Retail Clienteling

Effective communication is a cornerstone of successful retail interactions. Associates who can clearly and confidently explain product features, answer questions, and guide customers through the shopping process create a positive experience. 

Another question is how retailers communicate. Around 86% of respondents to a recent Intercom survey say they would be all right with businesses communicating with them in the same way as friends and family. In this sense, consumers would be responsive to businesses meeting them on their level, treating them not as transactional “customers” nor as “guests” but as individuals with problems the business can solve. For instance, an associate could communicate with consumers in the same way that a friend would give advice – while not being overly familiar.

Moreover, good communication fosters collaboration within the team, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal. This seamless teamwork enhances customer satisfaction and ultimately drives sales.

Teamwork: The Foundation of Success in Retail Clienteling

Retail environments, and retail clienteling, thrive on teamwork. Think about Trader Joe’s, where the staff’s collaborative attitude results in a more enjoyable atmosphere for consumers. Good “vibes” between associates create good vibes for customers. It’s psychology 101. If you as a customer enter a store and the people helping you are helping each other, too, then the brand will feel authentic. You feel less like a customer and more like a member of a community.

Thus, teamwork and collaboration are essential soft skills. When employees work together harmoniously, they can manage customer flow, maintain store organization, and share insights about customer preferences. A supportive team can handle challenges efficiently and as mentioned, create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages customers to return. But more than anything, they create that communal feeling which is so vital in the modern brick-and-mortar store.

Strong teamwork not only boosts morale but also enhances the overall customer experience, leading to increased sales and repeat business.

Creative Thinking: Solving Problems and Inspiring Customers

Creative thinking enables retail employees to approach challenges from different angles and offer innovative solutions. 

Whether it’s arranging eye-catching endcaps, suggesting unique product combinations, or handling unexpected situations, creativity can transform the shopping experience. By inspiring customers with new ideas and solving their problems creatively, associates can drive sales and set the store apart from competitors. 

But first, they have to be encouraged to think outside the box. It’s amazing to think about how helping associates access their inner creative thinker drives retail clienteling. Engaged, agile associates are associates who customers want to speak to – and buy from.


In the retail industry, human touchpoints play a critical role in driving hard sales numbers. By cultivating soft skills like empathy, communication, teamwork, and creative thinking, retail employees can create exceptional customer experiences that lead to increased sales and loyalty. Investing in these skills not only benefits the business but also contributes to a positive and fulfilling work environment for employees. As the retail landscape continues to evolve, those who prioritize human connections will continue to thrive.

To see in action the Performance Enablement Platform that transforms soft skills into hard sales, click here to request a demo of Rallyware.