There’s no denying the fact we now live in a one-click society, where consumers are used to the comfort of buying almost any product they want with a click of button, and have it delivered to their home or place of work within 24 hours.
Inevitably, this has put significant pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, whose core aim is to attract people to their physical stores. While this remains one of the major challenges for the retail sector, the good news is that there are several steps that high street retailers can take in order to digitise and prioritise their instore Customer Experience.
The importance of customer service in real-time
Traditionally, physical stores have always been good at recognising customer needs in real-time, so providing a tailored and personalised shopping experience has been relatively straightforward. However, what happens in a scenario when all the sales advisors are busy serving other customers? Retailers must ask themselves whether they are utilising their staff in the best possible way; are advisors bogged down with mundane tasks or are they in a good position to provide a positive all-round Customer Experience?
While it might not always seem essential to have sales advisors around at all times, this situation is easily comparable to an online experience where a user uses a search engine to look for a product. They might type in ‘white trousers’ and receive a list of generic non-personalised results. It’s likely they then end up clicking through various websites and look up different retailers to compare costs and other factors, and won’t benefit from a personalised experience which can be so important in closing a sale.
The advantage that physical stores have in this sense is that they can prevent the need for endless browsing, by offering customers what they want, when they want it, in real-time. By taking advantage of this potential, retailers can enhance the power of instore shopping.
The good news is there are already plenty of technology solutions available for retailers to use to digitise their instore customer experience. In effect, this tech needs to help retailers ensure that their customers are engaged instore at all times, by simplifying their buying journey and helping sales advisors to deliver the best possible customer service.
For example, Sephora, a leading beauty retailer, has experimented with 3D augmented reality mirrors that simulate cosmetics on consumer’s face in real-time. This is a great way of deepening customer relationships and taking the shopping experience a step further. Augmented reality is still a developing technology, but this is just one example of how smart tech has the potential to create an immersive customer experience instore in real-time.
Intelligent guided selling
Choice overload is an issue for the modern shopper, whether they’re shopping online or instore, and often leaves them unsure of what to buy because of the variety of options and complexity of different products. At the same time, the variety of products has made many consumers more demanding and less responsive to adverts and promotions. Intelligent guided selling (IGS) technology can play a leading role in cutting through this complexity.
IGS can cut through the noise and filter products based on things like consumer interest, past buying behaviour or specific product preferences. By doing this, the technology can make tailored product recommendations in real-time, empowering sales associates to assist customers in the most efficient way possible.
This tech can be employed using readily accessible tools. For example, providing sales advisors at kiosks with smart touch screens or tablets enables them to carry out their usual role of engaging with customers, combined with the extra boost that something like IGS can provide. Being open to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy can also be helpful here, as enabling sales advisors to quickly assist customers using their own smartphones or tablets can reduce the chances of customers consulting their own devices to gain more information on a product.
Digitise, personalise, maximise
Implementing any form of technology will require physical retailers to invest time into upgrading their existing systems and services, but it is a job worth doing in the long term. Those who are willing to be adaptable are the ones that are most likely to remain competitive.
Essentially, retailers need to identify their unique selling points and use them to their offering in a way that is different to other similar competitors in the market. This will allow them to create an instore range focused on quality, experience and relationships, something that online often can’t provide. Do this, and the future of the instore experience will be bright.
Rapid technology advances and the advent of high-speed internet connectivity have allowed consumers to be more connected than ever before.
Mobile phones, tablets, and computers that were once built for simple daily chores such as text messaging and browsing the internet can now be connected to smart homes, wearable technology, and virtual reality devices, and many of us would be lost without them.
When it comes to shopping, the era of technology ubiquity that we live in has created a landscape where consumers are comfortable with the sight of a computer screen or iPad in a high street store, or are perfectly happy making most of their purchases online. At the same time, customers are becoming much more discerning in terms of the quality of advice and guidance they receive before making a purchase.
While many see this high-speed connectivity and presence of technology as a threat to the role of human staff – and a possible end to physical stores – consumers’ desire for comprehensive advice, allied with their openness to using technology, presents an opportunity for retailers to empower their human staff to serve customers more effectively in-store.
Technology: building human connections, not breaking them
As the general population becomes more and more accustomed to technology pervading every aspect of their daily lives, recent research we conducted revealed that almost seven in ten consumers (69 percent) – rising to 86 percent amongst the millennial generation – believe that technology will be a powerful tool in helping retailers build stronger relationships with their customers. While this indicates that shoppers are becoming increasingly comfortable with technology in retail, there is also strong evidence to suggest that it can be used to retain and enhance the human element of the customer experience, rather than supersede it.
To support this point further, a majority of survey respondents (56 percent, including 64 percent of millennials) believe it is important to speak to someone in-store before making a high-value purchase. This reveals a clear desire for an additional level of personalisation and guidance provided by a human member of staff, and proves that the human touch in retail is far from dead.
How to enhance the human touch
The growth of automation has led many to fear that people may lose their jobs to machines, and the retail sector hasn’t escaped these concerns. However, what this research has shown is that consumers still consider human input an essential component of the shopping and purchasing process.
With this in mind, retailers need to focus on how they can use the power of technology to complement and support the roles of human sales and customer service associates. Intelligent guided selling (IGS) tech is one of many ways this can be achieved, by making it considerably easier for a member of staff to walk a customer through a range of product choices and configurations. It can also be used to manage customer interactions across all sales channels, enabling a greater understanding of today’s increasingly omni-channel shopper.
Striking the balance
When it comes to today’s shopper, it is important for retailers to understand that face-to-face shopping is far from dead; if anything, it has become more important than ever before. The desire to see and touch products, while benefiting from personalised guidance and the expertise of a sales associate, remains extremely important. At the same time, it is also crucial to remember that there is a need to strike a balance between giving customers the support they need, while respecting their independence and giving them the space to make their own decisions, in their own time.
Consumers believe in technology. If it can be used to empower, rather than inhibit, the role of staff, retailers can reach a happy medium where customers are given the right balance of technological efficiency and human intervention, and staff continue to feel valued in their positions. This, in turn, maximises the chances of maintaining both customer satisfaction and staff fulfilment, both of which should be held in the highest regard by any retailer looking to maintain competitive advantage.