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.
Opening back up the retail space poses new sets of challenges, including managing and enforcing physical distancing. There will be so much more than this for retailers to tackle, so what are the retail journeys that will be affected in store and how can Clienteling software help?
Payment and POS – taking payment is the life blood of a retail store. However the POS or payment location within a store is a bottleneck where both store associates and customer congregate. They also have to interact with the same hardware and share hardware as Store associates use the same POS screen and Customer the same credit card payment/chip and pin device.
Solutions such as KIT help with payments in several areas. Firstly the payment location no longer needs to be in one place. KIT can allow items to add items to baskets and even take payments anywhere within the store using alternative payment methods:
- MPOS – this allows store associates to take credit cards anywhere in the store with the addition of a Bluetooth or Sled device such as Paypal here, iZettle, Stripe Terminal etc. It also provides the benefits that MPOS payment devices are much more cost effective than a single POS device meaning that you could even have one MPOS device per store associate, which removes the need for sharing any hardware.
- Social payment methods – like AliPay, WeChat Pay or iMessage Pay can be brought into the store. These methods are performed without the need for an additional device other than the store associate’s device and the customer’s device.
Time in store – controlling the number of people in the store is now very important. KIT provides retailers and their stores with their own appointment booking and queue management solutions. There are two main areas that this helps with:
- Queuing when customers get to a store – KIT provides a way that customers can queue up at a store virtually. Meaning that there is no need for customers to wait in a physical line but they could wait in their cars or further away and when their turn is called they receive a notification
- Customer booking appointments to come to a store – for customers to guarantee when they can visit a store the traditional booking system to book appointments is supported with integration using our sister product Matrix Booking. This allows customers to book appointments online, which store associates can see in their app.
Customer Detail Capture – Now more than ever it is important to get customer information and customer consent. This is a challenge in a world where we cannot share a device, paper or even a pen between people. Customer detail capture within a retail store often requires a prolonged period where customer and store associate have to remain in close proximity. Our software enables capturing details and identifying customers whilst keeping a distance. We do this using the customer and store associate devices in unison started on a store associate device and then completed on a customer’s personal device.
Store Associate Collaboration – there are a number of areas that store associates collaborate with one another in a retail space such as sharing best practices, task lists, reassigning work tasks, training, KPI distribution from store manager. KIT provides a mechanism that enables all of these through the app for example:
- Tasks and appointments are managed within the app providing store associates an easy place to see what they need to do and mark them as complete fully autonomously.
- In app learning learning resources exposed in one location
- Bespoke sharing capabilities such as look book for fashion – look book allows senior store associates generate complimentary product outfits that can be shared with both customers and other store associates.
Customer communication – allowing store associates to communicate with customers whilst out of store and at a distance is even more important. To do this store associates will be creative and resourceful using their own communication methods. This poses challenges for a retailer in that it means that they have no view over the communications. KIT assists with this by bringing communications into the app. This gives store associates the ability to create baskets and share products via channels such as sms, email and social channels.*
Buy online and pick up in store – customers are moving to more cautious purchasing with a large amount of online purchasing. For a retailer that has bricks and mortar stores a key benefit that can be offered is BOPIS. There are four parts to enable this:
- The online ecommerce system to take the order which is aware of store stock
- OMS system to distribute the baskets to each store
- A tool for picking the items and getting the items prepared for a customer
- Tool to issue the pick up in store capturing the customer approval
Often stages 3 and 4 are overlooked as to their importance. KIT helps with this section by providing a best in class tool that performs both the task execution and customer pick up completion.
Overall this is a big step getting everyone back to work however it does not need to be as difficult with a little help from a clienteling tool.
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?
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 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.
Luring shoppers away from the comfort and convenience of their online shopping basket has been the challenge of the century for bricks and mortar retailers. And now, with Amazon, who already claim half of all retail sales in the US, introducing a new Augmented Reality function to help shoppers visualise products in their home before they buy them, the challenge is just got tougher.
Doubtless, you know of at least one example of a creative if not radical solution implemented by a high street store to create an extraordinary in-store experience worth leaving the house for. Sometimes these experiences, ranging from treasure hunts to immersive theatre, are only very tenuously connected to the products and shopping opportunities offered by the stores that host them, but some are squarely on brand. In its central London store, The House of Vans, a skateboarding and BMX fashion retailer, has installed a cinema, café, live music venue and art gallery, with its piece de resistance in the basement, in the form of a fully functional skateboard/bike park.
However, on brand or not, not every retailer has the resources to add multiple new functions to their store, and even those that do are likely to have to limit this approach to their flagship branch. The question of what’s really, practically going to dictate the future of the in-store experience, for both retailers and shoppers, is one that was at the heart of the National Retail Federation’s NXT meeting in July 2019. It turns out that extraordinary store experiences were only one of the three answers they presented. The other two were data and digital marketing. Furthermore, they are the ones that are going to tell you what is going to make for an extraordinary store experience.
Being a high street retailer can seem like a huge disadvantage when you are competing with online stores, because online stores can be accessed by anyone from anywhere, including from inside a high street store. However, online retailers would kill for the quality of data you can capture with a shopper standing in front of you, where you can hold a conversation with them and be responsive in real-time to the information you take in.
The evolution of websites no match for direct contact with the customer
Websites may have evolved the ability to carry out sophisticated behaviour analysis using heatmaps and other user data, but they cannot directly observe their shoppers and modify their approach to better suit the dynamic of each individual, or successfully judge if now is the right time to ask for information that will improve how you connect with them as a brand. These kinds of interactions are not everyone’s forte, but for those who can master them, they can provide far richer data about a customer’s shopping needs than you can get from analysing the same person’s mouse movements and clicks on a website. If you want to know if the changes you are making to your customer experience online are working you can ask your visitors. A retail associate’s observation of a shopper in a high street store could give you a far more accurate, real-time feedback on the success or failure of the customer experience.
Digital marketing and data are closely linked because what makes digital marketing so powerful compared with traditional marketing is the scope it provides to analyse its impact and the speed with which that can be done. When trying to measure the impact of an advert on TV or in a magazine, the two best measures used to be: how many people saw it and, if possible, how many people called the telephone number given in the ad.
Whatever the form of your digital marketing – email, blog, video, banner, pop-up, it is relatively easy to A/B test different options that with old marketing media you would simply have had to commit. Now you can change words, colours and images in marketing, making sure that you can identify which version of which marketing asset a person saw when they answered a call to action (clicking, completing a form, printing a coupon) and get real data as to which marketing effort had the most impact.
This is critical because for most customers in the high street their experience begins with an exposure to digital marketing. It is also critical that the experience offered in-store is looked at holistically alongside the digital marketing effort so that there is congruence between all the digital marketing touchpoints leading to the high street store and the physical space of that same brand.
KIT – helping brands capture real usable data
One way of achieving that is with KIT, which runs on an iPad or Android tablet, and can be adapted to fit any retail brand. KIT is a tool that works at the intersection of all three of the answers offered by the NRF’s NXT meeting. Using customer profiles, it captures incredibly useful data to help the brand improve its customer experience. By linking to the brand’s website it integrates with other digital marketing efforts and powers digital marketing by providing store associates with various means to message customers directly. Finally, there are numerous ways KIT can be used as part of the shopping experience. It can help to locate particular products, both in the catalogue and the store. It can be used to compare products or help educate customers about products. And it can be used to close a sale when otherwise a customer would have a much longer process to follow and run the risk of not completing the purchase.
It is also worth noting that while the assisted selling features of KIT can rescue a retailer from putting too much thought into the frills and not enough into the nuts and bolts of selling stuff to all its customers, KIT can also help with a particular category of shopper, identified in a paper written in April 2018, titled: Selling the Extraordinary Experiential Retail Stores – who will feel particularly let down if she or he can’t make their purchase with a minimum of fuss.
That is to say, as important as it is for retail stores to think about the customer experience and how to make it rock, they must also understand that broadly speaking, shoppers come in two forms. The ones who do planned, task focussed shopping and those who are more spontaneous and open to being entertained. As well as helping immerse the spontaneous, entertainment-oriented shoppers in the brand and its products, KIT can be the perfect tool for a store associate who needs to help a task focussed shopper transcend the distraction of the entertainment, to simply execute their task. Thus, instead of leaving frustrated because they were not interested in trying a face mask made from Koala droppings, task focussed customers can be made grateful that your store understood and catered to their individual needs.
To learn more about how KIT can form part of your data-driven, digital marketing integrated, extraordinary customer experience, just contact the KIT team on +44 203 691 2936. They will be very happy to answer any questions and schedule a demonstration. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the short form on our Contact page.
Identifying patterns of customer behaviour in your market is critical to informing your sales and marketing strategy and finding ways to increase sales. In retail, as an obvious example, if a particular product is flying off the shelves, you’ll want to put it in the window. Possibly even after it has sold out. However, not all patterns are easy to see at first. It is harder to notice if customers whose first purchase was a sweater are over three times more likely to buy again in their first 90 days than customers who started by buying in other categories.
While pattern recognition is one of the human mind’s greatest strengths, it is simultaneously one of its greatest weaknesses. The constant vigilance of our subconscious hunt for patterns can be extremely useful in quickly revealing threats and opportunities. However, our pattern recognition is also relatively short-sighted and inclined to propel us into action based on too few data points. We need help to tell which dots should be connected to those that shouldn’t.
While data about macro patterns might be relatively easy for a store associate to access, such as what is trending globally, in a specific country or for a particular brand, it could be harder to know, at a local level, what the patterns are. Socio-economic and cultural differences between customers in one location can vary substantially from those in another location for the same brand just a few miles away. For this reason, the most valuable data is obtained and applied at the coal face, in a particular location, in a particular store.
For example, a men’s clothing store might attract its target audience in one area, but 10 miles away more women may be making more purchases from the same brand, for their partners or family. Being aware of this, and even what is behind it, is important to know because the next thing for a store associate to do with the information about who is buying what in their store, is use it in their Clienteling approach.
The art of Clienteling
Clienteling is the art of personalising the customer experience, by anticipating a customer’s wants and needs and minimising the effort they have to put in to find retail fulfilment. The better a store associate can identify the patterns in groups of customers as well as particular individuals, the better they will be at Clienteling.
Fortunately for retail associates, help with both pattern recognition and Clienteling is now available in the form of KIT (Keytree In-store Technology) an app which is, among other things, designed to collect customer data over time and make it easier to identify patterns and trends in individual customers’ behaviour as well as across customer segments. By recording purchasing history, both online and in-store, as well as basic demographics and other details that are available, KIT makes it easier to notice patterns in purchasing behaviour across ages, genders, interests and other profile characteristics. It then makes it easier for retail associates to communicate with customers and present each one with the opportunities they are most likely to find attractive.
As well as providing the micro view of what an individual customer likes by way of products and customer experience, KIT also helps store associates locate and complete purchases for products both in-store and available elsewhere, all of which takes the friction out of shopping, provides a great Clienteling experience, which in turn promotes brand loyalty, return visits and more sales.
KIT was built collaboratively with experts in retail and is designed to be so easy to use that a store associate can hand a tablet running the app to a customer, to give them the freedom to search and browse stock for the products they need. There are over 10,000 sales associates in 64 countries worldwide currently using KIT to assist them in both basic sales and clienteling. The app is available in 12 languages and it’s easy to arrange a demonstration to see how it could work for you. Just call +44 203 691 2936, email email@example.com or complete the short form on our Contact page.
Disruptive Retail Technology – causing a commotion
Technology changes the way we work, communicate and interact with each other, but the use of technology in retail is disrupting the whole sector. Advancements in retail technology have seen considerable improvements in the customer experience but what’s the real benefit?
The customer journey, no matter the channel, is a 360-degree experience of the brand. Disruptive Retail Technology pulls together every avenue to market taken by the customer. The customer benefits by having all historical shopping data and preferences in one central location and are notified of offers, deals or new product lines via a personalised account. The brand and store associate benefit by having access to the same customer information via Keytree In-store Technology (KIT), which empowers the store associate with instant access to stock, inventory and customer preferences.
KIT is a prime example of how retail technology is pushing the envelope when it comes to providing customers with a fully rounded shopping experience but how will technology impact the retail sector – what will change?
The man-machine – the rise of the robots
Folding sweaters, opening and closing the store, checking out customers and being the brand expert have traditionally been the responsibility of the store associate. But for how much longer? Stores are already testing, and in some cases using robots, which can carry out and execute some of the more traditional in-store tasks. There’s no concern around manoeuvrability as sensors embedded in robots will ensure they avoid bumping into customers.
Robots can relieve the store associate of specific tasks and if a customer has a question the robot is unable to answer – they start a live video conferencing session with an operative who can assist. The human element will always be required at some point in the customer journey, but maybe the use of robot technology in retail will free up valuable time for the store associate to spend more time with the customer.
The future of the store
KIT acts as the conduit connecting hardware, sensors, POS systems, Wi-Fi access points, and RFID networks and also leverages iBeacon and Bluetooth technologies to identify nearby customers.
The store of the future will not only identify a customer upon entry – Beacons will bridge the physical and online experience and push content to your device when walking down a particular aisle. Once an item is chosen there will be no need to search for a changing room – smart mirrors will superimpose the item onto the customer. There is no need to undress, or even worry about the product being in stock as the smart mirror can superimpose any object onto the customer.
An auto checkout will enhance the shopping experience even further. The store knows you have arrived, notifications are pointing you to the part of the store you’ll visit next and all the while – there’s no need to stand in line and pay for the items gathered. Walk out of the store and the items are scanned and charged to your account.
The increased use of technology in retail will provide obvious benefits for the customer, but for the brand, a superior level of data is now gathered on a daily basis, which will give the store associate a much-needed advantage over competitors – and inform future strategies for the organisation.
Disruptive Retail Technology will see the customer journey and experience altered in many ways. Although technology becomes more commonplace it can never provide the genuinely personal touch, which will always come from human interaction.
Around 10 percent of in-store sales are lost because an item is not in stock. If we consider this with how customers review product ranges online, expecting to see and purchase these items when they arrive at the store, then we have the key drivers for an endless aisle. Customers still enjoy the personalised support available that they experience in stores and enjoy the freedom to touch and explore before deciding to purchase a product.
Retailers continue to rethink and reinvent the shopping experience and offering an endless aisle gives the physical store a much better chance to avoid lost sales. Keytree In-store Technology (KIT) gives the store associate access to the store catalogue, the full inventory of the brand and provides the customer with real-time access to products. However, the capabilities of endless aisle do require a full integration of the right technology and processes.
There are various challenges that retailers face when setting up an endless aisle functionality. These are as follows:
- Keep your inventory up-to-date in real time knowing when and where the stock is available, otherwise you will not be able to order the item that the customer demands with any confidence.
- The inventory can change constantly across your multiple channels, i.e. the online store, the physical store or placed orders with dropship suppliers.
- Knowing how much stock you have to hand, which means that key systems are integrated with each other, so that inventory levels are constantly updated with each sale and you always know what stock is available at any given time.
Keytree In-store Technology can be integrated seamlessly with systems such as SAP CAR to provide a comprehensive endless aisles experience for your store, making sure the customer never leaves wanting – as customers can continue to browse products online while in the store but with the full support of the store associate. Items available online, including any offers can be redeemed, and if the product is available to view or try on in the store, the store associate can use KIT to locate accordingly – regardless of the location.
Enhancing the customer experience with more choice
An endless aisle of products will ensure the store associate is no longer restricted to the in-store inventory and gives shoppers access to a range of products that are always available.
If a customer wants an item in a particular size and colour, but the item is not available in the store, this potentially is a sales opportunity that could be lost to online competition. An endless aisle will combat the possibility of losing out to another store or website by allowing the store associate to show the customer the requested item online. The customer can then decide on whether they want the item delivered to the store or conveniently to their home address.
Providing the store associate with instant access to the product catalogue and current, real-time stock inventory, allows the store associate to share an endless aisle of items with the customer. Making available online what you are unable to get in-store, hands the impetuous to the store associate and with the right technology, empowers the store associate to offer alternatives and suggestions to guarantee the customers gets the item they came to buy in store.
How physical and digital retail experiences can successfully converge in the hands of the store associate
As retailers continue to modernise and invest in the in-store experience the world of online retail is now recognised as an integral part of the bricks and mortar experience, a synchronisation referred to as retail convergence. Although lavish fittings and interior design are still key components of high end fashion retail it all starts with the store associate. This role is at the very beginning of the transformational journey.
In the past, and even today inside some retailers, the store associate had little insight into their customer’s needs, tastes and habits. Customer information was held in distant CRM systems or fragmented among multiple sources and only accessible to those who often did not have direct contact with the customer. Without quick and easy access to this data, it was next to impossible for the store associate to track buying patterns & preferences and therefore provide an in-store experience that encouraged and nurtured customer loyalty long term.
Invest in the store associate
By giving the store associate real-time access to stockroom inventory, the ability to jump the checkout queue and continuous communication with the customer – retailers not only bring the online world into the physical store but also give store associates a new toolset that will dramatically transform and improve their working day.
The store associate should be more than a person who replenishes stock or directs a customer to the nearest checkout. For example with the right technology such as a Lookbook app, they can engage with customers even when they are physically not in the store by creating engaging content based on a customer’s interests, which they can then share via email or text.
The store associate can build trust within the brand – they can know when a registered customer has entered the store, allowing them to meet and greet before showing them a new item, which is of registered interest in their 360-degree customer profile.
Digital Retail Convergence
Keytree In-store Technology (KIT) can bring this converging digital experience into the store so the associate and customer get the best of both worlds – it’s important to remember that the success of the new generation in-store experience should fall firmly onto the shoulders of the store associate. Without the dedication of these individuals, working face to face with customers on the shop floor, none of these remarkable technological breakthroughs will have the much-needed impact on the customer’s in-store experience.
Retailers should not underestimate the role of the store associate as they go through any transformational process. They are the key element that gives customers access to everything that online should offer while in the store. The store associate is the face of the business and is the font of all knowledge as everything that’s worth knowing is in the palm of their hand in one easy to use application, which is linking together the best of both worlds.
Lookbook, Omni-channel baskets, Inventory and mobile payments will become more commonplace in the retail sector, due to the influx of Clienteling software – aimed at enhancing the customer journey to provide the ultimate Omni-channel shopping experience.
Keytree In-store Technology can bring together retail convergence into the new generation of digital stores – it’s important to remember that the success of the next generation store requires this forward-thinking technology to grow and enhance the new experience. However, there’s no point in merely handing over new technology to the store associate and expecting instant success – training, product updates with research and development are essential. The technology also needs to be easy to use, so it doesn’t become a hindrance, and the data must be accurate – so the solution can be trusted.