By Steve Ingram, Retail Director – KIT
For almost 12 months, the retail sector has had to face up to and address a continual series of challenges. However, through technology and by taking an innovative approach, many brands we know and love continue to operate in some shape or form. We discussed in a previous blog how Clienteling, driven by the power of communication, has evolved and expanded the simple Click & Collect method of retail shopping. How new ideologies such as BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up in Store), ROPIS (Reserve Online, Pick-up in Store) and even Curbside Pick-up have become part of the new normal, but what about the role of the Store Associate during these uncertain times?
The vast majority of Store Associates are working from home in one form or other (at the time of writing). However, remote selling is not a new phenomenon or just a reaction to government restrictions but an already strategic way of providing a personalised way to access the brand. Clienteling and Assisted Selling tools have helped drive Store Associates sales for several years already; remote selling is very much the here and now. As online is convenient and currently the dominant way to shop, it will certainly not be leaving us any time soon.
Merging e-commerce with the familiarity of bricks and mortar
An excellent way of merging the online with the in-store experience is giving customers instant access to a Store Associate through video calling technology. In the UK, Currys PC World (for one), best known for white goods and electronics, offers the option to request a video call with one of its team without even the need to register as a customer. These could be existing Store Associates or Contact Centre Associates, depending upon the business’s desires. You can see and hear the Store Associate whilst providing the same experience you would expect when being escorted around the store. Answering product questions, providing alternatives, helping with the purchase and delivery options and even offering advice if a tradesperson is needed to install the said item. The approach is not limited to video calls. Communication methods, such as WhatsApp or SMS, can also help bridge the gap.
New customers are provided with the same experience as if they were in the store. Returning, previously registered customers have so much more to benefit from remote selling. Store Associates have pre-visit awareness of a customer’s needs. They will also usually have access to any ‘wish lists’ created online. During the visit conversation, Store Associates provide a one-to-one interaction to curate a unique experience. Guided browsing, product recommendations based on previous purchase history, and even styling suggestions. There is also the post-visit engagement opportunity to discuss the purchase, as well as suggesting complementary products.
KIT is a Clienteling and Assisted Selling tool that enables Store Associates to offer customers the remote, personalised shopping service described above. They are maximising empathy and engagement through video calling and a passion for the brand they represent.
Allowing the customer to experience in-store browsing with their personal tour guide – shopping the brand by integrating ‘bricks and clicks’ – is at the core of KIT. Shopping does not just need to be personal; it needs to be personable too.
By Karina Kholodova, Senior Consultant – KIT
Are we currently witnessing the rebirth of our understanding of communication and its impact in the retail world? To address this question, let’s look back and take a quick trip down memory lane. Back in the days when communicating with your butcher, baker, and yes, even your grocer meant that you discussed shopping needs alongside the local gossip, and the shopkeeper would fetch what you required.
But imprecise communications led to poor service. The shopkeeper would not know what you wanted to purchase, and as you were not able to self-serve in the shop, you would leave with nothing. Although, it all changed when the self-service supermarket arrived, closely followed by the out-of-town superstores. This approach resonated across the retail sector: we evolved from talking directly to the shopkeeper, through to self-service, with maybe no interaction with anyone, and we are now back to where we started. We are once again communicating directly with the Store Associate, the 21st-century version of the storekeeper, who relies more and more on technology to guide us through our purchasing journey.
New art or a reworked master?
We can trace the word communication back to communicare – the Latin word for share, whereas, according to the English Dictionary: Communication is the act of sharing or exchanging information with someone. But today, communication comes in many forms. It has been adjusted and developed over centuries to adapt and meet our needs – even more so as consumers. Not just a means of interacting one-to-one, transactional communication is at the centre of our shopping universe. We have seen communication evolve and expand the simple Click & Collect method of retail shopping into new ideologies such as BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up in Store), ROPIS (Reserve Online, Pick-up in Store) and even Curbside Pick-up.
But here is where Clienteling reworks and changes the game, helping Store Associates become Visual Style Consultants or Product Advisors, enabling bricks and mortar to reinvent themselves. In the new normal, the customer is closer to the store – all underpinned and made possible with Clienteling tools such as KIT, which are intrinsic to how we communicate today in the retail sector. Consequently, it is no surprise that retailers have made it abundantly clear that an online, omnichannel approach is the way forward: 69% of retailers and investors state that this is top of their list for 2021 (source: PwC Retail & Consumer 2021). To support this approach, KIT lets the Store Associate communicate with customers in whichever way they prefer. And according to multiple consumer surveys in 2020, almost half of UK customers prefer email, 38% web chat, 37% WhatsApp, 36% video calls and 34% SMS, highlighting a multi-pronged approach to communication is needed to meet all customer needs.
It is important to note that this approach also needs to consider geographical nuances. Certain regions favour (or have legal restrictions) around the tools they wish to, or can, use (WeChat in China, and other unique examples around Russia and the Asia Pacific region).
Clienteling is defined as “a technique that allows retailers to improve the shopping experience by personalising the interactions they have with customers”. It is enabling the personal service of the local shopkeeper, with the global reach provided by modern technology. It is communicating on a whole different level.
By Lee Adams, Sales Lead – KIT
Regardless of where a customer goes to make a purchase, whether it be an out-of-town superstore, a plush City of London arcade or a Covent Garden boutique, the expectation is that the service provided will always be a good experience. As consumers, we even expect the local corner shop to be courteous and helpful when we pop in for a pint of milk.
As a nation of shopkeepers, according to the now infamous quote attributed to Napoleon, the UK is well-positioned to appreciate the value and importance of customer service. Although to fully understand customer service, it needs to be defined – it cannot just be experience for experience’s sake. So, is it a philosophy, a value, or a way of life? As without it, where would the retail sector be today?
Nevertheless, we recognise where the retail sector is today, and we also know what is happening to help boost sales and recover by building customer loyalty – Clienteling. But how is this different from customer service? Once purely the preserve of luxury stores, it is becoming more prevalent wherever there is a one-to-one interaction in the sale. Look at the definition: Clienteling is a technique that allows retailers to improve the shopping experience by personalising the interactions they have with customers.
Knowing your customers
If we view customer service as a philosophy, it is a shared mission. A set of principles Store Associates should follow so they can uphold the core values of the business. Clienteling takes the same approach offering more, much more.
Clienteling is an extension of customer service, making the interaction more personal and long term. To witness this in action, look at one of the historical mainstays of customer service – the famed Little Black Book. Store Associates have used these notepads to record treasured information on their top clients, helping them maintain and even increase sales. But Clienteling technology tools make this all available on mobile devices with a simple tap on a screen.
Clienteling tools give Store Associates access to a 360-degree real-time view of a customer’s purchasing history, interactions, notes and appointments. Valuable information that will help to drive and predict future sales. Clienteling also allows customers to select their preferred communication method, permitting Store Associates to keep customers up to date with new product information, product lines and even collate and suggest outfits based on their purchasing history.
Managing customer expectations in the new normal
There has been a seismic shift to online shopping here in the UK, according to the Deloitte Retail Trends 2021 Report. It states that during the four weeks following January 2021, 57% of consumers are planning to purchase clothing online, with 28% saying it will food shop online. It has become clear that new consumer behaviour is disrupting the physical retail sector, with UK online sales in December 2020 up by 45% to £15bn, as listed in the Deloitte report.
Both Clienteling (and Assisted Selling) are equally important – regardless of supporting a customer remotely or sitting by their side. Indeed, being able to have video communication, share images and social media recommendations is no longer ‘nice to have’ – it is essential. Whereas Customer service and Clienteling are interwoven – we couldn’t have one without the other, but Clienteling tools, like KIT, bring the technology edge to the Little Black Book.
Any retailer can deploy the tools, which are as easy to use as the phone in your pocket, giving the business the help needed to clear a path through the storm that lies ahead.
By Steve Ingram, Retail Director – KIT
The retail sector has been hit hard over the past 12 months, witnessed by the plethora of household names disappearing from the UK high street. Laura Ashley, Top Shop and Miss Selfridge may all be gone or about to disappear forever, and Debenhams have only just been saved by Boohoo.com to operate as an online marketplace platform. But in the online world of shopping, the likes of Amazon have seen its profits and market share skyrocket.
Amazon is not the only business benefiting from lockdown restrictions. Online grocery shopping sales are also rising exponentially. Consumers are adopting new purchasing behaviours and embracing an alternative to driving to an out-of-town superstore for the monthly shop, highlighted in The Economist Intelligence survey from SAP, that quotes a 78% increase in average monthly online grocery expenditure. But the monumental shift to online shopping presents an unprecedented opportunity for brands and retailers to engage new online customers in ways they never could before – giving retailers a chance to create strategies for recovery and growth.
A brave new world
Right now, retailers may feel that they are looking into the abyss, facing the unknown, trying to keep up with customer expectations that continue to change at a rapid pace. But by being more flexible, pivoting to consumer needs, retailers will meet customer demand and provide an experience that will keep them coming back for more.
A safe, convenient online experience will go a long way to help retailers get back on their feet, as almost half of consumers enjoy the ability to shop anywhere at any time, naming this as the number one factor for continuing to shop online. Whereas a quick, transparent service that saves the customer time will also help to improve customer satisfaction. 42% of all surveyed consumers cite time-saving advantages as a significant benefit of online shopping, all according to The Economist Intelligence survey.
Customers are now used to doing almost all shopping online, with a significant proportion likely to continue in the same vein for the sheer convenience and especially the time they will save. Therefore, retailers need to take a more agile approach, staying ahead of the curve by understanding customer needs and reacting innovatively to blend the in-store and online experience.
Clienteling & Assisted Selling
While the thought of reinventing and transforming a retail business could easily send shock waves through C-level executives, the technology and tools needed to adapt to this new world of retail shopping is already here in the form of Clienteling and Assisted Selling applications. These tools lend themselves to retail business transformation and are as simple to use as the mobile phone in your pocket.
Providing a platform through which Store Associates can deliver a personalised and accessible customer service, whether alongside the customer in store or remote from each other, these tools offer a consistent brand experience with the customer at the centre of it all. KIT is a leading Clienteling solution with one global customer using it across 64 countries, in 11 languages, with over 5,500 active users. Features such as Profiling, Advanced Communications, Visual Search, and integration with social media channels make it easier to offer customers their ideal products. Whether customers are personally served in the physical store or guided through the online store, they will always have their preferred Store Associate at their side.
It has been an unprecedented year for the retail industry, but the National Retail Federation (NRF) will continue with its annual Big Show. This time around, it is a virtual event, and once again, the KIT team will be in attendance. NRF2021: Retail’s Big Show – Chapter One offers a virtual Expo for retailers to connect with the industry. The event starts on 12 January 2021, and to discover more about how KIT Clienteling tools can help get your business back on track in these challenging times, register here to schedule a meeting with one of the team.
Echoing what has been said by many, 2020 saw turbulence across all retail sectors, and as a direct consequence, we witnessed how customer behaviour became ever more unpredictable. Designated ‘non-essential’ retail closed their doors but those with online stores had the opportunity to continue driving sales and to move even closer to their customers by giving them the best experience possible.
Avoiding the ‘Old School’ approach
Bombarding known and opted-in customers with promotional offers is one way of maintaining visibility. For some, this approach had already become viewed as ‘Old School’ and certainly not how brands want to see themselves represented. Indeed, 2020 had been decreed as the year that retailers became more experiential. It was also the year that the ‘theatre of retail’ would come to the fore and unleash its creativity. By April, via a nervy February and March, survival became the keyword throughout the industry. Even so, some were already starting to get ahead of the game.
Retailers that had latched on to the need for a more personalised experience had already introduced Clienteling into stores. Store Associates had transferred their ‘little black book’ onto digital devices (tablets and mobile phones), possessing tools that that enabled them to deepen the relationship between the customer and the brand. Invitations to special events? Previews of new product ranges? Curating sets of products that meet the preferences and interests of the customer? All available with a touch, swipe, or a pinch on the screen.
Savvy retailers knew that by having Clienteling tools readily available and implemented, once stores were closed, they could maintain and further their relationship with customers. Communicating through emails, social media messaging and video calling, they could retain front of mind – in a non-bombardment way. Sharing, commenting, and recommending via all types of social media kept the brands and customers close. Guiding and helping the customers to navigate the online store (to find that elusive product) and helping get that perfectly timed delivery or kerbside pick-up. Remote associates, operating as if standing alongside the customer in the store, can maintain intimacy and engagement through the tools. As customers continue to receive the same high level of service from a remote associate, this will only continue to develop confidence across categories and price points.
The next level of Clienteling
Whether a brand, operating its own stores and being fully vertically integrated with your manufacture, or a retailer of multiple brands, putting its own unique and consistent spin on the experience that the customer receives is differentiating. This approach can range from offering access to live (and virtual for the time being) catwalk shows and product launches. Or it could be providing the latest news, updates, or even building and organising communities. Getting close to the customer (whether physically in the store or remotely using communication apps) means that your brand will continue to be integral to their life.
Where can this lead? Well, Boston Consulting Group is already talking about ‘Clienteling 2.0’ and the use of Machine Learning to curate suggestions. But this technology is already available. Further steps using AR and VR are around the corner, and with the arrival of 5G, yet more possibilities are sure to emerge.
The capabilities that can be unleashed through technology are becoming close to limitless. But the ability to remain close to your customers, wherever they are, is there. Brands will differentiate themselves by the type of experience that they give to their customers. Customers will differentiate the brands by the value they put on the experience personally.
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.
KIT enables store associates to engage with customers remotely, nurturing existing and new customer relationships and maximising sales in a seamless process. The ability, provided by cutting edge KIT technology, to surface all relevant customer and product information and enable multiple channels of communication, allows the store associate to advise, recommend and sell from anywhere at any time.
- Up to 10% increase in sales generated by store associates
- Up-sell & Cross-sell from home and increase average order size by up to 15%
- Relationships managed directly between store associates and customers – all centrally controlled by the Retailer
- Increase customer satisfaction by up to 25% through personalised customer & store associate interactions.
- Supercharge store associates by providing them with all the information they need to sell effectively from home.
Store Associate Benefits
- Maintaining good customer contact whilst working from home via the Comms module allowing contact via e-mail, phone, SMS, WhatsApp or WeChat.
- The ability to view their customers online presence via their 360° profile, including their online basket, recommendations and wish lists to enable further cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.
- To continue to build looks and outfits for their customers using the Look book module, which can be sent to their customers for feedback.
- The ability to gain more detailed customer feedback on the service from home, via KIT’s integration to Qualtrics.
- KIT allows the store associate to forward plan their tasks and one to one appointments, once plans for store re-opening are announced.
- Commission tracking so any transactions pushed to the website for checkout still give the credit to the store associate.
Implementation & Effort
We can deliver working systems in as little as 2 weeks and Keytree can manage the whole project remotely.
The final delivered solution is fully managed by Keytree, with remote maintenance & support included in the licence fee.
KIT is available for purchase via SAP’s App Center. Click here for more information.
Are you being served?
To people of a certain age, the title above will conjure up images of a sitcom located in a 1970’s department store with the humour based upon stereotypes of the time, that is massively inappropriate today. The title of the show, however, came from a fundamental question from the sales staff to a customer that appeared to be waiting for some assistance. Although not a term used at the time, customer-centricity was at the heart of retail, with knowledge of each regular customer’s preferences at the fingertips of the staff. Then it was lost. Self-service became everything, and sales associates became known as ‘store staff’ – a uniformed resource (primarily) to keep shelves and hangers filled, rather than the guide as the customer follows the path to their purchase. TV and magazines became the source of knowledge for customers, and everything became transactional, with price as the differentiator.
Then along came the internet, disrupting the way that we do everything (well, almost everything) and providing a wealth of information and opinion on everything and anything. As well as opening a whole new world of competition for the established stores, the internet also provided a way for customers to become more informed about the products that they were thinking of buying. Research before buying is now established as the norm, and we have reached the point where you have customers knowing more than the sales associate. That was until now – retailers of all types are turning to technology to equip store associates with information more comprehensive, and immediate, than ever before.
You’ve got the whole world in your hands
Technology of all sorts – electronics, fabrics, food and services – means that products evolve and are superseded much more rapidly than ever before. Consequently, knowing the killer selling points of these products is so difficult for the store staff. Customers focused on their desired purchase, do more and more research on the items they want to buy. They are well armed with facts and comparatives, so we need to help the store teams. This is where assisted selling comes in – using mobile technology to have comprehensive data at your fingertips. Technical information, comparison reports, competitive price details and associated products can all be fed to the store associate so that they are on at least an equal footing with a well-informed customer.
Conversations become more meaningful, credibility is enhanced, and the relationship grows. The customer feels that they want to buy because they can discuss their requirements at a detailed level. Even better, because of the intelligence provided by the technology, the store associate can up-sell by giving reasons why the more expensive model has better features, or cross-sell accessories and complementary products. But why stop there? Companies are taking this even further by enabling personalisation of products. Want that specific design added? Sure. Want your name written on the product? Easy!
And there’s even more…
Huge opportunities exist at this point for further products and services. These tools help ensure that you get a suitably qualified installation engineer, at a time of your convenience, to have the product ready and working: not just delivered to your door in a box. We have long had the follow-up phone call ‘to arrange installation’, but now we expect it to be done at the same time we conclude the sale. It is also unacceptable to have to walk the customer to another part of the store to do this – it needs to be done there and then, where you are standing.
In fact, on larger mobile devices we can further develop assisted selling by using Augmented Reality to show the product (such as furnishings and other household goods) integrated into a photograph of the room it would be in. This becomes powerful, as it takes the customer on the emotional journey of seeing the product in their home.
Where does it work?
This is great news! Anywhere that you have a one to one interaction with the customer as part of the sale is appropriate to have some form of mobile-enabled assisted selling. When you partner this with Clienteling on the same mobile device, you empower the sales associate to have a personal relationship (like having their old, traditional, black book) as well as having in-depth product information to give that expert guidance.
Traditionally viewed as being mainly the territory of the luxury, big ticket, fashion retailers, we are having discussions with clients across many sectors: white goods retail, automotive, home furnishings, financial services and many, many more.
Are you being served? There is no doubt that by offering assisted selling, using mobile technology, you most definitely will be.
“Everybody is different” or “Not everyone wants the same thing” – a couple of the regular quotes that we hear connected to customer-centricity, customer loyalty and customer 360 programmes. These are mostly true and never more visible than when the line-up for the Reading & Leeds music festival, which takes place in August, was released in February and I listened in to conversations between my daughter and her friends: “Best line-up ever”, “Utter garbage”, “Not bad” plus numerous variations on those themes. But irrespective of their thoughts, they will all attend because they always do; much in the same way that customers will turn up at your stores because they always have.
Lots of time and effort is taken in gaining permission from our customers so that we can obtain data from them. Then, once we know all about them, we treat them all the same way! Sure, we may tailor some product offers and discounts based upon what they buy but is that enough? Spending time in some stores in recent weeks, I have had conversations with customers that also had similar themes: “Vouchers are ok, but I wonder what else they could do?”, “I spend so much here, and they know it, but I’m not made to feel special”. Interesting feedback which got me thinking – are customers beginning to ask: “What’s really in it for me?”.
We know more than ever before
The phenomenal growth of online shopping, individual user accounts, one to one interactions through Clienteling apps and loyalty schemes, means that there is more data being collected day by day, and our likes and dislikes, family unit (status, number of children) are known to many. Cloud companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft go to great lengths to illustrate how much data is being created, including the rate of growth, building up detailed pictures of our customers. Yet we lack originality in what is offered in return for customers giving access to all that rich data. Think about it – most of the creativity in ‘giving back’ to the customer is around giving discounts on goods or services that they either buy, or are similar to what they buy, but these are ultimately just discounts.
It’s the experience economy, isn’t it?
You cannot read anything these days without being told that we are living in the time of the ‘experience economy’ and that retailing today is all about delivering an experience, not just transactions. What makes it all the more interesting is that ‘rewards’ for giving up volumes of data tend to be transactional – discounts on items, full basket discounts for a period or buy this product and get this other one free or reduced. In summary, you haven’t done much with the data that you’ve been given. If we have converted our store associates’ ‘little black books’ into Clienteling apps, or if we have collected data about things our customers enjoy doing, then we have a good insight into what our customers like to do outside of shopping (which, I’m sorry to drop in, is probably seen more as a need than a pleasure).
Is this an opportunity to then blend transactional and experiential rewards for our customers? Absolutely, yes it is and how much more loyal could those customers be? Imagining this through, the data can be used to offer experiences that are tiered – similar to airline schemes that aim to improve your flight experience the more you spend with them. But it doesn’t need to be as grand as these. Events in local stores for local customers can make customers feel valued and build community, and if you want to recognise your best customers then exclusive national events will hit the mark. I’m purposely playing devil’s advocate here, but the thinking is real, as were the conversations with customers that I alluded to earlier.
What’s the point, then?
The point is we absorb swathes of data from customers throughout all the interactions that we have with them, and then in most cases have not checked what they would like in return for this. Discounts are a good thing for customers but are not (by any stretch) the only option. Some may only want deep discounts in return for giving up their data, but experiences drive emotions, and good emotions drive loyalty and may even develop advocates.
Clienteling, with a tool such as KIT, makes asking these questions and obtaining feedback very straightforward but can your business be creative with what you offer? And can you manage this across your, inevitably broad, customer base? Can you afford not to? Thinking back to the music festival example, they establish several stages so that music genres and eras are represented and keep a huge audience satisfied, feeling that they have all been catered for. What is your plan to both understand what your customers want, and then to give it to them? What’s really in it for them?
A new year starts, and in the retail world all eyes turn to New York and the annual event that is The Big Show from the National Retail Federation – known to all in the sector as simply ‘NRF’. Amidst the cross-continent reunions, the chance to see former colleagues and reminisce about earlier times, leaders of retailers huge and small come together to learn of the latest topics, developments and hype. Not only about retail tech (although a huge amount of the show is), the conference provides a forum to share learnings from throughout the industry: from the global giants through to the kitchen table start-ups that are disrupting the way we ‘do retail’ every day.
Each attendee has their own reason for being there. The technology companies that are selling solutions to problems that some attendees are not even aware of, and the retailers with problems that keep them awake at night, who are searching for the much vaunted ‘silver bullet’. Based on this, they all flock into Javits Centre from Sunday 12 to Tuesday 14 January, ready to walk and talk themselves into exhaustion.
The KIT team habitually attends the New York event and once again we are looking forward to talking about what we are doing with our customers and partners, the changes we are witnessing across the world within retail while offering our opinions based on our experience of working with clients on cloud strategies with all of the hyperscalers.
We will be showcasing KIT, our state-of-the-art Clienteling and Assisted Selling toolkit, which brings together the strengths of Apple and SAP into one easy to adopt in-store application. Many customers are using KIT across different retail segments: from replacing the ‘little black book’ of customer information, much loved of luxury retail assistants, to providing technical product details that help influence decisions of one versus another. Initial steps are also being taken for more innovative uses – indeed anything where you may need a one-to-one engagement between customer and associate.
Bridge for Retail
KIT is a component of the Bridge for Retail solution – a cloud-based solution that contains a blend of SAP technology and Keytree developed applications that enable a retailer to operate. From Core Financials, Buying Merchandising and Supply Chain, through to KIT, Integrated Analytics and Human Resources; it truly is a business process toolkit. That scope is far too much for a business to afford and absorb in one project; which is why we have created packages for:
- Financials & Analytics
- Merchandising & Analytics
- Customer Experience
These packages have been created based upon our huge experience of delivering these core capabilities to retailers; enabling us to deliver a defined scope (business capability), in a predictable timescale (speed), with analytics capable of driving the weekly Trading Meeting that forms the heartbeat of all retail businesses (KPIs to drive actions). Packages are delivered with business adoption as a first principle: technology is no use unless it is adopted as part of daily Business as Usual.
What problems do these solutions solve?
Good question. There must be good reasons to implement these tools, and there are. Looking at some specific examples, they are very relevant for businesses that have:
- Developed beyond start-up, or have grown through acquisition and need standard financial controls and analytics to report to their stakeholders (Financials & Analytics)
- Adopted the financial controls, but now need to apply rigour to ranges and inventory availability (Merchandising & Analytics)
- Assessed a need for a single view of the customer, marketing preferences and marketing campaigns (Customer Experience)
Understood a need to replace the ‘black book’ of the sales associate, or a need to provide technical expertise on products, as well as making recommendations for cross and up-selling (KIT – Clienteling and Assisted Selling)
There’s no hard sell…
Although we are at NRF to show what we can do, we are equally enthusiastic to learn from retailers what we need to do to be even more helpful to them. We can begin by discussing strategy and continuous business improvement and evolve to our technology wizards talking about the clever things that we have done around image recognition and visual searching (and searching by sounds too), all driven by data science.
I think that sums up NRF. it’s a place for reunions – where we all meet to compare what has happened since last year. It’s a place for showing – what we have developed and what results our customers have achieved. It’s a place for learning – who is doing what and how successfully. But most of all… it is a place for Retail.
Have a great NRF 2020, and we look forward to meeting you at the KIT booth #4125 – located next to SAP.
The experience of shopping at a certain Swedish furniture store is one that most people have had at least once. Personalised it is not. All shoppers are led along a path decorated with examples of how you can configure beds, wardrobes and desks or sofas, shelving and coffee tables until you arrive in a warehouse like the one at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie to embark on a treasure hunt only slightly less difficult than that of finding the lost Ark of the Covenant. Conversely, when you visit a high-end luxury retailer, you can expect to be treated like a VIP. To have your coat taken, your hand furnished with a glass of your favourite champagne and the display of products you are presented with to have been handpicked for you and expertly matched to your tastes. At least that’s the aspiration.
Between one extreme and the other, from a luxury brand to serve yourself budget furniture shopping, the focus on Clienteling has traditionally dropped off. There are good reasons for this. With fewer clients at the luxury end, it has simply always been easier for brands to keep track of who buyers were, what they liked and what they purchased. Conversely at the low cost, high volume end of retail – the interactions between retailer and shopper have been, of necessity, briefer and too many to keep detailed notes on.
There has also been a cost/benefit reality to consider as you move from the luxury brand towards the absolute bargain basement end of the spectrum. When the very basis of your brand is that you are selling items for less than a pound or a dollar, the cost of the time you spend with a customer will have far less value than if you are selling luxury yachts. However, new technology has changed this equation fundamentally, so that the cost of Clienteling is much lower than it used to be and the benefits are much greater.
How KIT Clienteling enhances the customer experience for any retail business
By using a Clienteling app like KIT, the ease with which you can record and access data that enables you to help and indeed delight a customer makes it crazy not to practice Clienteling, even if you are selling products as inexpensive as a pound or a dollar. If you know a customer is interested in a particular range of products, you can easily contact them, using KIT, when you have particularly good deals on those or similar products, especially if that customer is one who tends to spend a lot in the store, which KIT can tell you. Furthermore, if you have an e-commerce store KIT enables you to set up purchases for your customers to complete.
Meanwhile, between the top end luxury retailers and the 99p or 99 cent stores, there are thousands of retailers whose ability to lure people out of their homes and away from internet shopping has to derive from something other than unbeatable value or inimitable indulgence. These are the stores where KIT helps store associates to deliver a customer experience worth coming back for and telling their friends about. The kind of personalised customer experience you feel you couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. KIT does this by giving store associates and customers access to the full product catalogue, with the ability to save favourites and compare items, leaving the customer confident that they are getting the right product at the best price. KIT can also help with ‘project shopping’ making suggestions and helping to create a package of products for a particular purpose. For example, holiday outfit concepts if the retailer is a clothing store or interior design concepts if the retailer is a home furnishing store.
KIT can also help make the experience of visiting a store much less troublesome by relaying requests for products to the stockroom, expediting their arrival on the shop floor. The app even enables store associates to complete purchases themselves, so that the moment after customers choose to make a purchase they aren’t sent to wait for a cashier, whom they haven’t met before, for an anti-climactic end to an otherwise very pleasing sales interaction. The store associate can then easily follow up with some simple after-sales communication via the app, to reassure the customer they made a good buying decision, cementing their loyalty and boosting the chances that they will tell their friends what a great shopping experience they had.
KIT is extremely easy to learn and it is very simple to set up a full demonstration of the app to see how it can help your store associates improve their Clienteling and your customers’ experience. Just contact the team on +44 203 691 2936 or email email@example.com. You can use these same details to ask any questions you have or to request more information, or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on our Contact page.
When it comes to gift-giving, one of the reasons they say: “It’s the thought that counts,” is that coming up with an idea for a present that is both fresh and fitting for the recipient can be extremely difficult. However, this offers a great opportunity for the savvy store associate. Indeed, as store associates search for ingenious ways to personalise and enhance the customer experience, it is easy to forget the relatively low hanging fruit of helping people through the minefield of present choosing. Moreover, it is the perfect time of year for store associates to practice their Clienteling skills.
At its core, the power of Clienteling comes from building relationships – listening to and getting to know people well enough to make them feel that you understand their needs. That includes remembering what Auntie Annie thought of the cardigan your customer bought her last year, what toys she gave her nephews and nieces, whether her best friend wore the perfume she chose for her and so on. Back in the day, a store associate would keep a record of those kinds of things in a notebook so they didn’t have to rely entirely on memory. Today store associates have a more advanced tool to record that kind of information, which is not only more searchable, it is also more intelligent, capable of making suggestions and turning those suggestions into purchases with a few taps on a tablet screen.
KIT Clienteling helps to remove the hassle out of choosing products
KIT is a cutting edge Clienteling app that brings a wealth of data and information to the fingertips of any store associate that far exceeds what most humans are capable of absorbing and retaining on their own. It organises the data in easy to access customer profiles and product catalogues, and enables store associates to create personalised product bundles, for example, ‘looks’ for customers of fashion retailers or ‘system configurations’ for customers of technology retailers.
As well as having access to a customer’s purchase history and wish list on KIT, store associates can record notes to keep track of customer preferences. So Sarah will be impressed when the store associate remembers how her nephew, Adam, was more excited by Frozen II than he was by Star Wars Episode IX. However, most advantageously, when it comes to the holidays, KIT enables store associates to communicate directly with customers via the channel of their choosing – text, email or other social media. This is how a store associate can nail it in the approach to the holidays, by offering suggestions that make the customer’s job of choosing presents for their friends and family a whole lot easier.
As a store associate, the trick is to use your knowledge and understanding of a customer to make the right suggestions. Are they someone who wants to express their modern sensibilities by buying the latest thing for their loved ones? Are they someone who needs or prefers to get a good deal or a bargain? Are they someone who would love the kudos of giving the most popular gift this Christmas, but has no clue what it is? Might they even want you to reserve it for them?
While the return on investment from each of your customers’ efforts to come up with good ideas for presents is limited, every gift idea you use KIT to come up with is one that you can replicate for all other customers like them. You can use your store’s data on what kids, mums and dads are buying themselves to make suggestions to other people buying gifts for them. You can browse your store’s catalogue for ideas that might work for people who are especially hard to buy for. You can make different suggestions to different groups, keep track of which of your suggestions are most popular and modify your suggestions accordingly.
KIT is super easy to pick up and can turn a new store associate into a high performing store associate within their first week, particularly in the run-up to Christmas when stores become busier and shoppers become more urgent and crazed. For more seasoned store associates who already have sharp Clienteling skills, KIT provides a toolkit that turbo powers those skills and lifts their sales performance to the next level.
You can see a full demonstration of KIT by calling the team on +44 203 691 2936, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on our Contact page. The KIT team will also be happy to answer any questions you have or provide more information.
In any undertaking that requires skill to perform well, some seem to be naturals and those who do not, but both parties can benefit from improving their skills – it only takes the desire and commitment to do so. That said, there are also character traits, without which no amount of skills development can help you perform well in a certain role. For example, you can struggle hard academically and still qualify as a doctor, but if you have no interest in caring for people, you’re not going to be a great physician.
In retail there are a couple of character traits that are similarly critical to the successful performance of a retail associate, even if the stakes are not as high. First and foremost is a desire to help others. A store associate with a desire to help others is more likely to have the grit to overcome the many barriers that can come between a customer and the product they need. These include uncertainty about what product would be best, ignorance about what products are available and, most of all, trust in the store associate themselves. Furthermore, the desire to help others can play a big part in the motivation required to develop other skills that could improve how successful they are in actually helping customers.
The second character trait very helpful to a store associate is a desire to make a good impression, not just with their personal appearance, but with that of the store. A well-visited store needs constant tidying, as customers inspect products while knocking over others and not returning anything to where it is supposed to be. So being ready and willing to keep a store’s presentation in the right shape to impress customers when they walk in the door, is an important thing for a store associate.
The qualities needed to shine as a store associate
While the above character traits are the descriptions of things you either come with or you don’t, there are some personal qualities, which might be called character traits, and which some certainly possess more of than others, that can be improved with a bit of effort. Qualities such as patience, empathy, friendliness and resilience.
Patience on its own is extremely important for anyone who wants to succeed as a store associate. Anyone can walk into a retail outlet off the street, so the combination of problems, personalities and senses of urgency they can walk in with is unlimited. In approaching you for help with their purchase customers can very often be their own worst enemies, with social awkwardness that makes it hard for you to build a rapport and an inability to describe the product they are looking for that makes it impossible for you to know what they mean, as well being very unsure if that is the product they need.
While patience will help you with the clever sales trick of not getting cross with your customers, empathy will help you to understand where they are coming from, and help you make them feel more connected to you. Leading to the kind of rapport that makes a customer want to buy a product from you, almost regardless of what it is. Although empathy comes far more naturally to some than to others, it can be developed with practice.
Friendliness is arguably a combination of empathy, patience and a warm predisposition towards others, and is possibly the hardest quality to be consistent with – you can be patient and have empathy without being especially friendly. One of the most challenging things to get right with friendliness is to find the ‘Goldilocks’ zone. To not be over-friendly and not too cool, but ‘just right’. What makes that more challenging than it might be is that ‘just right’ can mean different things for different people. Empathy can help you here, by helping you to mirror your customer’s emotions as well as their body language. And mirroring is worth cracking, as studies at Stanford and Northwestern University show, in which, “sales negotiators who mimicked their partner reached a deal 67% of the time, while those who did not utilise mirroring only achieved a 12.5% close rate.”
The other quality that’s invaluable in a job where you have limited control over your success rate, and 67% is excellent, is resilience. Everyone’s ability to succeed in life depends heavily on their resilience, or their ability to learn from and bounce back from failure. But in any sales job, because only a fraction of your prospects become customers, you experience a lot more failure to bounce back from than if you were, say, a plumber. That said, the only way to get better at something is with deliberate practice, so even if you aren’t super resilient when you start as a store associate, the job will give you plenty of opportunities to practice.
As well as the above character traits and qualities, certain skills are needed for a store associate to perform well. Skills that, once again, some people will have a greater aptitude for picking up than others, but everyone can learn if they are determined to. Skills like prioritising, communication skills, tech skills, and product knowledge.
However, while a new store associate might take six months to develop the skills they need to provide truly inspiring service to a customer, with modern Clienteling software like KIT and a small amount of training, a new hire can knock their customer service out of the park in their first week. They can delight customers with their tech skills and product knowledge while their customers are in the store, then send messages using the app to impress them with their communication skills after they have left.
The app enables all store associates to provide a smooth tour of the product catalogue and make well-chosen suggestions for products a customer may be interested in, based on previous purchases or expressed needs. The whole process of completing a sale can be streamlined using KIT, and it can be used to prioritise customer needs according to their situation. The backend of the app can be securely locked so that a customer who is not in a hurry can look at product comparisons on one tablet, while a retail associate uses KIT on another tablet to arrange for someone to fetch a product from the stockroom, or to complete a sale for another customer who is ready to make a purchase.
Of course, KIT can be used even more effectively by experienced retail associates, but it can work like invisible training wheels on a bicycle for those who still have a lot of skills and product knowledge to learn. That can help to build their confidence and more importantly, while they are still learning, their customers’ confidence in them. For a full demonstration of KIT just contact the team by calling +44 203 691 2936. You can also email email@example.com with any questions or to request more information, or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on our Contact page.
The reason why you have to win a potential customer’s trust, if you have something to sell, is that there is no doubt you will gain from the sales transaction, but your potential customer has no such guarantee. They need to trust you to believe that the value you are attaching to the thing you’re selling is genuine. Conversely, when a satisfied customer, who has nothing to gain from enthusing about your product, shares their delight with their friends, it is much easier for those potential customers to believe in its value. That is why no one can sell your products as successfully as your satisfied customers.
However, today the competition in retail is no longer just between the perceived value of one product versus that of another, it is between shopping online and spending at least three hours driving to the town centre, finding parking and possibly a long walk to your store. Luring people out of their homes, where they can shop online in warmth and comfort, means leading them to expect to be delighted in your store. Your satisfied customers’ friends may be persuaded that your product is worth having, but if your customers can’t also share some excitement about their visit to your store, given the alternatives their friends may not feel sufficiently inspired to go and get it.
Providing store associates with access to instant knowledge
There are many ways of delighting customers in your store. There are many tricks, visual, auditory and even olfactory effects that can enhance the customer experience. You can also engage the intellect, emotions and imagination with interactive experiences that stimulate these senses, and they can be simple yet still effective. A London mobile phone store recently broke the unstoppable social media meme of two girls screaming at a disdainful cat into a triptych spread across three phone screens in their store window. One girl was on the left-hand phone, the other girl was on the middle phone and the cat was on the right-hand phone. But whatever creativity a store puts into their customer’s shopping experience, at the core of it must be a simple process that involves identifying the right product for the customer, locating it in the store or the stockroom and completing the transaction. The quicker and easier this process works for a shopper, the more delighted they will be.
Until fairly recently, identifying a product and locating it in a store depended somewhat on a given store associate’s experience and knowledge of both the retail outlet’s catalogue of products and where each is located on the shop floor and in the stockroom. This situation was fraught with problems. Most obviously new store associates could take a long time and have many customer interactions before being able to offer a smooth, never mind delightful shopping experience. And regardless of experience, a store associate’s knowledge could easily go out of date fast. For example, a product seen by a store associate in the stock room in the morning, could easily, unbeknownst to the store associate, have sold out by the afternoon. Leading the store associate to misinform a customer of the product’s availability, leading to a long wait while they double-check their mistake, and eventually disappoint the customer with confirmation that they were wrong.
Similarly, not long ago a customer could easily encounter a store associate incapable of understanding their description of a product, or not knowing if the store sold it, or unable to confirm whether it was currently in stock. At best a customer could frequently experience tedious delays waiting for a seasoned sales associate to locate a product or check the stockroom for it.
A modern solution to an age old retail challenge
Contrast that with the situation today, that is if a retailer has invested in the right Clienteling tool. Now a customer can enter a store and be greeted by a store associate, in their first week on the job, already capable of delivering a first class service. The customer presents the store associate with a picture that a friend posted on social media of some shoes that they recently bought. The store associate reaches for their tablet or smartphone running an app called KIT and uses it to scan the aforementioned picture. An image recognition algorithm identifies the shoes and calls up the page in the electronic store catalogue, giving both the store associate and the customer several illustrations and all the information they might want about the shoes, including whether or not they are in stock.
If the shoes are in stock the store associate can tap a button to request that a runner fetch the shoes. Previously, the customer would have had to wait for the store associate themselves find the shoes, and most people who have ever done that can recall waiting long enough to wonder if the store associate was ever coming back. Now, instead of leaving the customer in limbo, KIT allows the store associate to continue tending to the customer while the shoes are retrieved. KIT further assists by showing the store associate the customer’s purchase history and suggesting another pair of shoes, similar to a pair bought previously, that are now available in several new colours. By the time the shoes the customer came in to buy are in the customer’s hands, KIT may have helped the store associate sell them a second pair.
That isn’t the end of KIT’s usefulness in this customer interaction – it is equipped to let the store associate complete the purchase there and then, saving the customer from time waiting in line at a checkout. Thus a process that once could have taken half an hour and still failed to produce the shoes the customer was looking for, can be reduced to several minutes of quick and easy sales support, with unexpected delights thrown in. Even if the shoes the customer came in to find were not in stock, KIT would have been able to locate them in another store and help the store associate complete the purchase with various fulfilment options – pick them up from either store or have them delivered.
Any data your store holds in electronic form that can help a store associate provide sales assistance or complete a transaction can be surfaced in KIT, enabling store associates to personalise their customer interactions and ensure that not only are customers’ purchasing needs met but that their experience is satisfyingly smooth, efficient and convenient. The kind they would rave about to their friends.
It is easy to arrange a demonstration of the software with the KIT team. They will also be happy to simply answer questions or give you the information you need to decide if you are ready for a demonstration. They can be reached on +44 203 691 2936 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on this website’s Contact page.
The KIT team will be making their annual pilgrimage to New York City for NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show, meeting with new and existing clients at Booth #4125. For the fourth year in succession, the team will be showcasing the KIT product portfolio and sharing exciting new product developments at the Annual Convention & EXPO – NRF’s flagship event, and the world’s largest Retail Conference and Expo, which runs from 11 – 14 January 2020, hosted at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
KIT has been successfully deployed in prestigious luxury fashion houses and stores such as Holt Renfrew, a chain of high-end Canadian department stores specialising in luxury brands and a global retail fashion retailer. As a result, KIT is now being used daily by 1000’s of store associates worldwide from Europe to Asia to North America. In attendance at this year’s event will be Keytree Director Andrew Miller and Adrian Slater, Head of Retail at Keytree.
KIT will be demonstrating what it takes for companies to create a personalised end-to-end Omni-channel experience for customers. Visitors to the KIT stand will be treated to an interactive experience that reimagines the store experience for store associates, management and customers alike ensuring the interactions are as remarkable as possible. Demo’s will show how KIT puts the store associate at the heart of the customer’s journey with a blending of digital and physical interactions.
National Retail Federation
NRF 2020 is the worlds largest retail conference, accommodating over 38,000 visitors, 16,000 retailers and more than 800 exhibitors. The three-day event aims to bring together ideas and relationships, and help attendees forge new partnerships. The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association. Its members include department stores, speciality, discount, catalogue, internet and independent retailers, chain restaurants and grocery stores.
One way or another, once it had been invented, the telephone would have caught on. However, many of the things that we consider indispensable, now that we know how useful they are, were not immediately recognised for their potential value when they first appeared, and the telephone is no exception. It was the news of the vital role that the telephone played, in 1878, in helping to round up doctors and bring them to the scene of a massive train accident in Tariffville, Connecticut, which proved the concept of this new technology to a pre-telephone society, that had managed perfectly well thus far with the telegram being the most advanced communication tool available.
But despite having proved its worth, and being an incredibly powerful tool that has subsequently changed the world, from its earliest days the telephone has had its weaknesses. Crossed lines, eavesdroppers, abusive callers, and most recently robocalls – a problem so bad that, as The Washington Post reports on a survey by Hiya, many people are “simply choosing not to answer the phone altogether”.
In the light of this understanding of the telephone, which, despite its weaknesses, very few adults in the world would dream of being without in one form or another, this blog post is going to look at the trouble you could run into if you put a Clienteling app in the hands of a store associate. Just to be clear, we highly recommend putting a Clienteling app in the hands of all of your store associates, but we want to educate you about the potential dangers, so you are prepared to deal with them and are better able to make the most of this exciting new technology.
Clienteling and the store associate – the need to embrace change
First and foremost, changing the culture of any business takes a lot of communication and more time than most of us would like it to. That’s why relying too heavily on static company-wide communications to introduce any change to a workplace, especially new ways of working, is likely to result in poor absorption of the information and poor adoption of the new methodology. When new tools and approaches are introduced to a workplace, to embed those things in its company culture, a business needs to provide team briefings, training, feedback loops and support. Otherwise, even simple comprehension of what the new change is and what it is for will likely be too low for it to take hold and be effective.
But even more important is the fact that people vary in how well they adapt to change. Some people lap up change and some are very resistant to it so for this reason, any change in company practice needs to find someone who will champion the change to those who greet it with wariness or even hostility. Someone in the company who not only shows enthusiasm for the brave new world but who is understood to be available for support in making sense of the what, where, when, why and how of it.
In other words, simply presenting store associates with a new Clienteling app, without providing sufficient support and encouragement along with it, will probably result in worse sales performances, not better ones. For example, if a store associate is not convinced that the new app will make it easier to do or perform well in their job, they will likely either resent using it or refuse to – both of which will impact negatively on the customer experience that the app is intended to improve.
Introducing and embedding KIT into your workforce
Picture a customer greeted by a store associate who is not enthusiastic about the new Clienteling app, so has not learned of the many useful functions it has. The store associate may not even know that the app enables them to search the stock of a product in another store and complete a sale there and then. It could take the store associate so long to figure out how to accomplish this task with that the wholly unimpressed customer runs out of patience and leaves without making the purchase they would have made if the app designed to enhance customer service had been slick and effective.
Conversely, imagine a store associate who loves the new Clienteling app so much that, in their excitement over what it can do, they fail to listen to guidance on how to use the direct communication features of the app, resulting in doing more harm than good.
One of the most useful applications of a Clienteling app is to personalise the shopping experience for customers, which is of huge value in bricks and mortar retail, where competing with the convenience of online shopping means offering the added value that you can’t find online. Furthermore, one of the best ways of personalising the shopping experience for a customer is to communicate directly with them, via a Clienteling app, with news of a new product or discount that has just been announced. However, if all the messages a store associate ever sends a customer are about products and offers, or if a store associate is not dynamically responsive to the communications they receive from a customer, then those store associates are not providing a valuable, personalised shopping experience, they are subjecting that customer to spam. And instead of those store associates building stronger brand loyalty using the Clienteling app, they will be weakening it.
Potential problems for a brand can also occur even if ten store associates are doing nothing particularly bad in the way they use the direct communication function of a Clienteling app if there has been an insufficient setting of a standard to follow. The result will be sub-optimal brand consistency.
Of course, any useful tool can be mishandled. In the wrong or the uneducated hands, a simple hammer could be used destructively. In the right hands, attached to a person who knows how to hit the nail and not their thumb, the hammer can be used to build palaces. Similarly, with the right support, Clienteling apps like KIT can be incredibly helpful as a tool for both Clienteling and assisted selling. While designed to be very easy to use, KIT is multifaceted and dynamic – new information about products, stock and customers can be added all the time, so it helps all store associates who have been given a tablet with KIT installed on it, if they receive excellent support in practising with and making the most of it.
To help set you off on the right foot with KIT, we recommend inviting the most technologically friendly or innovation-oriented of your store associates to join you for a demonstration of the app with our team. That way your store associates can help you to create a buzz to introduce KIT to your retail business. Demonstrations of KIT can be arranged by contacting the helpful KIT team on +44 203 691 2936. You can also email email@example.com with any questions or to request more information, or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on our Contact page.
If you have worked in retail today, for any length of time, you know about the importance of the customer experience. However, with so many different ideas floating around about what the customer experience is and how to provide it, you could be forgiven for not being very clear about either of those things. For some, designing the customer experience means a floor to ceiling refit of the store to create an entirely different space or ambience. For others, it is about offering an experience that is both appealing and not what you would traditionally expect from a retailer.
For example, this summer, Showfields, a retailer in New York, launched ‘an immersive theatre experience that bridges art and retail,’ which customers begin by going down a black-and-white striped slide. From there actors guide shoppers through a surreal combination of art gallery and product demonstrations, which concludes in a space called ‘The Lab’, where guests can buy the products they’ve seen on the tour.
As these kinds of examples are being set by peers, for too many retailers, focusing on the customer experience means missing the point. As Retail Prophet, Doug Stephens puts it in his blog post: ‘Why Retail Is Getting “Experience” Wrong‘ – “Most retailers assume customer experience is primarily an aesthetic concept and more about how stores look and feel. Other retailers assume that customer experience simply means better, friendlier or more personalised service. Thus they invest in recruiting and training, and work harder to capture data about their clientele.”
Understanding the customer experience
The efforts of retailers who think this way will almost inevitably fail because they haven’t understood the task at hand. Doug goes on to explain: “True customer experience design means deconstructing the entire customer journey into its smallest component parts and then reengineering each component to look, feel and most importantly, operate differently than before and distinctly from competitors.”
Why is it that retailers struggle to understand this? It is the same reason why most people couldn’t describe the dynamics that make one story good and another one bad, but they can tell when they hear a good story and when they hear a bad one. They haven’t thought about it for long enough or been taught by someone who truly understands it and therefore is probably no coincidence that when you do think about it, you can see very similar dynamics at work in both a great story and a great customer experience.
A great story engages all five senses of the world where it takes place – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. As the saying goes, people may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. The same is true of retail experience. A story worth listening to is one that transports you to another world. And because the characters who live there inhabit such a different world from yours, when you feel empathy for them they lift you out of the forest where you live and can no longer see the trees, and allow you see again. The products you are looking at in a store that has redesigned its customer experience may be similar to a thousand others you have seen, but when they are presented in a completely different light from every other store you’ve seen them in, you can see and feel them anew.
Some stories deliberately make it harder for their audience to relate to their heroes, and typically those stories develop a cult following from the few who love them. But most stories aim to tell stories about protagonists the audience can relate to fairly easily in a very deep way. You know when a story has succeeded in presenting you with such a protagonist because you enjoy and look forward to the time you spend with them. This is what a personalised store experience is all about – making a customer feel seen, happy to visit, glad they came and eager for the next chapter.
A great story surprises its audience, by knowing what they expect and delivering something different. A twist in the tale or a subversion of expectations at each turning point in a story is far more satisfying than a ‘jack-in-the-box’, which is a surprise with no particular logical or emotional connection to what led up to it. It also works in retail. Expectations are deeply ingrained in shoppers but there are many ways to deliver unexpected and delightful surprises all along the customer journey.
While amazing stories are not formulaic, great writers can bring us back to new episodes of stories and repeatedly deliver, with necessary variations, what we have come to expect from the world in which these stories are set. It is just as vital that a customer, returning to a store that has mastered its customer experience as described above, is offered a similar quality, though not a cookie-cutter copy of the experience they have had and loved before. So far so ideal, and in his blog, Doug Stephens makes a valid point that simply handing a retail associate a tablet and expecting the customer experience to hit new heights of excellence is naive at best.
He also points out that achieving this level of customer experience is not easy, and even when you get there, if you are armed with a tablet that gives you a live view of every product available in that store at that precise moment, you probably have the most valuable thing you need to delight a customer who neither has the time nor the patience to jump on a black and white slide before embarking on a 20-minute tour that ends in the gift shop. There’s every reason to use your imagination and creativity to make every one of your customer’s experiences compel them to return, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of some basic relationship management activities that foster an authentic connection between your retail associates and your customers. Furthermore, with the right app on that tablet, you can make that relationship management easier.
Arrange a free demo of KIT
KIT is the ideal solution for retailers looking to equip their store associates with a tool that makes it easier to personalise a customer’s experience so they look forward to returning again and again. The most helpful thing KIT can do in the first interaction may be to quickly connect a customer with the right product, but building on that success KIT can help store associates to accumulate data that helps them and the brand build a relationship with that customer. The longer and stronger that relationship, the better the chances of increasing the lifetime value of that customer.
KIT includes a range of assisted selling tools to help customers find, evaluate and compare products, then complete the sale – taking the pain out of shopping for even the most retail-unfriendly of customers. After that, records of the customer kept automatically through sales and interactions with the brand on other channels can be added to manually, which means a store associate doesn’t have to memorise the granular details of a multitude of customers who only visit the store once a month or less. Being able to easily access this information helps a store associate make a customer feel far more cared for than they would otherwise be able to.
As part of a conscious revolution in your thinking about what customers expect from their experience on the high street, introducing KIT should not be the only change you make, but it can be a powerful performance enhancer. And the challenge of igniting and leading your customer experience revolution should not be underestimated, but by way of contrast, it takes very little effort to arrange a demonstration of KIT. Simply contact the KIT team on +44 203 691 2936 and they will be happy to assist. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to request more information, or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on our Contact page.
Data comes in many forms. It tends to get divided into quantitative and qualitative, although it can be more helpful to think about the quality of the data, whatever kind it is because that’s what determines how useful it is. Good quality data is robust and unequivocal, for example, if a customer spent X amount with a certain retailer over a period of time, that’s a simple, no denying it, fact.
If a customer buys shoes 90% of the time they shop with a particular retailer, that’s also an indisputable fact. But poor quality data is ambiguous or open to misinterpretation. For example, if you ask anyone what they would do in a set of hypothetical circumstances relating to a product or brand, your data tells you what people think they would do, it doesn’t tell you what they would do. This means that quantitative data is often better quality data, but it isn’t as simple as that either.
Customers asked to rate their satisfaction with a purchase using a number between 1 and 5 will not necessarily answer consistently despite how well they are instructed. One customer may feel perfectly satisfied and rate their experience as a 5. Another customer may feel similarly satisfied by their experience but may also believe in reserving top marks for an extraordinarily satisfying experience. The data may be recorded as quantitative, but it is not as robust a reflection of reality as data showing how much a customer spent over time.
Conversely, qualitative data that is a record of customers’ written feedback may provide a more accurate picture of each of the above customers’ level of satisfaction. This data isn’t as easy to search through if you have thousands of customers, but when you are looking at records relating to individuals, it can provide the vital details that complete a story suggested by other more easily searchable data.
Capturing meaningful customer data
Capturing good quality data about your customers is a gift that keeps on giving because quality data about recent activity can be useful both as soon as it is captured and long into the future as a means of comparison against new data. In other words, the more of the same data you can capture over time, the more easily you can distinguish patterns in that data. For example, the longer you record customers spend in your store, the clearer the pattern of his or her purchasing behaviour. It may take a while, with a customer who only makes a purchase every few months, for their purchasing behaviour to show a pattern, but when it does and it tells you what that customer is interested in then you can more effectively target that customer with products or services you know will appeal to them.
Another benefit from capturing data about a customer’s purchasing behaviour over a long period is it gives you the ability to spot deviations from the norm. For example, a customer’s monthly spend might suddenly go up or down, or the frequency with which they purchase shoes might rise or fall. While, on its own, data like this will probably not be enough to establish the underlying reasons for changes in a pattern of purchasing behaviour, it can be enough to guide further enquiry through conversation with a customer. When a retail associate learns what has changed for a customer this information can be used to improve their retail experience with your brand, making them feel more seen, more cared for, more satisfied and more loyal to your brand. However, no one will know to ask what has changed without an indication from other data to prompt the question.
Meanwhile, triangulating records of which branch a customer makes which purchases in, with social media posts containing photos of the customer and their mother, in which the brand is hashtagged, can inform a retailer that twice a year a customer visits their mother and takes her out shopping. Armed with that data, various options open up to the retail associates of that store to enhance and personalise that shopping experience, promoting sales and brand loyalty. There are many layers of data you can capture about a customer, within which you can then search for insights to help you to personalise their experience with your brand. There’s a lot of data you can collect about your customers’ relationship with your product or service. Such as when, what and on what did a customer-first spend with you? For some retailers, this alone has proven to be a big predictor of future behaviour, though it won’t always be.
Additionally, how much does a customer spend per shop, how much over time, how frequently over time and in what locations? What type of product is a customer most interested in, do they favour design or function, beta products or more fully developed, the latest fashion of end of line bargains? There’s also data you can capture that is more to do with a customer’s relationship with the brand. What is their preferred contact method, how do they like to be addressed, what is their contact history, have they provided feedback before – was it good or bad, do they follow or have they mentioned the brand on social media?
Finally, there’s data you can capture that helps store associates build a truly personal interaction with your customers, and avoid making every conversation about the brand or its products. What is their favourite colour, favourite music, pet’s name, job title?
To help store associates make the most of available customer data, KIT can create individual profiles for each customer, to record information captured at different ‘touchpoints’ in their journey to and beyond every sale. This includes products viewed or favourited online, as well as information added by the store associate. Using insights from this data, store associates are in a much stronger position to create deep engagement with these customers, nurturing customer loyalty and driving sales.
Easy to pick up, store and retrieve data on, KIT is the perfect tool for the modern store associate. It can also be used as an assisted selling tool, providing illustrations and information about products that allow the customer to feel in control of their research and choices, while the store associate plays the role of assistant. For more information about KIT and to arrange a full demonstration, please contact the team on +44 203 691 2936. You can also email email@example.com with any questions or to request more information, or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on our Contact page.
A 2015 study by Vision Critical, exploring the evolving financial services landscape, found that 49% of customers have only “moderate trust” in their primary financial institute whereas almost one third of banking customers believe another firm can offer them a better experience. To put that into perspective, let’s go back to the economic boom of the 80’s, when banks put a huge amount of effort into re-branding themselves as friendly places, eager to help, and increasingly at your service. They knew they had to change the old perception of bankers and also banks as difficult to access – closed half the time that you needed them. They had become more conscious of target groups of customers, like small business owners, students and children, so their marketing campaigns reflected that and those campaigns were very successful.
However, despite maintaining efforts to improve the customer experience, with increased access to their services by phone, online and via mobile apps, banks have shot themselves in the foot several times over in the last 20 – 30 years. Irresponsible business practices that have several times seen their demise, their survival depends on a bailout from public money or their prosecution for selling products and services under false pretences. They are also not unfairly blamed for the global economic crash of 2008 – it may be more of a wonder that trust in banks is not lower. Indeed, when the PR disasters of your industry have been so big and so many, that even if your record as a bank over the last 30 years is beyond reproach, you have to work extra hard to build trust.
Mastering the omni-channel experience
One of the best ways to build trust is to master omni-channel customer relations, to make sure that at every touchpoint customers are reassured that the mistakes of the past have been learned from and that customers are in safe, trustworthy hands. And an excellent way to do that is with cutting edge Clienteling.
Clienteling, a relatively new word to describe a much older art of relationship building between a retailer and its customers, is about personalising the customer experience. In their unique way, banks have been practising the art for decades now, with ‘personal bankers’ at desks in branches to deal with more complex and time-consuming banking business. But now Clienteling can be taken to the next level with software that makes it possible to augment the personal treatment of customers in the branch and extend it beyond.
KIT is a Clienteling app that offers a range of features that can enhance the retail banking customer experience. Beginning with concierge assistance, KIT can manage and make appointments for customers both on and before arrival in the bank. Once the customer has been identified, which can be done with a card scan, relevant background information and preferences can be used to tailor the experience. This includes notes of personal details, which may be useful in providing an enriched, personalised interaction, fostering warmth and trust. This makes any opportunities that arise, to cross or up-sell products and services, more likely to succeed.
The latest product information can be easily obtained for customers looking for more details about a product or service they already know exists, or customers looking for a product to meet a specific set of needs. If a product comparison is needed, the tablet running KIT can be safely handed to customers with administrative functions locked, to provide visual aids that compare and contrast relative benefits of similar products.
KIT can support customer decision making and can also provide pathways to help bank staff easily and consistently troubleshoot common queries and frequently asked questions, facilitating a smoother, more professional service. In other words, it no longer has to take 15 minutes to wait for someone who can answer a simple question.
For a detailed tour of KIT and explore the ways it can help professionals in your bank to elevate the experience they offer your customers, please call the team on +44 203 691 2936, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the short form on our Contact page.
Long before the advent of the computer, the trick to outperforming your competition in retail sales was to keep a notebook in which you would record information about clients, including but not limited to their purchasing history. Armed with a repository of information bigger than anyone could be expected to simply remember, you could improve your interactions with customers, making them feel well known and understood, and thus provide a more personal and satisfying shopping experience. While the art itself predates the term Clienteling by a considerable margin – this is the art of Clienteling.
Today, with technological innovations, the state of the art has moved forward – paper notebooks have been replaced by apps that make information about customers even easier to record, organise and recall. But new technology like this always raises a question about the need for it. The argument goes that if we have survived without it so far, why do we need it now? Is it essential or would it just be nice to have?
The answer is that your store associates can manage without it, but there’s obviously a difference between managing and prospering. Do you want your store associates to just survive or do you want them to thrive?
More than a mark in a little black book
Furthermore, if you don’t provide your store associates with cutting edge Clienteling tools, and if you’ve hired the right people, they will improvise their own approach using their own devices. The result of that is losing both useful data and brand-building opportunities. Instead of capturing information that could help you target customers more successfully, it will be inaccessible to you. And when a customer receives communication from a store associate on one of their personal channels, that is likely to strengthen their connection to the store associate’s personal brand, more than it strengthens their connection to the brand of your store.
Before the days of internet shopping, when a high streets’ biggest competition was other high streets, and you could expect more people to be walking past and walking into your store, the average store associate was under less pressure to go beyond asking a customer: “Do you need any help?” Indeed, there was a time for some store associates when it was advantageous to minimise the time they spent with any single customer, to push as many customers over the line of a sale as possible.
However, today the high street is in fierce competition with the internet, and store associates have a much more critical role to play – they are the best weapon a retailer has to entice customers out of their homes and to maintain a connection with them when they are not visiting the store. And that’s one of the ways in which a simple notebook is not enough anymore, which is why store associates looking to succeed need something more powerful and more dynamic and they’ll be compelled to build their own solution if they have to. Fortunately, they don’t have to. Thanks to some clever people at Keytree who developed KIT to usher in a new era of Clienteling excellence.
KIT is a product catalogue, notebook, communications centre, personal assistant and style consultant rolled into one, easy to use application. It not only helps a store associate record information and history about customers, enhancing their ability to connect with them – it helps store associates identify and present customers with suggestions for products that might also be of interest plus promotions which they are likely to find appealing.
KIT facilitates communication with customers when they are not actually in the store, which is recorded in the customer’s profile to support excellent customer relationship management. It helps new store associates hit the ground running and takes the Clienteling of experienced retail professionals to the next level.
For a detailed tour of KIT and the ways it can assist your store associates in elevating the experience they offer your customers just give the team a call on +44 203 691 2936, email email@example.com or complete the short form on our Contact page.