“May I help you find something?”
“No thank you, just browsing.”
Few conversations have ever been so brief and so final as this one, yet it happens thousands of times an hour in stores all over the world and kills most retail sales relationships stone dead. A customer enters a store, perhaps knowing, or perhaps not knowing what she is looking for. A sales associate tries to establish rapport through this seemingly innocuous overture, but it seldom leads anywhere. It’s too cold, too closed-ended, and way too inefficient.
In their efforts to improve the in-store experience, retailers are paying more attention to the ways in which data and technology can offer an attractive price, a customized selection, and a convenient, quick check-out to each customer individually. But the in-store shopping experience does not begin and end with price and selection. There is also a need for a store’s sales team to better understand the mindset of each shopper in order to tailor the relationship more effectively. This could be considered a customer’s “shopping status,” and is ideally suited for app-based shopping.
No two shoppers are the same, nor are they consistent. Moods and intentions can change from day-to-day. There are distinct types, both online and in-store. Here are some examples:
- The “surgical strike shopper.” This individual knows what he is looking for, although he might not know where to find it. He will enter the store, search for and select the item, and check out as quickly as possible. He does not want assistance from a sales associate, and may even consider such an offer to be an intrusion or a delay.
- The “browser.” These may not know what they are looking for. Maybe they have a vague idea or maybe they are just looking for something to leap out at them. Many will enter a store simply because they like the store and will enjoy browsing its selection with an open mind towards an impulse buy. These customers may also not wish for in-person guidance from a sales associate, preferring to drift and perhaps make notes or compare prices by app-based shopping on their mobile devices.
- The “high-touch” shopper relishes and expects immediate in-person customer service. These are the ones who want the attention of a sales associate, and may feel slighted if one does not arrive in time.
These three shopping personality types are not specific to any gender or age, and any person could morph between these types on any given day. So the question becomes, how does the sales associate know what to do? This is a perfect opportunity for technology, in the form of a store’s native app, to come to the rescue.
Imagine, for example, that a customer enters the physical store. This person could be any one of the three types described above. Because he has downloaded the store’s native app, and because he has also given the appropriate permissions, his previous on-line browsing and shopping data immediately loads into the sales associate’s own device. But still, is this enough to initiate a conversation, or would that jeopardize the sales opportunity?
If the store’s app made the choice clear, then both people would be more in sync. The app should provide – in addition to a welcome – a prompt to the shopper to choose her status update while browsing in the store. One setting would represent, “yes please, send a sales associate my way, I am looking for help and guidance,” while the other would mean, “don’t bother me, I am okay shopping by myself.” The shopper could change status from one to the other at any time, which could allow the summoning of a sales associate just when desired, and who would arrive already loaded up with customer information on her own device. This may prove to be a highly economic option for stores’ staffing dilemmas, in addition to increasing conversions.
This would form part of what Adam Silverman and his colleagues at Forrester referred to as “driving digital customer experience,” in their white paper, “The Future of the Digital Store.”
This customization-of-service option could be deployed with equal success online, by maximizing the existing usage of live chat operators, and curating the discussions to the customer’s mood of the moment.
More significantly for bricks-and-mortar stores that struggle to generate loyal foot traffic in an increasingly digital world, such app-driven customization, this offers a great deal more in terms of the pleasure factor. This is a key component in the sensory experience of in-person shopping.
This “shopping status” is just one simple example. It is innovative, personal and convenient. Tools like this will continue to become available and can easily integrate into native apps. It represents the ever-improving synergy between vendor and customer that is central to the digital store.
Retail management must continue to redefine their businesses – their stores – no longer as places people simply visit, but as places that they consciously choose to visit, in the face of a broad range of alternatives, both physical and online. This is a way for the “digital experience” to exist beyond the circuitry of mobile devices and big data; it becomes a physical and emotional connective tissue between two people, on the right level and in the proper context for any particular moment in time.
Be sure to get your hands on ’The Future of the Digital Store’ from Forrester and learn more on why brick-and-mortar stores must digitize the in-store experience to not only cater for a new generation of clientele, but also to deliver a more efficient omnichannel experience while remaining competitive.