One of digital retail’s strongest selling points has been its ability to deliver a highly customized shopping experience — one that consumers almost never find in a brick-and-mortar store. User reviews, expert insights, recommendations based on shopping history: There’s no shortage of online retail operations that offer these services, and their cumulative effect has had a big impression on shoppers.
In-store shopping has its own advantages: The ability to interact face-to-face with sales associates, the immediacy of a purchase, and the ability to inspect a product in-hand before buying, for example. But to keep pace with online competition, brands running physical stores need to focus on melding the physical and digital shopping experiences.
Clienteling technology has proven capable of doing just that. By combining the strength of a good CRM with emerging mobile technologies, clienteling tools place unprecedented power in the hands of sales associates, creating a new form of in-store experience.
Following The Data Trail
There’s data to back up this shift in strategy. As a recent Forrester report points out, more than 50 percent of all in-store sales are influenced by digital touchpoints. Yet only 45 percent of retailers understand how these touchpoints influence in-store behavior. The disconnect is costing retailers million of dollars in sales every day.
The simple solution starts with building digital touchpoints into the in-store experience. Associates can work off of a smartphone or tablet device and use this clienteling technology to quickly access important information, including sales goals, messages from management, and training tools. They can pull up a customer’s purchase history, and in turn make relevant shopping recommendations, all while checking inventory and even communicating with other stores in real-time.
While this lays out a blueprint for a new form of in-store shopping experience, it signals another transformation in retail: the role of the sales associate. Tasked with interacting directly with consumers, and given the support of real-time data to supplement and direct sales efforts, associates are becoming far more than a passive on-floor presence.
Giving Customers The Experience They Want
As Forrester points out, only 29 percent of customers feel that sales associates are both knowledgeable and helpful. That’s not the fault of associates — it’s the inefficient nature of brick-and-mortar sales. And those deficiencies are even more pronounced when measured up to online shopping, where expertise is always just a click away.
But there’s an opportunity in that lowly statistic. If in-store sales associates lack usefulness, clienteling technology could be the closest thing retailers will find to an easy fix. Once-ineffective associates can leverage these easy-to-use clienteling solutions to become a genuinely helpful resource for shoppers. Associates will be able to provide assistance faster, since tasks like communicating with managers and checking inventory can be done via mobile device, instead of running around the store in search of answers.
The challenge for some retailers won’t be the technology itself, but entrusting this real-time data to salespersons. Such a rapid transformation of sales activity does constitute a reinvention of the sales associate position itself, but the future of in-store retail can’t survive without making aggressive efforts to adapt. Clienteling solutions like Mad Mobile’s Concierge may appear, on the surface, as a technology too advanced for floor sales associates. This attitude overlooks the role of technology in building better workers: Ultimately, these solutions can help train salespersons, increase their productivity, and elevate store sales by providing a better shopping experience.
At the end of the day, brick-and-mortar retailers can only win with consumers if they demonstrate an understanding of their needs. Consumers want personal attention, expertise, and fast answers. All of this is possible through a clienteling solution. The question is whether retailers will seek out innovation, or continue to be fenced in by their resistance to change.
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