Four Ways Consumer Behavior Will be Different This Holiday Season

A year ago, no one could have imagined consumers would be holiday shopping with masks on. This year’s Holiday season is going to look quite different for both retailers and consumers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The way consumers shop has changed, with many choosing to spend less and others starting their holiday shopping earlier than usual. For retailers, these changes mean they have to adapt to social distancing restrictions, anticipate spikes in online shopping, and work to prevent inventory issues.

Below are four changes in consumer behavior that retailers should prepare for this holiday season.

 

  1.     Consumer Spending

The pandemic affected many consumers financially, which has caused retailers to be concerned about a possible YOY drop in sales. Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s U.S. economic forecaster, predicts that while high unemployment can negatively affect sales this year, reduced spending on other services like restaurants and travel might actually boost sales.

A recent report by Deloitte indicates the growth rate for retail sales will be less than in previous years, but that they are still expected to rise between 1% and 1.5% during the November to January timeframe. Another report by AlixPartners included October as part of the holiday season this year, and forecasts an increase in 1.0%-2.6% from October – December compared to the same three-month period last year.

“The digital retail experience tends to lean more toward self-service than the in-store shopping journey. One solution to filling this void is clienteling, which makes digital shopping more human.” – Sarah Jones, Sourcing Journal.

 

  1.     Online vs. In Store

While stores were closed, 56% of people did more online shopping at home. This trend is expected to continue in the next two quarters. Social distancing is still in effect, and most consumers are avoiding crowded places. Because of this, more holiday shopping will inevitably occur online. In fact, 72% of consumers anticipate they will continue shopping more online even with stores open.

Deloitte expects online holiday sales to increase by 25% to 35%. eBay has reported that a majority (54%) of their shoppers claim they will be doing all of their holiday shopping online, and nearly three-quarters plan to buy more of their gifts online this year. BlackFriday.com also reported that consumers will prefer a digital experience this holiday season, with more consumers predicted to shop on Cyber Monday compared to Black Friday.

“Having strategies that support physical stores while still catering to online consumers is critical for success.” – Madeleine Streets, Footwear News

  1.     Holiday Specials and Sales

Traditionally, Black Friday has involved getting consumers in store. This year, retailers will have to limit store traffic and reinforce public safety measures. Many will be encouraging and facilitating online shopping to compensate. For example, Target has already said it will have 20,000 additional products on its e-commerce site this year.

This surge in online sales has already caused supply chain bottlenecks, and Bloomberg predicts this will make e-commerce costs soar. To avoid this, retailers will be encouraging buy online, pick up in store. They will also stagger their promotional events so that consumers begin shopping well before Black Friday.

“While the concept of “clienteling” isn’t necessary new itself, the decrease in in-store foot traffic has put retailers in the mindset where they know they have to make up the difference in possible sales elsewhere.” – Glenn Taylor, Sourcing Journal 

 

  1.     Holiday Shopping will Start Earlier

An estimated 49% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping before Halloween, up by 7% compared to last year. According to Joel Bines, global co-leader of the retail practice at AlixPartners, consumers have been holiday shopping earlier and earlier every year, and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Retailers also want to encourage consumers to begin shopping earlier to compensate for potential shipping and inventory issues, as well as make up for sales lost while stores were closed.

Hudson’s Bay and Canadian Tire are already selling Christmas clothing and decor, and Indigo is adapting by making shopping before and after hours available to loyalty members who feel compromised.

 

Retailers will need to stand out from competitors more than ever this holiday season in order to drive sales, both online and in store. Clienteling helps build customer loyalty by enabling store associates to build lasting, one-to-one relationships with customers at scale. They communicate in a personalized way with relevant messages that are tailored to the individual based on their profile and past purchases. Associates make recommendations by e-mail, live chat, video chat, text messaging or social media messaging, according to the customer’s preference.

Eighty percent of customers are more likely to purchase products or services from brands that provide personalized experiences. In fact, 72% of customers only engage with messages that are tailored to their interest.

Clienteling also gives retailers a direct connection to online customers. It allows the customer to ask questions and receive answers from local store associates in real-time, by video chat, live chat, e-mail, or text messaging.

The average store associate now serves 94 online customers per week with Salesfloor, and have sales conversion rates between 12% and 15%. Contact us for a 15 minute demo.

Salesfloor Video Chat | Video Calling

5 Things for Retailers to Consider When Launching Video Chat in Stores

Several years ago, Salesfloor launched video chat for store associates as a prototype to test and learn how the functionality could be used in a real-life store setting. Although retailers loved the concept of video at first, feedback from stores was that they preferred communicating with clients using live chat, e-mail and SMS because it provided a more controlled experience. 

Fast forward 6 years: Video chat has re-emerged as an opportunity for associates to provide personalized service and connect with customers, as store closures and socially distanced shopping challenge retailers. 

As an increasing number of retailers are launching video chat for their stores, we take a look back at what we learned from working with our retailers over the years. Here are the top 5 tips you need to know when considering video chat for stores: 

 

1. It all starts with the network. Video chat is a powerful way to bring the in-store experience to customers online, but if the internet connection gets interrupted or becomes slow, it may leave the customer with a less-than-ideal impression of the brand. For this reason, it’s important to make sure your stores have consistent wifi and internet connectivity, and ensure your current network supports the bandwidth necessary for video chat. Experienced vendor partners should be able to provide minimum requirements to retailers, recommended settings and perform simple tests to establish current bandwidth levels. 

 

Pro Tips: 

 

  • The most common minimum bandwidth requirement for video chat is between 5-10mb/second download and 3-5mb/second upload.
  • What’s your network speed? Browse to fast.com to measure the speed of your store’s internet connection.

 

2. Customers are often camera shy. One of the main benefits of video chat is to be able to show customers products live, in real-time, at any angle. Your customers, on the other hand, may not be ready to be on camera. One of the things we learned when we developed our first video calling solution was that many customers initiate a video call to view products first-hand, but prefer to leave their cameras off. This flexibility is important for both the associate and the customer experience. Another thing to consider is that other customers in the store may not want to be on camera.

Retailers should make sure that it’s possible for both the customer and associate to turn off their camera without having to end the call. 

3. Video is one part of a larger clienteling strategy. Live chat and video chat are powerful tools, but they are often the tip of the iceberg in a much larger opportunity to engage customers during their shopping journey. Retailers quickly outgrow single purpose chat solutions and seek out larger feature sets to empower their stores. Additional communication channels like e-mail, SMS and social media provide more opportunities for associates to build one-to-one relationships with customers.

Customer Requests Breakdown by Type 

clienteling interaction stats


Other clienteling features like personalized lookbooks and intelligent recommendations with automated tasking are all important platform features that help associates drive their business and upsell based on transaction data. When selecting a solution partner for video or live chat, retailers should plan ahead and select solutions based on the ability to grow with your vendor to address more sophisticated use cases for your associates. 

 

4. Use the data captured from video calls to optimize communications: Capturing data from video chat and integrating it with your CRM platform is just as important as the data captured from other touchpoints. 

 

Select a solution that can show engagement increases after specific interactions on different channels, including video chat. This will enable your associates to adapt and optimize the way they engage with customers according to patterns of success from past calls.

 

Once the data from video chat is collected, AI is employed in clienteling solutions to identify products that were recommended during the video calls, and pinpoint products that are likely to be of higher interest to the customer. This data is used in clienteling to power the decisions on how the brand markets and promotes to the customer.

 

5. Train your associates to maximize their video calls: Training for store associates should include how to efficiently use video chat in stores to drive sales. For example,

  • Create simulated customer interactions to practice serving customers on video chat, identify the best ways to show products and ideal position to hold the mobile device, etc.)
  • Define a standard checklist that will ensure associates are always representing the brand in a consistent way (background, attire, how to answer the video chat, etc.)
  • List the areas of the store that have better (or no) connection so that associates know where to go and are never surprised with connectivity issues.
  • Explain when and how to follow up with a customer once a video chat ends.

Video chat presents an efficient communication channel for associates to provide one-to-one, personalized service, similar to how they would in store. Customers obtain a direct and immediate connection with a local store. This communication tool has become all the more valuable since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. By following the tips mentioned in this article, retailers will ensure a successful implementation of their video chat solution.

4 Things Retailers Should Keep in Mind When Phasing into the New Normal

In light of the current pandemic, many retailers are being forced to take a more in-depth look into their operations and strategies as they prepare to reopen their stores.

The retail industry has been one of the most heavily affected industries, in both positive and negative ways. Although the grocery industry and e-commerce have been able to thrive in these specific conditions, others, such as brick and mortar retail businesses and live entertainment, are facing crippling financial situations as a result of pausing their operations. Many of these businesses are being forced to make tough decisions such as layoffs or closing their doors completely.

From sanitizing, changing their supply chain models, and reassessing what the likely consumer demand will be, to the overall customer experience, many aspects of the industry could look vastly different within the next few months of operations. The question many are asking, however, is what will the new normal look like, and how can retailers prepare for this?

 

Safety is likely to remain a top concern for shoppers

How stores prepare to make their in-store experiences as clean as possible will need to be a well thought out focal point of their reopening strategy. Many retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Best Buy have already begun planning these changes.

A few things consumers can expect when visiting these stores are:

  • Fewer or no dressing rooms being open
  • Returned items being held in a sanitary space for an incubation period
  • More frequent sanitization of shelves, products, and doors
  • Fewer patrons being allowed in the store at a time
  • Increased usage of contactless payments
  • “No touch” beauty consultations and other services being suspended

Consumers will likely be more self-aware regarding their actions and hygiene during future public outings. Because of this, retailers must do their best to accommodate customer sanitation needs. This may require hiring an outside cleaning service, installing hand sanitizing stations, or limiting the number of customer interactions in a store.

 

Online sales will continue to thrive as social distancing practices are maintained

Fifty-eight million Americans reported spending more money during this time in a recent WalletHub survey. Consumers have been spending their money online when purchasing clothing, items for a newfound hobby, or ordering food for delivery.

Essential items such as food and cleaning supplies will likely continue to be top-selling products, even after brick and mortar retailers are given the green light to resume operations. However, it’s also likely that many will be ready to shop for other desires that they’ve been lacking during the last few months.

Because many won’t be rushing out to stores immediately, online sales can continue to be a substantial opportunity for retailers to capitalize on. Whether consumers wish to have their products shipped straight to their doors or decide on curbside pickup, online shopping offers an unparalleled level of convenience for today’s safety-conscious shopper. Consumers will be looking for ways to connect with brands in a personalized way, like being able to contact a local store associate to ask a specific product question or request an appointment (in store or virtual).

As these trends in e-commerce hold steady while consumers continue to social distance, retailers should advertise their online product offerings and services to broader target audiences who may desire their products. They should also focus on their current customer base and ensure associates are able to nurture one-to-one relationship with their clients.

 

The supply chain will be shaken up for the foreseeable future

During this period of isolation, we’ve seen a considerable shift in supply chain trends. Many stores have had trouble keeping certain products on shelves, and limited quantities of supplies have been available from vendors. This is due mainly to global supply chains being partially halted or completely shut down in various locations around the world.

Companies like Amazon have had to temporarily suspend shipments of non-essential items to consumers. This has forced many customers to wait several weeks to receive their packages, and has forced third-party services that would usually fulfill these orders to pause their operations. Additionally, we’re already being warned of disruptions to the food supply chain in the months ahead after outbreaks were confirmed in multiple poultry factories.

This change has caused many of the leading essential retailers to take an introspective look at their own supply chain during this time to find the most efficient means of continuing operations. Their redeveloped strategies could likely shape the future of their company.

Retailers will need to create a robust strategy that prevents disruptions within their own supply chain when planning to phase into operations. When making these preparations to resume, companies should lean on their supply chain systems to make accurate inventory calculations and updated, appropriate sales forecasts. Relying on current, nuanced data to make well-informed decisions can help companies continue to serve their consumers best.

 

Consumers will be loyal to brands who did “the right thing”

During these times, individuals have been finding creative ways to be kind to one another, showing signs of appreciation for friends and family and all of the essential front-line workers. These signs of encouragement and support are also affecting the way retailers are rethinking their brand sentiment.

Through advertising and community outreach, many brands are showing their commitment to overcoming the situation at hand with their customer’s safety in mind. Whether encouraging their customers to stay home and shop online or donating safety equipment and resources to those on the front lines, messages of positivity can go a long way.

A recent study shows that 6 in 10 consumers feel their view of certain brands has been changed by how they have reacted to this situation. More than half are pleased to hear about brands that are helping others or the community. Because of this, we might see individuals favoring certain brands during this time.

 

No matter what the future looks like for retailers, it’s likely that it won’t be the same as before. With changing consumer perspectives and priorities, the retail industry will be facing an entirely new landscape. The most important thing that retailers can do during this time is to consider all scenarios and make strategic decisions for how they will phase into this new normal.

5 Clienteling Strategies to Prepare for Slower Store Traffic Post COVID-19

Store closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged consumers to turn to e-commerce more than they ever have before. But some habits are here to stay: even after the crisis is over, 60% of consumers expect to shop online more frequently compared to before the outbreak. A recent study in the U.S. also revealed that 50% of respondents either do not feel comfortable or are uncertain about shopping in a mall in the next 6 months.

Traffic in stores may never be the same as it used to be. In fact, in China, we’ve already seen that consumers are wary of returning to stores because of safety concerns. With the sudden growth in customers relying on e-commerce, it is now more important than ever to be able to assist customers as they research and buy online.

The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the inevitable digital disruption of commerce. Commerce will emerge from the pandemic a vibrant and critical part of consumer life.” Jason Goldberg, Forbes Contributor.

 

Online Interactions = Opportunities to Capture Website Leads

With customers spending less time in store and more time online, there will be more opportunities to capture website visitors, especially new customers, while they are searching for and purchasing products. Retailers using Salesfloor have seen 3x the number of incoming requests from customers compared to before the crisis and experienced a jump of up to 310% in online interactions.

Companies like Saks have seen an increase of 3x in incoming requests during the crisis. Store closures have not stopped their store associates from communicating with customers on a personalized level, either. Their associates have been sending on average 4x the number of e-mails in order to stay in touch with customers who are not currently going to stores.

Retailer’s websites should allow online shoppers to create requests for service or ask questions directly to an in-store associate. Salesfloor gives shoppers the ability to do so via live chat, e-mail, or text messaging- whatever their preferred channel might be. The requests are routed to local stores and put customers directly in touch with their local associate. Right now, the average associate using Salesfloor is interacting online with 94 customers per week and achieving a 12% to 15% conversion rate.

 

The Role of Store Employees are Evolving Out of Necessity

When malls reopen, the roles of store employees will evolve, and the reality of the store experience will be different. Retailers will need to be well equipped for this change and give associate tools to serve online customers. What’s more, the digital experience doesn’t lead to impulse buys or new product trials like in-store experiences do.  And while traditional Marketing communications are effective, they are a one-way communication.

Recreating the in-store experience online will require facilitating a personal connection between store associates and their customers- beyond the store. Clienteling tools empower associates to initiate conversations, follow up, cross-sell and recommend items in a personalized way to online shoppers via e-mail, SMS, or live chat. This is already playing a large role in nurturing relationships in a scalable way to increase online sales. Store associates who use the Salesfloor platform have been driving up to 9x the sales compared to before the crisis.

Relax The Back, a specialty health & wellness retailer, rolled out Salesfloor to additional associates (called consultants) once stores started closing. They’ve seen that even for specialized products, consumers are willing to make those purchases online when they have direct communication with a knowledgeable store consultant. Their VP of Marketing, Leanne Mattes, stated: “We’ve actually seen a huge jump in office chair sales as more people are working from home.” During this period Relax The Back also saw 4x the amount of Storefront page visits.

Appointment & Event Booking

A recent article in the Sourcing Journal stated that the “process of reopening retail must be methodical, organized and gradual.” It claims that appointment booking will be a key strategy in reopening non-essential stores to help retailers manage traffic and prevent overcrowding at the entrance. This would be a safer alternative to the long lineups that essential retailers are currently experiencing. In China, stores imposed limits on the number of customers who can enter at once. This makes assisted selling apps, which allow appointments and events to be created by both customer and associate, essential for the reopening of stores.

 

As Always, Personalization Prevails

Many non-essential retailers, who have been experiencing a decrease in sales during the pandemic, have been announcing discounts and sales to attempt to counter the sales lost. Consumers’ inboxes are currently filled with e-mail blasts promoting these sales. Personalization is key to avoid contributing to the white noise currently their inboxes.

Customers will be more prone to open a communication from a store associate they know and have exchanged with in the past. Therefore, retailers will need to introduce customers to the convenience of shopping online with their brand and, more specifically, with their local stores. They should leverage relationships that have been built in store to deliver true personalization online and keep customers engaged with their brand.

Buybuy BABY, one of the most popular destinations for baby registry services in North America, is an example of a retailer that has continued to engage with new and expecting parents via Salesfloor’s online Clienteling channels. Their Product Experts have seen both sales and conversion rates double during COVID-19.

Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) Is a Win-Win for Customer and Retailer

BOPIS orders (which includes curbside pickup) have jumped 62% year-over-year between February 24 and March 21, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. As the option is increasingly adopted by more retailers, it could easily become a fulfillment staple as the coronavirus curve flattens. With curbside pickup, customers obtain their order (often more quickly than with shipment to home) without having to enter any crowded store.

BOPIS capabilities will be a competitive advantage for retailers post COVID-10. This is especially true for retailers that enable store associates to access orders assigned to their store directly on their mobile device, allowing them to fulfill orders during downtime.

 

COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to e-commerce and online interactions. When stores reopen, traffic still won’t be as high as it used to be. Retailers who start preparing themselves now with digital clienteling tools can optimize their business operations, drive online sales and increase customer loyalty.

Retailers Having to Furlough Associates Turn to Salesfloor’s Commission-Based Virtual Associates Program

Salesfloor gives retailers free access to Virtual Associate platform so that store employees can earn income while their employers are not paying wages.  

New York, NY – March 31, 2020Salesfloor, the industry-leading mobile application designed for store associates, has announced another initiative to help retailers in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Retailers can launch their own Virtual Associate Program to help recently laid-off employees become independent sales consultants, who can drive their own sales and continue mission-critical business activities on behalf of their brands.

Salesfloor gives Virtual Associates access to a variety of tools and features:

  • Sell online while earning commission. Salesfloor’s advanced sales tracking technology ensures associates are accurately credited for sales that result from their interactions.
  • Engage customers through outreach via e-mail, live chat, and text messaging on the Salesfloor platform.
  • Receive incoming questions and appointment requests for virtual meetings.
  • Create their own Storefronts, highlighting their favorite items and sharing personalized comments on curated products.

In response to the rapid rate of store closures caused by COVID-19, Salesfloor will not charge retailers the annual license fee for its Virtual Associate Program. This gives retailers immediate access to a better, more profitable alternative to terminating employees on a temporary basis and simply waiting for the crisis to pass.

Retailers can use their Virtual Associates and adopt a commission-based payment plan instead of incurring fixed wages. As Virtual Associates drive their own sales online, Salesfloor tracks the sales and pays compensation on behalf of the retailer. This allows retailers to continue selling online, provides laid off associates with a continued source of income, and helps support employee retention beyond the current crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly impacted the retail industry, and it is uncertain when we will be bouncing back. We have an existing solution that, despite store closures and layoffs, will allow retailers to keep selling and associates to continue earning.” said Oscar Sachs, CEO at Salesfloor.  “While the Virtual Associates program is a great strategy in normal times, it provides a critical strategic advantage right now. In the middle of this unprecedented crisis, it has the potential to benefit retailers, associates, and customers, which is why we are providing it at no charge. At Salesfloor, we believe in coming together to make a positive impact for the industry.”

Salesfloor’s Virtual Associates program can be implemented in less than 30 days and provides a turn-key solution to retailers:

  • Program setup and implementation by Salesfloor.
  • Training, live support and engagement strategies provided by retail experts.
  • Access to Salesfloor Support Desk (phone and email).
  • Monthly sales audit and returned/cancelled order reconciliation.
  • Secure payment services to transfer funds to Virtual Associate users.

Retailers including Chico’s FAS, Peruvian Connection, Lord & Taylor and Stuart Weitzman have been leveraging Salesfloor’s Virtual Associate Program.

Store Associates Can Sell from Home During COVID-19 Using Clienteling

As COVID-19 continues to impact the retail industry, our team at Salesfloor has been working closely with our retail partners to help continue to serve their customers online. We believe clienteling can help play an important role for retailers and store associates at this time. That is why we are now offering free licenses to help retailers cope with COVID-19 challenges by leveraging store associates to maximize online sales.

Slow Store Traffic

For retailers whose stores that are still open, some associates are able to work but foot traffic is at all-time lows. However, they are keeping busy by answering incoming online requests, sending personalized e-mails with product pictures and recommendations to their customers, and maintaining their Storefronts.

 

 “Although we have seen reduced in-store traffic, our store consultants have been keeping busy by reaching out to clients to help them set up their home offices, now that so many consumers are working from home. In fact, we have seen a significant increase in office chair sales. We’re so glad to be able to continue serving our clients online.” – Leanne Mattes, VP Marketing, Relax the Back

Associates Working from Home

Most retailers have closed their stores and instructed associates to work remotely and in the worst cases, associate payroll cannot be supported.

While stores and malls are shutting down, e-commerce is still up and running. One way retailers are facing this challenge is by equipping their associates to serve customers as they shop online. Online customers are getting served by product experts who can make tailored recommendations, and associates earn credit for resulting e-commerce sales. It’s a win-win situation for customer and associate.

Quick Fact: In the week following the first wave of retail store closures, customer requests across all Salesfloor retailers increased by an average of 47%.

live chat

How it Works

Using Clienteling to connect with customers via live chat, email and text messaging makes it possible for store associates to drive sales and serve customers with an authentic, human approach (similar to what you’d expect in store).

Online customers connect to real-life associates (working in-store or remote) via live chat, e-mail, text messages and virtual appointment requests. They can shop live with associates on Associate Storefronts, where they highlight their favorite items and comment on different products.

Quick Fact: Our retailers have seen up to an 89% increase in online weekly sales resulting from digital interaction since stores started shutting down.

Storefront

Giving Associates Remote Access is Easy

Store Associates working from home can download the Salesfloor app from the AppStore or Play Store. Retailers need only make the app available for remote work and maintain a high level of security and restricted access. To make the transition easy for associates, Salesfloor provides access to support as well as enhanced training to all users.

Quick Fact: Luxury brands using Salesfloor have seen a 2x increase in clienteling interactions after stores closed due to the pandemic.

It’s About Clienteling, Not Just Marketing

Marketing newsletters are effective, but they are a one-way communication. With clienteling tools, store associates are equipped to connect directly with customers and engage in 1-to-1 conversations. To help associates know who to reach out to and when, retailers can upload marketing assets and create smart tasks to identify personalized selling opportunities.

Quick Fact: This month, messages sent and open rates have increased by 55%.

 

Virtual Associates: An Alternative for Furloughed Associates

Retailers are transitioning to a community of sellers who work virtually using the Salesfloor platform. Existing employees are transitioned to Independent contractors compensated with affiliate fees. As Virtual Associates drive their own sales online, Salesfloor tracks the sales and pays compensation on behalf of the retailer. This allows retailers to continue selling online, provides furloughed associates with a continued source of income, and helps support employee retention beyond the current crisis

 

How Quickly Can You Get Started?

We can get you started within 30 days to help you begin serving online customers as quickly as possible, either with our clienteling platform or our Virtual Associates program. What’s more, we’re waiving the license fees to help retailers during these unprecedented times. Contact us to get started.

Five Ways Technology Can Improve Your Retail Business

With e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba top of mind for today’s consumers, it seems that online retail is getting all the hype. However, to say that digital commerce is taking over all of retail isn’t completely true. Brick-and-mortar sales aren’t fading anytime soon—it’s projected that 83% of goods purchased globally in 2022 will still be bought in store. As brick-and-mortar stores are making a comeback with millennials and Generation Z, updating in-store technology is the optimal way to improve the real-world shopping experience.

Today’s retailers are quickly realizing the many benefits offered by emerging technologies, and are using them to design new in-store strategies to appeal to the modern consumer. These new strategies are reshaping our retail stores and empowering the consumer to make fast and well-informed purchasing decisions while also providing in-store discovery opportunities and a new focus on the impulse side of retail.

Here are five technologies to implement into your in-store retail business.

 

Mobile POS

Mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems have been around for quite some time, but growth and adaptation to the changing retail environment are expected to continue. Mobile POS improves customer experience on the checkout line by reducing time spent waiting. Sales associates can begin to process transactions while customers are waiting in line, allowing for a convenient, speedy check-out.

With research by Capital One showing that 34% of millennials “rarely or never” carry cash, mobile POS caters to the preferences of today’s consumers, while also streamlining in-store operations. Bringing mobile POS to your retail location is a simple, yet impactful way to adapt to trending retail technology. Not only does a mobile system create an improved customer experience, but also can be added anywhere in store. Gone are the days of bulky registers; mobile POS systems are an easy addition to your retail location.

 

Cloud-Based ERP 

With consumer preferences and buying habits constantly evolving and changing, the modern retail strategy requires more data, analysis, and a better understanding of customer behavior in order to be successful. For example, effectively managing your inventory is a critical function for all retail businesses. It not only affects what shoppers see in the stores, but it also makes a difference when it’s time to report earnings. Too much inventory results in higher markdown costs, as well as extra advertising and selling expenses to eliminate the surplus—which all takes a toll on your gross margin.

However, using a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to record your inventory means you can simultaneously compare your inventory information with financial data, purchase orders, billing schedules, and other valuable analytics. This way, updated and accurate data is constantly at your fingertips, allowing you to make data-driven decisions, at all stages of the buying, managing, and selling process.

 

Augmented Reality

As both virtual and real worlds can harmoniously coexist, augmented reality (AR) can offer virtual information as a tool to provide assistance in everyday activities. Brick-and-mortar retailers have begun to use AR to establish an interactive customer experience. It’s a smart move, considering that over 60% of consumers prefer stores that offer AR experiences. AR has also been shown to drive impulse purchases, with 72% of consumers stating that they’ve purchased goods they didn’t plan to buy because of AR.

In today’s retail environment, AR can help shoppers easily envision an item they are considering buying, whether it be a couch for their living room or a new pair of sunglasses. Customers spend more time in stores that incorporate AR into their shopping experience and increase their interaction time with a given product. Lengthening time spent connecting with a product encourages a more meaningful customer experience, where consumers can imagine the item in their daily reality.

 

Mobile Clienteling

Store associates equipped with mobile clienteling tools can input customer information as well as access their profile and purchase history. This knowledge allows them to tailor their recommendations. They can also continue the conversation by reaching out to customers after they’ve left the store, by e-mail, text message, live chat, or social media messaging. Customers benefit from an enhanced, omnichannel shopping experience and associates benefit by receiving credit for sales that occur outside of the store.

Associates have never been better equipped to provide personalized service across all channels, and customers finally have a way to connect with a local, in-store associate when they want, how they want.

 

Smart Mirrors

Smart mirrors were once just a gadget in science fiction movies, but they have now become a reality. For apparel and other fashion retailers, interactive smart mirrors are about as cutting edge as you can be. Products are connected through RFID tags that sync to the store’s inventory, and allow customers to select new styles or sizes in the fitting rooms. Smart mirrors and interactive fitting rooms create a personalized customer experience, while allowing retailers to collect customer data that is usually restricted to e-commerce business.

Retailers who have integrated this technology have experienced significant results. MemoMi memory mirrors, found in 34 Neiman Marcus locations, have made a more pleasant experience when shopping for cosmetics, sunglasses, and even sneakers. With a convenient-yet-luxurious feel, smart mirrors are sure to improve your purchase conversion rates.

The addition of technology to in-store retail enables you and your business to best connect with customers, while providing an optimal customer experience. Incorporating retail technology into stores can bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sales, proving to not only be effective in the retail marketplace, but also create a truly immersive shopping experience for all.

Retailer in the Holiday Spotlight: Peruvian Connection

This holiday season, we’ve partnered with Peruvian Connection to find out how they prepare for the holiday season. We interviewed Kay Moini, Vice President of Retail to learn more about customer expectations, holiday trends and strategies for success.  From having their founder visit their retail locations to tell her story, to providing customer-centered holiday specials and remaining loyal to their focus on sustainable initiatives, they’ve got it all covered. Read below for more.

Salesfloor: How does Peruvian Connection prepare stores and associates for the holiday season?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
Before the holiday season begins, our store associates participate in an in-depth product review where they see and touch the upcoming collection, ask questions, and learn the stand-out details for each piece. Special details seen in our 2019 Holiday Collection, for example, include hand-painted yarns, hand-knit accessories, and sustainably-sourced fur.

Weaving this craftsmanship into our collection is how we’re able to support traditional textile techniques in Peru while maintaining long-standing relationships with local artisans. Our associates need to have a solid understanding of this relationship year-round, but it’s particularly important during the holiday season when we see an influx of new customers.

During the holiday season, we also increase our efforts to make our customers’ lives as easy as possible. We know they’re under extra pressure, so we try to go above and beyond by offering to ship products to their home if necessary, provide beautiful gift wrap, and we even offer one-on-one assistance with gift lists and styling advice. We give customers the ability to connect with store associates by text, e-mail, live chat or social media to enhance the customer experience whether online or in-store.

 

Salesfloor: How do customers’ shopping habits change during the holidays?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
During other times of the year our customers are typically shopping for themselves; however, throughout the holiday season they’re suddenly juggling shopping lists for anywhere between a handful and dozens of friends and loved ones. They may exhibit more doubt or confusion over what to buy the people on their list, so our associates are prepared to educate them about why our products are uniquely luxurious and who they may be a good fit for.

As we near the end of December, it’s also common to see customers who are more rushed – they only have a certain number of days to wrap everything up! At this point, we try to be extra attentive so they’re able to be as efficient as possible. It’s also very important to keep the store super organized this time of year so that a rushed customer can come inside, quickly find what they need, and have a positive, stress-free experience.

 

Salesfloor: What are customers looking for this holiday season: deals, convenience, experiences?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
During the holiday season, we have to be prepared to cater to a wide variety of shopping preferences. Some customers want to attend luxury holiday shopping events – complete with wine and canapes and the whole experience. Others want to come in, quietly find a few items on their list, and move on to the next store. To honor these different preferences, we really increase our listening and provide opportunities for every type of shopper. We also employ clienteling tools that allow our store associates to deliver personalized service both in store and online.

For the experiential shopper, we enhance the holiday spirit with festive windows, seasonal music, and we’ll sometimes even serve holiday treats. We want everyone who enters our store to feel welcome and taken care of. We even provide comfortable seating for those who may need to take a break and put their feet up!

Our customers are typically looking for unique, luxury gifts that help support artisan communities.

 

Salesfloor: What are some creative ways you have used to attract consumers/generate traffic both in-store and online during the holidays?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
We are fortunate to have a deeply inspiring founder, Annie Hurlbut, and this season we’ve been hosting holiday shopping events that give customers the chance to meet Annie in person and hear her story. Annie founded Peruvian Connection in 1976 after studying anthropology at Yale, and she has since dedicated her life to sustaining artisanal textile traditions in Peru. Throughout this holiday season, Annie will visit some of our retail locations to meet local customers and tell the brand’s story.

Another way we like to generate in-store traffic is to team up with a local artist or pop-up brand. For example, we have an upcoming event in London in partnership with a renowned Peruvian Photographer, José Tio.

We also put a lot of hard work and pride into our window displays, which invite passing shoppers to come inside and experience the Peruvian Connection world. We make sure that any current promotions are clearly presented in our windows to help educate those passing by about current deals worth investigating.

Online, we primarily use weekly newsletters and daily social media posts to promote the new collection and share current holiday savings, free shipping offers, etc.

 

Salesfloor: What is the biggest challenge retailers experience during the holidays?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
Because we have a slow fashion model, our biggest challenge is keeping our handcrafted, artisan-made pieces in stock during such a busy time of year. It takes months of hands-on time to create some of our signature pieces, so we have to start planning for the holiday season well in advance. We certainly learned this lesson the year Kate Middleton wore our Vallnord Alpaca Fur Hat on Christmas day and sales absolutely skyrocketed! We want to make sure that customers aren’t disappointed if their item of choice is no-longer available, and therefore last-minute shoppers can always be a challenge for retailers during the holidays.

 

Salesfloor: Why is it important for your store associates to connect with customers this holiday season?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
It’s important that our associates connect with customers during the holiday season so shoppers understand who Peruvian Connection is as a company. Giving associates the tools to communicate with customers beyond the store (whether by e-mail, text, live chat or other) helps us achieve this goal.

We pride ourselves in being uniquely made artisan apparel, so each item has an incredible backstory about how it was inspired by global textile traditions, sourced from the most luxurious Andean fibers. With this information in hand, our customers will better appreciate our pricing structure and be more empowered to support a humane and sustainable fashion industry.

 

Salesfloor: What are some holiday experiences that associates have had that stand out to you?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
All of our associates’ favorite stories stem from helping customers make memories. We love making peoples’ wishes come true, and we’ll always go above and beyond for something special. For example, we once had a customer come in looking for a sold-out dress from a past collection – she wanted to get married in it! Our associates went on a massive journey to track down a remaining dress in her size, and we ultimately helped her feel beautiful and confident on her big day.

As a clothing company – we’re directly present for peoples’ biggest moments in life. Any time an associate is able to help a customer feel beautiful on a big, memorable day is a stand-out experience.

 

Salesfloor: What holiday trends have you noticed in the past years?

Kay Moini, VP Retail, Peruvian Connection:
We’ve noticed a trend of businesses partnering with charities and non-profits since the season of giving is the perfect opportunity to provide customers with a chance to support important causes. This year, we’ve partnered with Dress for Success for #GivingTuesday and have renewed our annual donations with Pro Mujer, a micro-financing program for Latin American women.

 

ABOUT PERUVIAN CONNECTION

While researching anthropology in Peru, Annie Hurlbut Zander fell in love with extraordinary hand-woven mantas and ponchos that she discovered in the markets of Cuzco. Fascinated by these ethnographic textiles, she began collecting them, learning everything she could about the spinning and dyeing of the alpaca fibers, the warp-faced weaving techniques and the ancient textile traditions of the Andes.

Since launching in 1976, Peruvian Connection (www.peruvianconnection.com) has grown into an internationally renowned brand for luxury Peruvian textiles and fibers with 7 stores, full of artisan-made garments expanding 5 collections per year. Since the first alpaca sweater, the original vision remains: to offer artisan-made designs in indigenous Andean luxury fibers. Each piece is a celebration of ethnographic textiles from around the world, made by skilled artisans whose art form will continue to be a time-honored tradition with Peruvian Connection. Alpaca remains the constant thread throughout each collection, as we continue to support and preserve the most luxurious Peruvian fibers.

Social selling done right: 4 tips to up your retail game

The top 500 retailers raked in close to $6.5 billion from social shopping in 2017, offering a strong indicator that the way sales are made has changed significantly over the past decade. And since the majority of businesses now use social media to sell (at least 88% in the US), the social selling landscape is a highly competitive one.

So what are the best social selling strategies that actually help retailers take advantage of this massive opportunity and stand out at the same time? Here are 4 ways that retail stores and associates can steal the spotlight by mobilizing the power of social:

 

1. The power to influence: turn your associates into brand ambassadors

One of the best ways to boost your brand awareness and improve results is altogether very human: leveraging your employees will get you everywhere. Foster excitement and motivation among your associates to become social influencers. While it’s true that some may be hesitant to blur their public and private social media personas, help them understand how a social selling program might build their professional identities and increase their visibility as leaders. As Nikki Baird of Forbes points out, “because consumers may be acting directly on something generated by a store employee, it’s much easier to track the direct influence that store employee has on generating sales.” Trigger motivation even further by ensuring associates are rewarded with commission for any item purchased through a clickable social post. Your associates will have relatively small yet highly engaged audiences, and this kind of exposure can have a significant impact on brand awareness, reach, traffic, and engagement. To avoid inappropriate posts, simply create clear sharing guidelines.

 

2. Choose the right tools & training

Your associates are likely too busy to spend precious time filtering through extensive email distribution lists. The launch of Salesfloor’s new Socialshop allows associates to link photos or assets with direct product links, enabling customers to click on them and make direct purchases. And any purchase made through a SocialShop feed are attributed back to the associate–an added incentive for them to promote on social media. Of course, on the baseline human front, it’s also important to make sure your associates are all on the same page by educating your entire team on best social media selling and customer engagement practices. A strong and unified team will only serve to make those perfectly suited tools even more powerful.

 

3. The indispensable importance of strong content

In the age of insta-sharing, great content is often challenging to come by. But the absolute ease and speed with which promotional posts can go out should not allow you to sacrifice the quality of your content, since everything released into the world by your business speaks volumes about your brand, and will never go unnoticed. Since your team is likely very busy on a constant basis, perhaps your marketing team can assist your social selling efforts by prepping an ongoing stream of credible, quality articles, topics, and relevant/timely announcements that your associates can then draw from and utilize as needed. Remember not to focus your social selling strategy too heavily on your company’s selling points, however, as this can work against you. Both your associates and your customers are modern, highly discerning buyers after all.

 

4. Personalization: because we all love attention

In addition to emails, texts, and other online marketing tactics, developing and harnessing ads featuring personalized content via social media channels can go a long way toward upping customer engagement. Additionally, direct messaging on social is usually very underexploited by retailers. Yet DMs—on Facebook, for instance—are invaluably convenient for sharing info about upcoming events or doling out discount codes to new or loyal customers. Fans of your brand and customers-to-be will feel more appreciated with individual attention, and this can additionally help your associates glean more useful customer data. Think of it as a bonus clienteling strategy. Your associates can now keep track of what a customer did, or what they preferred, so you can personalize the forms buyers engage with moving forward, significantly finessing your overall sales process.

Bottom line: social selling is a long-term game, so above all, be patient and stay the course. As long as you commit to your efforts, and adjust as needed, you’re sure to see tangible results. Bonus tip: avoid micromanaging your associates’ daily sharing. By allowing associates the space they need to build the trust of their (your) followers, you give your social selling strategy new life.

5 trends driving the evolution of retail

Retail is in major flux. Department stores have lost more jobs than coal mines have, and it’s not a phase. Digital transformation is key to exploring uncharted territory and maintaining a competitive edge in the modern retail landscape.

Here are 5 trends currently driving the evolution of retail:

1. Personalization

Mass marketing continues to be overshadowed by more effective one-to-one experiences. Many brands have already begun to integrate big data. Increasingly, it will merge with other technologies to deliver hyper personal, in-store and online customer experiences. Store terminals and devices are en route to becoming aware of in-store interactions, enabling marketers to reflect on individuals’ purchase histories. Modern associates can use omnichannel clienteling to access customer profiles and purchase histories, and send personalized messages with clickable recommendations to customers. With customer data integrated in an app, automated reminders can even be sent to associates so follow-ups with customers are perfectly timed, be they on or offline.

 

2. Omnichannel culture

78% of retailers say it’s critical to integrate e-commerce and in-store experiences, speaking to the importance of an omnichannel journey. Retailers don’t have web/mobile departments anymore and have no choice but to reconfigure their companies to work both on and offline. New roles and approaches to inventory are needed, such as the endless aisle: an associate should not lose a sale because they don’t have the stock in-store. Instead, they should be equipped to order it online for the customer. A customer can walk out having purchased exactly what they want, even though their product may arrive at the store or their home a day or two later. This practice of combining physical and virtual product purchasing is the ultimate sales strategy. A recent study revealed that 90% of retailers will implement “buy online, pickup in store” by 2021.

 

3. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT devices provide the most direct pathway for retailers to connect devices to actionable data that can be used to drive traffic and sales. Customers can now receive personalized notifications on their smart device immediately upon entering a store—a special coupon, for example, based on items they’ve browsed or purchased before. IoT enabled devices and apps can also tell customers what’s in stock, show them similar brands, or allow them to view product pricing histories, driving them to shop online or in-store. IoT’s true value is in the data that can be used to connect online and offline activities and raise audience insights. Walmart, for example, uses weather data to anticipate grocery sales!

 

4. Tomorrow’s store associate

Shopping experiences are changing, which in turn transforms what it means to be an associate, and how one should interact with customers in-store and online. Associates should be empowered with the digital tools that allow them to connect and foster relationships with customers across all channels, and retailers must acknowledge that the growth of virtual associates is most definitely a trend leading us into the future.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, in-store associates can recommend and sell across mobile, web, and in-store, and customers can chat with them live online. In addition, Saks “Style Advisors” can help customers find items, answer styling questions, and send newly arrived products to be tried out. By combining personalized recommendations online with  in-store associate engagement, Saks is ahead of the game.

At Chico’s FAS,’ associates can order from the store’s distribution centre or from other stores as needed. The retailer also happens to collect customer data on over 90% of its sales, which means better informed associates.

At L’Occitane en Provence, personable “Beauty Advisors” are on hand at in-store social events to talk about products. They even hold open mic nights where visitors are invited to share thoughts. “The hard sell is not what anybody wants these days,” says vice president Paul Blackburn.”If you do that right, the sales come naturally.”

 

5. Artificial Intelligence

AI combines enormous data sets with deep-learning algorithms to reveal valuable insights. AI comes in many forms, including robots manufacturers, delivery drones, automated checkouts, and advanced chatbots. AI has two chief uses in retail. First, by using AI plugins to anticipate customer purchase behaviors, associates are better-enabled to make relevant product recommendations and offer suggestions that results in higher sales. For example, H&M’s Kik can ask customers questions via chat to narrow down what they want, and then automatically send relevant information, facilitating a purchase. Second, AI can be used to help associates better engage with customers. If a customer has an inventory question, AI technology can generate an appropriate response or recommendation, making it easier for associates to efficiently serve customers online. Associates can use data from AI forms or bots to make effective recommendations online and off. When associates work together with AI, retailers are unstoppable.

Customers are more than ready to engage with the above retail trends in tech. Be ready to meet them where they’re at while staying a step ahead of ever-changing retail trends!