One summer evening in the late 90s – Rob Lewis, serial entrepreneur and founder of silicon.com gathered senior editors from the IT and business sector in the main hall at the Natural History Museum and made a bold announcement while throwing their publications in a dustbin. He predicted that magazines and newspapers would become a thing of the past – replaced by online news sites.
The dot-com boom of the 1990s carried many predictions and the group of editors from the publishing house who attended the above event has seen its 40 publications become reduced to three in less than 20 years. But other predictions have had a strange, unpredictable journey.
One of the biggest and boldest prophecies was the doomed high street. In the mid-90s, Jeff Bezos left the canyons of Wall Street and set up shop in Seattle where he created his online bookstore, which has since become the largest internet-based retailer in the world. The birth of Amazon was to many the first nail in the coffin for the physical store – or the newly coined phrase ‘bricks and mortar’. How could the high street compete with buying goods from the comfort of your front room – or at your desk during a lunch break?
Crossover physical digital experiences breathing new life into the highstreets
Fast forward 20 years and many big brands have disappeared from our high street, pulling down the shutters on 1,000s of stores. Despite the variety of channels now available to customers (the omni-channel approach), nine out of ten retail transactions still take place in the store, according to Deloitte’s 2014 research – The New Digital Divide.
It’s not all doom and gloom, and companies are starting to realise the value of having an outlet built of bricks. Amazon has gone full circle and in 2015 opened its first physical store and less than 12 months ago, IKEA announced it would be investing in the high street and opening smaller stores to compliment their 18 out of town facilities.
Focusing on the customer experience
The most valuable ingredient for improving the in-store experience is the knowledge base of the store associate – demonstrating a clear understanding of the product on sale as 40 percent of global shopper’s see this as the number one component of an enjoyable visit to the high street, according to the 2016 Total Retail Survey by PwC.
So by giving staff on the shop floor the ability to stay with the client while accessing inventory including detailed product information, it will instantly improve the in-store experience, but it doesn’t stop there. Having access to customer data will greatly inform decisions made by the store associate – such as understanding the client’s channel preference or the styles that match previous purchases, which will go a long way to ensuring customers return on a regular basis.
The Keytree In-store Technology (KIT) team has built and designed retail Clienteling solutions via thorough market research activities that continually feed into product development. Clienteling is the term applied to the store associate’s daily routine to establish relationships with customers based on preference, behaviour and purchase data.
KIT provides this vital 360-degree customer information which forms a core feature of the Clienteling app, one of various applications that Keytree provides for KIT customers.
The KIT team’s aim was to re-imagine the Clienteling experience for store associates, advisors, managers and customers alike ensuring the interactions are as fruitful as possible. Over the last two years, we have conducted workshops continually optimising our designs, inviting both clients and technology partners to engage in this collaborative process. KIT provides a Digital Black Book that helps advisors manage their daily tasks, along with product catalogue and stock visibility with an omni-channel basket and easy to use mobile payment capabilities.
In the world of retail, Clienteling software solutions are staking a claim as drivers of the primary strategy for ensuring store associates and their customers get the most from the omni-channel experience and ultimately help increase sales across the retail spectrum. Although online commerce has become the primary channel for many consumers, Keytree’s in-store Clienteling is revolutionising a continually evolving technology within the fast-moving digital landscape.
Customers expect a consistent digital experience, reflecting what they have in the comfort of their own home or on mobile but what KIT applications add is an enhanced personal touch, which they get from store associates but at a speed and efficiency that only recent accomplishments in the tech space can provide. The modern store associate needs to interact with the consumer beyond the boundaries of the physical store, and KIT retail solutions are becoming providers of this platform. Being able to communicate with and sell to customers without them visiting the store has immense sales benefits across all retail sectors.
Creating the ultimate shopping experience
It’s also important to breathe new life into the in-store experience via the mobile channel and not rely solely on an associate and traditional Point of Sale (POS). The NewStore Mobile Retail Report reviewed mobile websites, native apps and the in-store experience of 140 lifestyle, luxury and apparel brands. The findings show that only one in four store associates provided real-time inventory information while on the shop floor (via a device) and just 20 percent of those surveyed offer native shopping apps.
Software solutions such as KIT remedy these pain points, offering a selection of modules including a Catalogue, Runner App and customer Walkway App using the latest iOS AR technologies. We can ensure stock information is readily available, and items are instantly retrievable from the back of the store. Our Clienteling solutions will continue to develop and innovate to keep pace with the ever-changing needs of the customer.
Right now, ‘bricks and mortar’ still offer something that you cannot get online – the personal interaction between the customer and the brand. Using a Clienteling solution to amplify the experience is vital for business success and customer retention and will pull every channel together to create the ultimate omni-channel and customer experience.
E-commerce is a quick and easy way to purchase goods, but nine out of ten retail transactions take place in store and two-thirds of luxury consumers say they want to touch and feel a product before purchase – according to research from Deloitte and Google respectively.
Not everyone can work in a public-facing role, and fewer still have the gift of being able to meet customer needs – in a graceful and uncomplicated manner. An excellent store associate knows how to care for their clients and has a unique understanding of each client, gauging their interest through body language or by reacting to a comment.
Technology surrounds us. It can be used to drive cars, create virtual reality gaming, and it even allows you to turn on your heating while struggling home through the rush hour. In the utility market, smart meters use IoT technology to monitor and record consumption on an hourly basis, and GDS is entirely recreating governmental systems to meet user needs but what impact is technology having on the retail sector?
Before we look at what’s on offer we need to remember that not so long ago the industry was facing nothing but doom and gloom. In the ‘90s, the dot-com bubble brought us many new offerings including e-commerce. At the time, many thought the future of the high street was under threat predicting that ‘bricks and mortar’ was a thing of the past. The bubble burst and the stores are still firmly rooted in their foundations, but 20 years later, these same stores are on the verge of a technological revolution.
But the use of technology in the retail sector doesn’t need to create new ways of getting customers into the building as 94 per cent of retail transactions still take place in the store, according to Deloitte’s 2014 research – The New Digital Divide. The onus is on the customer journey and providing the highest level of service, combining all channels to create the ultimate omni-channel.
Giving store associate’s the tools to improve the customer experience
The role of the store associate should be more than pointing you towards the changing rooms or fetching a different colour sweater. It’s time for the retail sector to realise that there’s more a store associate can offer customers, and there’s an easier way for them to do their job – by deploying Keytree In-store Technology.
As the store associate is usually the first point of reference for any client and is also the face of the business, retailers should be providing these valuable employees with the tools that will help improve the customer experience by nurturing valuable customer relationships through digital. Keytree In-store Technology (KIT) provides the perfect tool for managing tasks in one centralised solution, and the KIT dashboard gives users the ability to create, edit and manage tasks, calendars, team meetings and client appointments – working directly from the app.
Online or in-store – KIT also provides a complete omni-channel view of customer activity giving store associates instant access to customer needs, preferences and purchasing history. By having all customer information in one place, store associates can view wish lists, in-process shopping carts, social media profiles and communication history for each and every registered customer.
This approach ensures the customer gets a more personalised service each and every time they come into the store and store associates can access the information needed and never to miss a sale. It’s time to combine online and in-store offerings and give store associates the power of today. So whether it’s identifying who’s entering the store or creating bespoke styles online to match a customer’s preference, the future of shopping lies in the palm of the store associates hand.