Online stores may be well-established on our computers, but they certainly have not rendered the brick and mortar operation extinct. For all of the truckloads of packages that Amazon and others ship to home addresses, there remain millions of consumers who regularly shop in person for groceries, clothing, hardware, and more. They still like to browse, touch, and purchase things in person. These shoppers may indeed use their smartphones to turn to competitors for a price check or a user review, but the fact is, they continue to shop in the real world.
This is both good and bad news for retailers stores. The good news is: the people still come. The bad news is, it can be quite a challenge to go head-to-head with a virtual merchant, given the additional costs of staffing and running a physical place of business. But this is bad news only when the owners of these enterprises continue to play by the same rules as their online competition. Although the virtual marketplace may appear to hold many advantages, it lacks a distinctly human touch, and that is a commodity that still has a high value.
Many people tell stories of a time in their past – or their parents’ past – when a single sales associate seemed to know everything about each customer, including their name, favorite color, clothing size, and what they shopped for previously. Such knowledge formed the basis for demonstrating a high level of care, and for making suggestions for future purchases. In many cases this memory appears as a quaint throwback to small-town life, visible today only in expensive boutiques. In both of these cases, small-town and high-end, quality service comes from a slower, more attentive pace of interaction – afforded by location and price respectively. This allows more time for intimacy between seller and shopper.
This intimacy is now available in even the busiest of stores – in any category, from fashion to hardware, and the very same Internet technology that threatened to eradicate it now steps in to save the day. Almost all shoppers carry a smartphone. When configured, a native app will deliver to any sales associate the necessary information and data regarding the customer. They can then convert this into high-touch service, and this is what we call "mobile clienteling."
This blend of wireless technology and retail employees has terrific, yet still largely untapped potential. Customers sometimes complain that the high turnover or simple unavailability of on-the-floor sales staff prevents the development of a real long-standing relationship. How can a team member get to know hundreds or thousands of shoppers when other factors dictate their shifts and availabilities? The delivery of consumer information across wireless devices solves this problem. Any and every associate becomes a client care expert once they receive, read and process the incoming data.
Person-to-person interaction has gained value significantly in an age where social media has made people more isolated than ever. When paired with body language, active listening skills and a knowledge of trends and inventory, a well-cultivated demonstration of care is something that no online store can match. Wireless technology completes the circuit, reconnecting people and expanding the shopping event well beyond a mere cash transaction, moving it back into the realm of positive emotional experience; one that customers will be happy to revisit regularly.
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