When unessential retail shopping was temporarily banned, as a result of the pandemic, many retailers found themselves in more trouble. Three months into the lockdown in Europe and the US, writing for barrons.com, Teresa Rivas suggested that under cover of COVID, retailers do what they should have done years ago and close stores – calling it a ‘pivot rather than a retreat.’ It was an elegant solution, but one that lacked imagination.
Smart retailers had already woken up to the fact that to survive they would have to reimagine the whole shopping experience. Some had turned their stores into immersive theatres, while others had set about personalising their interactions with customers. Some did a certain amount of both. The retailers that were the most successful are the ones that redesigned shopping from the ground up, examining and making provisions for every quarter step between a person walking into a store and leaving with one or more purchases.
Now, instead of running for cover, the same approach should be applied to our new way of living and working, which will probably involve going in and out of quarantine for the foreseeable future, and a lot more socially distant interactions with customers. To that end, retailers do not have to abandon their stores and their Store Associates, though they should think about reinventing them so that they serve a new retail business model and not the other way around.
Clienteling & Assisted Selling – key to retail business transformation
Transforming a business like this is no small feat, but fortunately, tools already exist to help retailers adapt and redesign the experience of shopping with them. The showroom can be more digital – Store Associates can be easier to connect with regardless of where you or they are whereas stores can function as nodes of distribution and places to physically interact with (hold, inspect, try out and try on) merchandise as much as they do showrooms.
KIT is a Clienteling and Assisted Selling tool that lends itself to retail business transformation. Amongst its many features, KIT provides a platform through which Store Associates can deliver a personalised and accessible customer service superior to anything the retailer would have been able to offer in the past. Deliverable through either via their website, a customer service phone line or the store telephone. Features such as Catalogue, Search and Profiling means KIT will make it easier for customers to locate suitable products than would ever have been possible just from walking into the branch of a store.
The need, for a customer, to try things on or feel them before purchasing is always going to be there – as is the desire to enjoy the magic of an emporium. Used wisely, digital technology like KIT can help retailers continue to meet those needs and wants, and keep the retail sector thriving.