3 customer journeys retailers need to understand

As the variety of touchpoints in the retail world continue to grow in number, (social, email, websites, etc.), the customer journey as well continues to grow into an increasingly  omnichannel experience.

Creating truly effective omnichannel customer journeys can be a challenge, but a worthwhile one: research predicts that by 2020, customer experience will outdo both price and product as the main factor in customer decision-making. Tellingly, Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Customer Experience (CX) Benchmarking Report found 71% of organizations cited customer experience as a competitive differentiator, but just 13% of brands self-rated their CX delivery a 9 out of 10 or higher.

 

Customer journey mapping

Customer journey mapping can be a really helpful tool for those looking to up their game in the omnichannel sense. Thinking of it as storytelling can be useful. The chapters of your story might include: your client walk-by window shopping;  your client searching online for a particular product; their in-store experience; their review process; and even their promotion of your company to other would-be buyers. Evaluate the level of service you provide at each touchpoint: in-store, on your site, the quality of business cards, your email follow-ups, etc., and how your buyer may feel about each. The buyer’s journey can take many directions. Consider the following 3 customer “stories”:

 

1. The undecided in-store shopper

A customer is lured into your store by the punchy window display (well-done). She tries on a blouse but leaves without buying, just as 70% of customers do. To address this gap, an associate follows up via email to thank her for visiting, attaching an easily clickable version of the blouse at the same time. Or—maybe the customer leaves the store with a business card that has the store’s url on it. Either, way, the service and the relationship are extended beyond the store, and the customer is able to conveniently continue her experience, transitioning from brick and mortar to online seamlessly. The customer then purchases directly via your website and leaves a glowing Google review after the fact, citing the helpful but not pushy service she received. It’s very much worth comparing your online conversion rates before and after connecting your associates online to measure your success. Salesfloor‘s embedded online tool (which customers can use to connect with associates based on location) has increased leading retailers’ conversion rate 10x, and contributed to an 18% rise in new customer acquisition. By maintaining a relationship with the undecided customer, associates can hold onto sales even when a customer doesn’t return in person. It also discourages continued research at another store.

 

2. The anonymous online shopper

A customer hates calling stores and being put on hold. He browses your website and has a question about the “feel” of a product. Pleasantly surprised at the fact that he can easily chat online with an associate, the customer appreciates having the option to schedule a meeting in-store. Being able to ask questions and get answers from a human being versus a bot drives traffic to your store and helps drive online conversions. Let’s face it: in today’s world the average shopper browses online before even thinking about going into a store. There is an opportunity to capture these shoppers directly on your website and start facilitating a relationship between your customers and associates, ultimately drawing them back into your store. Providing next-level online services like these also makes it a lot easier to collect customers’ email addresses and further build your resources.

 

3. The omnichannel customer

One of your associates has built up a long-term rapport with a customer, and receives a notification that he has not purchased in 30 days. Your associate then consults the customer profile, trending recommendations, and the customer’s online purchase history before checking in with him via email and recommending a product that might complement his last purchase. National retail emails have an average open rate of just 20%, yet email still remains the strongest digital channel when it comes to ROI, generating a solid $38 for every $1 spent. Given that associates’ online sales can represent 10% of all your online business, harnessing email’s potential can go a long way. Providing your associates with automated tasks based on customers’ purchase history along with the accompanying personalized recommendations can go a long way toward creating scalable clienteling strategies that just weren’t possible before.

No matter what your customer’s journey, one thing is for sure: the key to success lies in providing your associates with the tools to be better influencers—each and every step of the way. Part of that is allowing your associates to omnipresent in as many channels as they can access, and another part is providing them with the technology to do so. Why not make everybody happy, just because you can? After all, the customer journey is your ultimate destination.

Bringing the Online Experience Offline in Retail

When Amazon announced it was going to build brick and mortar concept grocery stores – Amazon Go – it made huge waves in the media.

What was particularly interesting about it was how they incorporated a feature usually only seen online: Amazon’s ‘Buy with 1-Click’ button.  This feature would create a seamless experience for the shopper: just select the items you want and then simply walk out of the store.

What Amazon knew about this move is what smart retailers are looking to do in brick and mortar properties: design stores replicate the best features of online stores. If that sounds like something out of a Black Mirror episode, it’s not. It’s going to be a hot trend in the future.

We’re far enough into the online retail revolution where we know there are some teens and adults who have grown up digital-first, even in retail. This fundamentally changes the purchase expectations and flow of a growing number of customers.

The ease of which regular shoppers online can navigate from consideration to purchase, to owning the item is a key part of the next generation of retail design.

In November of 2017, Target unveiled a redesign centred around the changing ways people shop.  The store has a dedicated entrance for “express” shoppers: through this entrance, wine, beer, and package pick up are the first things you see. The store also has curbside pick up where a store employee will deliver an order you placed directly to your car.

If none of these options applies to you, you can use Target’s second entrance, for shoppers to “discover” new items or brands.

This twofold strategy emulates two distinct shopper patterns that exist both offline and on: The on-demand shopper, and the discovery shopper.  By redesigning the space, Target hopes to capture both styles in a way that directly addresses their needs.

Apple got rid of the purchase queue years ago by making on-demand checkouts a reality in their stores. Customers can either walk up to any sales associate with a handheld device check themselves out with the Apple Store application. Just pick up the product you want, scan the barcode, enter your AppleID, and voila! You can walk out of the store with your new purchase without interacting with anyone.

The trend for retail seems to be moving toward operating the way we have become accustomed to shopping online all in an effort to bring people back into brick and mortar stores. The seamless process marries the best of both worlds: the ability to touch and feel the product in real-time and to ask crucial questions about the product while avoiding waiting in checkout lineups.

How can retail stores without hundreds of millions of dollars in renovation budgets and armies of sales associates effectively leverage this trend?

Set up a fast lane in-store

Set up an area somewhat close to your entrance for customers to pick up, return, reserve, or gift wrap items easily. If you’re unsure whether this will work, try setting it up during a busy time for shopping or returns for your store. It’s important to look at adoption rates, and solicit verbal feedback from those who choose to use this option.

Consider having grab and go stations in your store for the most commonly purchased items. Make these stations close enough to a cash or a mobile cashier to make the experience quick and easy for the customer

Work with your regular customers to make in-store shopping smarter

Using Salesfloor, you can set up predictive newsletters with items in them you know your customers will love, and let them know you can prep these items for them to pick up on demand in-store.

Look for purchase cadence for regular customers and be predictive about what you think they might need. This helps your associates become indispensable to these customers, who will likely return for the same simple, efficient service,

Increase discoverability

Merchandising isn’t just about showing off new lines or items that are on trend right now. Merchandising is also successful when it helps fulfil a need.

Online stores often bubble up “bought together” items in an effort to anticipate a customer’s needs. Grocery stores in vacation spots have long known the value of placing disposable barbecue kits in near the barbecue sauce, and solo cups and ping pong balls in with the mixer or near the beer.

Anticipating common uses or combinations of items in your store and either packaging them as kits or displaying how someone could package them/buy them together is a great way to increase total spend, and a great way to establish your store as a place that solves problems, thus increasing purchase frequency and word of mouth.

 

We live in an increasingly on-demand economy, but that does not mean that in-store retail is obsolete. Without resorting to wildly expensive redesigns, you, too, can leverage what the larger stores know about the change in how e-commerce trained customers shop and use that to gain strategic advantage by tweaking how your store and associates deliver the shopping experience from outside the store to the cash.

How Each Generation Shops

From Baby Boomers to Generation Z, each generation has its own defining political and cultural traits that have characterized their coming-of-age and shopping habits.

As of now, there are four major generational demographics that economists have recognized as distinct markets: Baby Boomers, Gen X,  Gen Y (more popularly known as Millennials,) and Gen Z—each of which is unique in their perspectives on marketing tactics and purchasing preferences.

If retailers want to make their products available to each generation in the best way possible, they need to adapt their brand experience in a way that accommodates all the options that these groups rely on. That’s why we gathered all the data you need to know just what each generation is looking for.

Baby Boomers Shopping Habits
Born 1946 to 1964

Source: BuzzFeed Video
Source: BuzzFeed Video

When it comes to the joy of shopping, Baby Boomers want convenience above all else.

The Boomer generation is just too stressed for shopping trips, as Colloquy reports that at a 27 percent response rate, Boomers were the least likely to agree with the statement “I think shopping is a great way to relax” when compared to all other generational groups. They also scored well below Millennials in terms of browsing with only 37 percent of Boomers reporting that they would be likely or willing to explore a store for new products.

The Baby Boomer’s aversion to browsing is understandable; with a greater amount of disposable income than all other generations, Baby Boomers also have the spending power to make purchases without necessarily hunting down for bargains in-store, which is a greater characteristic of Millennials and Gen Z. However, Boomers are very comfortable browsing and shopping online with 85 percent of surveyed Boomers reporting that they research products on their web browsers. In a surprising finding by Immersion Active, Boomers aren’t opposed to taking a leap of faith to purchase products online either as 66 percent of Boomers reportedly make regular purchases via web devices.The root of Boomers' brick-and-mortar preference is tied to their high expectations of customer service.

Although they regularly make purchases online, Baby Boomers by far prefer the personal engagement of traditional stores when making actual purchases. At 84 percent, Boomers were highest amongst all survey groups in expressing their preference to shop in-store, and 67 percent report that if an item they want is available online or in a nearby store, they prefer to purchase it at their local retailer rather than order online.

The root of Boomers’ brick-and-mortar preference is tied to their high expectations of customer service. According to a LoyaltyOne survey on generational consumer habits, Boomers were the most likely demographic to take their business away from retail chains following a subpar exchange with one of their sales associates.

Boomers place immense value in brands based on their interactions with sales associates, and retailers can capitalize on this by offering the experience through digital channels. Social web store features and clienteling apps have become vital tools in engaging the Boomer generation and catering to their reliance on associates’ recommendations.

When it comes to social influence, Boomers are more selective on what sources they trust for brand recommendations. Although 82 percent of Baby Boomers are on social media, they are still unlikely to use the platform as an influence on their shopping habits, and only 12 percent of Boomers say they look to friends and family for advice on their purchases. Instead, Boomers are twice as likely as Millennials to have their interest sparked by the reported popularity of a brand when purchasing a new or unfamiliar product. This suggests that brands with bold and consistent omnichannel engagement are likely to perform better among the Boomer demographic due to their suggested popularity.

Generation X Shopping Habits
Born 1965 to 1980

Source: BuzzFeed Video
Source: BuzzFeed Video

Sandwiched between the Boomers and Millennials, Gen X is often referred to the “middle child” generation due to its reputation of often being forgotten by marketing specialists. Because of this, there is little market research into their spending habits compared to those of Boomers and Millennials. This comes as a shock when the spending power of this generation can’t be ignored: Gen Xers produce 31 percent of total US income despite representing a mere 25 percent of the population.

One of the greatest obstacles in the marketing approach to Gen Xers is that they tend to shop more conservatively than other generations. They’re more sceptical about marketing tactics, which means they won’t be won with flashy advertising but with practicality and proof of performance.To avoid regretting their expenditures, Xers won't purchase a product until they've researched it thoroughly, which is why they make extensive use of search engines, online reviews, and social media networks before making a purchase.

To avoid regretting their expenditures, Xers won’t purchase a product until they’ve researched it thoroughly, which is why they make extensive use of search engines, online reviews, and social media networks before making a purchase. That being said, having any doubts about product performance will easily dissuade them from their buying journey.

Gen X prefers honest explanations of product usage and trusts clienteling techniques that cater to their own habits. When marketing to Gen Xers, it’s critical to make products and services especially visible and accessible online by using SEO strategies to optimize their research and an active social media presence to demonstrate a personable and authentic brand image. Digitally, email is one of best channels for reaching out to this generation. Gen Xers check emails on a regular basis and are more likely to respond well to personalized offers based on their previous purchases. Like Baby Boomers, Xers also rely on quality customer service for brand loyalty as they see store associates as people who can relate to them on a consumer level and relay the best options for their purchases without an upsell.

Generation Y (Millennials) Shopping Habits

Born 1981 to 1997

Source: BuzzFeed Video
Source: BuzzFeed Video

Whether for social media, research, or purchases, Millennials use web devices in nearly every aspect of their life, even while shopping in stores. 68 percent of Millennials demand the convenience of omnichannel accessibility during their shopping journey, which means having an integrated experience that can effortlessly transition their consumer data from their smartphone, to laptop, to local store, and back again.

Millennials are so omnivorous in their point-of-sales that as a generational demographic, they’re the most likely to make use of every avenue of purchasing available to them. In fact, younger Millennials (aged 20-23) on the cusp of Gen Z are more likely to shop in a brick and mortar store when compared to older Millennials (aged 32-35,) who are the most likely within the group to buy via mobile. And overall, when Millennials shop for something both online and in a store, they are much more likely to make a purchase in a store than they are online. But while the myriad of online stores and buying options today have offered Millennials the ability to be more selective with their purchases, the options can get overwhelming as Millennials actually tend to prefer browsing for products across brands rather than settling on an option and purchasing it.

 82 percent of Millennials say word-of-mouth is a key influencer of their purchase decisions.Seeing shopping as a social event is another trait that strongly characterizes the Millennial market and sets it apart from older generations. In stark contrast to Baby Boomers, research shows that Millennials enjoy shopping and see it as fun and relaxing activity to be shared with friends and family. According to Gen Buy, the grand majority of Millennials report that they shop with other people at least half the time, and 60 percent consider advice from their friends when deciding what to buy.

Of course, the social consumer experience is not only limited to shopping mall excursions but social media as well: 68 percent of Millennials admit to being strongly influenced by social media posts while 84 percent say user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy.

Retailers should recognize that social media is extremely important to Millennials in their purchasing journey because even though they value the opinions of family and friends, they seek out the experiences of other consumers above all. Not only do 90 percent of Millennials research product reviews online, most tend to rely on other consumers’ reviews on retailers’ sites over those of people they know. By taking advantage of all these forms of recommendations, it’s no surprise that 82 percent of Millennials say word-of-mouth is a key influencer of their purchase decisions.

Like Gen X, Gen Y is also sceptical of overbearing marketing tactics. Millennials tend to reject retailers who constantly push products through messaging and instead prefer authentic interactions with sales associates who happen to also be consumers of their retailer’s products. Millennials are also likely to interact with brands and retailers through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in order for their voices to be heard.

Gen Z Shopping Habits

Born 1998 to 2010

Source: BuzzFeed Video
Source: BuzzFeed Video

Gen Z is the generation of digital natives that can’t remember a time before Internet, and as such, the platform has become the foundation of their buying process. Gen Z uses their plethora of Google resources to compare prices, styles, availability, and ratings of products to make the most educated purchase possible. Being savvy with price-checking tools also makes Gen Z more selective when making big expenditures with many often buying products only when they’re on sale or even delaying gratification by waiting for newer products to become available.

While much of their research is digital, Gen Z still enjoys visiting stores as a social excursion in the same way Millennials do. In fact, 84 percent of Gen Zers intentionally structure their shopping trips a social activity and wait to accumulate a solid list of wants and needs before visiting stores with friends.

Despite being inundated with digital content, Gen Z still prefers to shop in-store versus online, but they crave a store that can keep up with their tech more than anything.Like Gen Y, Gen Z is also likely to contribute to consumer-generated content for brands by voicing their comments and concerns online and by seeking out interactions with brand representatives. As Sara Spivey, CMO of Bazaarvoice, says, “Companies should encourage Gen Zers to share photos and videos with their purchases, create polls and contests on social media and, most importantly, listen and respond to their feedback.”

Catering to Gen Z’s online expectations by providing consumer-generated content is crucial for retailers, because not only do these teens respond extremely well to word-of-mouth, but they actively participate in it as well. Spivey claims that 40 percent of Gen Zers give online reviews “very often,” which in turn encourage others within their generation to purchase products. In this sense, Gen Z consumers sharing brand content on social media can easily be considered unofficial brand ambassadors.

Despite being inundated with digital content, Gen Z still prefers to shop in-store versus online, but they crave a store that can keep up with their tech more than anything. Companies need to understand that technology drives Gen Z’s shopping experience—an established social media presence should complement touchscreens in brick and mortar stores if retailers want to keep tech-savvy Gen Zers eager to interact with their brand.

Ironically, the instant gratification that Gen Z has become accustomed to through their digital habits isn’t entirely sustainable from their web devices when it comes to shopping.

“Two-thirds say they’re comfortable shopping online but still prefer to shop in-store for the instant gratification of not having to wait for their orders to arrive,” says Spivey. “The shopping trend of buying online and picking up in-store is quickly gaining traction with this group.”

Additional research shows that other wallet-friendly incentives, such as coupon offers (all generations love coupons,) are also a great way to bring Gen Zers in store.

Considering how Gen Z and Gen Y both still shop both online and offline, and reportedly more so than older generations, retailers need to prioritize enhancing both groups shopping experiences by appealing to their affinity for technology and perspective on shopping as a social enterprise. Offline, stores should promote a chic, tech-savvy, communal atmosphere. Online, retail sites should interact with and promote user-generated content to provide a seamless shopping experience across the average Gen Zer’s many juggled web devices.

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With generations old and new increasingly using web devices to help them make purchases, digital tools are shaping the way customers across all generations interact with brands. Using the right clienteling apps and social media engagement techniques will help retailers build lasting relationships with consumers who continue to seek social and authentic customer service experiences during their buying journey.

Creating a Customer Community for your Brand

Some of the most coveted brands in the world all have one thing in common: they have active, dedicated communities that help spread the word about the brand in an organic, authentic way. Lesser brands try to chase this success by trying to find shortcuts to building community, and they often fail. Just like in friendship or love, you can’t use gimmicks to force your relationship to grow.

So, how do brands go about moving from a transaction to building and supporting customer communities? Well, just like in interpersonal relationships, the best way to get them started and help them grow is to be helpful and offer the other person something they need without asking for anything in return.

Let’s look at how some famous brands have created and maintain great communities.

#1. Offer Free Workshops

It seems counter-intuitive to have a store dedicated to one specialty and then assume the person shopping there has no knowledge or understanding of your specialty, but that’s exactly what the Home Depot has done. The Home Depot were early adopters of workshops in their stores, teaching people everything from how to make a birdhouse to how to replace a toilet. Even children can learn DIY basics in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Why is this important? People visiting hardware stores have a wide variety of skill levels, but everyone can learn. Learning the latest methods for completing projects makes a customer feel confident, and more ready to tackle the project at hand (and come back to the store to purchase what they need to complete the project.) Some of these customers will be “bitten by the bug” and let their desire to learn guide them back to the store with higher frequency.

#2. Create a Place to Gather

[https://www.racked.com/2016/9/20/12933328/frank-oak-womenswear]

If you’ve ever been to the Apple Store, you understand why Apple waited so long to get their retail experience just right. On any given day, if you visit an Apple store, you will see a high percentage of customers visiting just to hang out. Visit Frank & Oak’s bricks and mortar stores on any given day and you’ll hear the whoosh of a Cappuccino machine and smell old fashioned shaving lather at their dedicated cafe and barber shop. Giving customers reasons to drop in and experience your brand when they’re not looking to make a purchase helps keep your brand top-of-mind. Giving customers a place they can invite friends to visit helps spread positive brand association and build new customer relationships organically.

#3. Help Your Customers Find Customers

Everyone probably has a pair of Lululemon yoga pants at home, but there are some people for whom Lululemon’s athletic wear is part of their vocation. Lululemon realized early on one of the secrets to getting their brand to grow was to provide special services to those in Yoga and other athletic instruction trades. Lululemon’s Ambassador program is a massive endeavour- they partner with hundreds of instructors and athletes, providing them with free gear and promotion, while working with these athletes on hosting free events, from Yoga classes to run clubs. Instructors get exposure to pre-qualified customers who are interested in learning more about a sport, and in turn add clients to their rosters. Lululemon is able to build and galvanize their reputation as *the* athletic outfitter by associating with the best instructors and athletes.

#4. Connect Your Customers Through their Passions

Make up has always been a word-of-mouth business. It’s the reason that the same 3 dollar tube of mascara (Maybelline Great Lash) has been the top seller for decades and why Kiehl’s has been around since 1851 (long before advertising). When make-up wearers and artists find something they like, they are vocal about it. Make up is also the type of purchase that is expensive enough that if you have an adverse experience with it, you’ll want to warn others not to try it. Enter Sephora’s Community Page. This page is for everyone – from the novice to professional make-up artistc- to share tips, tricks, product recommendations, suggestions for dealing with specific issues (covering a birthmark for a graduation photo, etc) to learning how to correctly cover a pimple or under eye circles. Makeup is a personal thing, and people feel more comfortable making purchases once they have some authoritative advice on which product to buy and how to use it. This helps Sephora sell more products, and keep people happier with the purchases they choose.

#5. Create a Platform for Your Customers to Share

Youth fashion brands survive on one thing alone: being cool. ASOS saw the success of hashtags like #OOTD (Outfit of the day) and realized that if they could encourage their own customers to use a hashtag like that, they could show people how people from all over the world were styling and accessorizing their products. ASOS created #AsSeenOnMe.  Visiting this page on the Asos website is like visiting a store with an impossibly cool friend. All the looks suddenly seem achievable. You can get a sense of how to replicate a look, or even build a similar look for yourself with similar ideas. For ASOS, it’s a chance to see fandom in action, but also get a deeper understanding of what their customers like, want, and how they use their products, enabling ASOS to get better at building their lines every year.

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Community is increasingly important to brands to help keep customers thinking about your brand even when they don’t need to make immediate purchases. The keys major brands have used to build communities can all be implemented by smaller or medium sized brands. All you need to do is think about what your customer needs, and you have the building blocks for a great community.

5 Ways to Take Customer Experience to the Next Level

We live in a world of convenience, where almost anything is available at the click of a button. We’ve gotten so used to this behavior, in fact, that we often forget that when it comes to things that require human interaction, like selling on a retail floor, there’s no button. This sounds discouraging until you realize that this presents a huge opportunity for retailers to understand, anticipate and delight customers just by paying attention to their needs.

While for some, price will always be King, for most shoppers, finding retailers they can trust, and revisit is incredibly important. According to a 2015 survey, trust in retailers was more important to respondents than price. Customers know what their time is worth, and time not wasted on bad experiences is worth the extra price. The experience, to them,  is worth the investment.

Providing excellent customer experiences is easier than you think to implement. You don’t need gimmicks- you don’t need to put out cupcakes or do expensive giveaways. You just need to look at the retail experience from the position of the customer.  Think about the last time you had a great retail experience. You probably remember something about the salesperson you dealt with-  Now think about the last time you had a TERRIBLE experience. The deficits in the bad experience were probably down to a few things: Feeling like your needs weren’t being heard, salesperson indifference, or inexperience on the part of the salesperson. Most problems stem from these areas. Here’s how to make sure your company rises above the rest.

1. Anticipate your customer’s needs


https://giphy.com/gifs/anticipate-JuUwHFhMcsUXS

In all good relationships, observing the preferences of another person and proactively catering to those preferences is a powerful thing. Imagine while talking with your customer, you find out that he has a daughter who is turning 14. Make a note to call him when prom is coming up…make him a hero! Does a customer come in with their dog all the time? Write down the dog’s name and have a few treats or a toy for them the next time they visit.

There are already tools that help associates keep track of a customer’s purchase history and help them to follow up directly from their own mobile devices.

2. Keep track of your customer’s favorite things

https://giphy.com/gifs/filmeditor-christmas-movies-bill-murray-3ohfFHkmMci57UJa5G

Observation is key. Is your customer drawn to certain designers, shapes, cuts? Make note of them in the aforementioned tools. Have they ever come back in the store wearing an item they bought? Make note of it. Understanding the cues customers give you and acting on them- by suggesting items that fit their preferences shows you’re thoughtful and can solve their problems. The last time your customer was in the store, she mentioned her weakness for yellow accessories and you just got a pair of yellow boots. Drop her a note with a picture.

3. Notify your customer when something they’ve been eyeing goes on sale

https://giphy.com/gifs/power-starz-l0HlUGaBzs7mu1FDi

We have all been there- you’re shopping for something you like, but you’re on your way to dinner so you think you’ll pick it up later, and you eventually forget. Consider the power of proactively making note of customers’ “cart abandons-“ items they seemed to like but had to leave. He came in and tried on that leather jacket that just went on sale this month…and you still have his size. He’ll be surprised when you send him a note  offering to put it aside. A sale at a lower price is still a sale and that thoughtfulness is another way to reinforce your relationship with that client

4. Give your customers a jump on the new releases

http://gph.is/1qSd0FL

You only need to look at the news when a new mobile phone is launched to understand the power of being the first to get something exclusive. Building your relationship with high value customers means delivering on perks. You know this is going to be the hot toy or a must-have coat for this holiday season, so let your best customers know and get a jump on it. Treat the experience like you would treat giving a “just-because” gift for your close friends. They will love you for it.

5. Remember their past purchases

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Hair stylists and bartenders who are great at their jobs excel at this. Understanding what your customers like and dislike is key to strengthening the relationship. Last season, your customer bought those white palazzo pants you recommended and the same brand has just released patterned crop tops that would go perfectly. Send her a message to let her know.

BONUS: Help them be a hero

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Not all purchases are made for one’s self. Listening to customers talk about people they purchase for, and asking follow up questions can help put you in a position for being a “gift fairy” of sorts for them. If you can help select the perfect gift for their loved ones, you can cement your position with them as being a go-to for gift advice because you solve an important problem for them. If they mention their husband is hard to buy for and needs a new coat, you can be the one who finds the perfect coat and proactively sends the info to them, saving the day for the husband’s birthday.

The keys to great customer care are the same as they keys to any good relationship: Listen, observe, and offer consideration and help when it’s most needed.

Ways to Motivate Your Customers to Buy (beyond price)

Customers are motivated by vastly different things. Don’t make yours motivated by price.

If you had to describe recent decades as macro shopping patterns, it would have to be that the 1980s were about status, the 1990s were about price and the rise of the all-in box store, the 2000s were all about conspicuous spending, but where does that leave the 2010s?

It’s interesting that in an era where things we need are costing more than ever before, the main motivator for shoppers does not always seem to be price. In a world where you can spend 30 minutes in your pajamas to find the lowest price on an iPad, people still spend hours in the Apple store, just browsing and trying out the shiny new things. What exactly is going on there?

The 2000s saw the rise of ecommerce and its effects on bricks and mortar- it had a polarizing effect. Some businesses thrived. Others were the victims of showrooming. Some people still prefer to do all their shopping in person. A quick check of any mall parking lot in December confirms this. People are shopping in store, and sometimes paying a premium to do so.

What seems to set retailers apart in this new paradigm are retailers who understand their role in customer care, and that customer care starts the moment the door opens. According to an Oxford study in 2013, what customers really care about isn’t decoration or cheerily delivered sales scripts, it’s a salesperson’s ability to read a customer’s mood and deliver what’s needed to them in the moment. Understanding when a customer is in a hurry or buying a gift for someone who is unwell is a key part of sales success, according to the study’s findings. The same study found that women are actually distrustful of red “sale” signs, and often second guess whether they are being manipulated.

What customers really care about isn’t decoration or cheerily delivered sales scripts, it’s a salesperson’s ability to read a customer’s mood and deliver what’s needed to them in the moment.

Psychology today looked at the psychographic profiles of different types of shoppers and found they are motivated by sometimes wildly different reasons to shop: adventure, social outings, indulgence, trends, relationship to a recipient were all cited as strong motivating factors toward driving purchases.

[In other words, focus on the other shopping types!]
Bargain shopping was not only a lower motivator, if you look at it versus all the other reasons, It’s only 1/6th of the reasons to complete a purchase, and has no emotion tied to it. Competing on price doesn’t make the most sense from a numbers perspective as a strategy. Catering to more of these identified motivations seems to be a way forward for retailers in a changing environment.

What’s Working in Retail Right Now

Who’s winning the retail game? Think small. Small as in brands, and small as in square feet. Many large retail operations are moving into smaller, more urban focused spaces and catering to the needs of urban dwellers. This is partly due to the cost of operating in these markets versus the amount of foot traffic moving to e-commerce solutions. Stores simply don’t need to be as big anymore. How do stores win in that case?

Studies show that customers will walk around and browse more in a smaller location. The more you browse, the more opportunities for you to find something you’re going to purchase, and the larger your bill might be. Smaller stores also bring you in contact with sales staff more, enabling more touches and more opportunities to get questions answered.

The think small ethos has also worked to bring big attention and a healthy bottom line to retailers like Warby Parker. They’ve managed to successfully bridge the offline-online gap in a vertical that most would agree requires in-store shopping: eyewear. It turns out, that they’ve managed to do what traditional retail wisdom tells us is impossible: Take a primarily online business and segue it into retail success. They boast nearly 50 stores in the United States and Canada. (Up from 0 in 2010.) Their “try at home” program still exists, but foot traffic at their stores is healthy.

[Warby Parker photo from Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/b9Hitz]

What’s Working in E-commerce Right Now

Customization was a theme about 7 years ago we were promised would win big in the future. While it has had some moderate success for some retailers, it’s largely not been a real vertical killer for brands who have tried. More options means more overhead in the form of inventory you may never move and can’t repurpose. It turns out, customers don’t want custom products, they want custom curation.

It turns out, customers don’t want custom products, they want custom curation.

What’s been working for many retailers is an old fashioned idea: Newsletters. 2016 was, for retailers and media companies alike the Year of the Newsletter.

Email is still king when it comes to driving sales. Search barely beats it out, but that’s for consumers who already know what they want. For those who are “just browsing” or undecided, Email is the best bang for a marketing buck.

The ability to tailor content to a specific customer based on shopping preferences, time of year, and purchase history has changed the game for many retailers. Our own partners have seen real foot traffic and conversions from implementing Salesfloor to personalize the shopping experience for individuals.

Associates using the Salesfloor platform can create personalized email marketing campaigns in which they can offer special promotions or recommendations. Presenting the right goods to the right customer at the right time leads to sales lift, much like hand selling in store by judging a customer’s mood and style works.

The Road Ahead

No one has a crystal ball to know what’s next for retail, but what works- Observing, Listening to and Responding to customers is not a purely offline or online play. These are cornerstones for selling and increasing cart sizes. We predict that a mixture of human interactions, data, and real customer feedback will further refine the way products are sold in 2017 and tech will be a key part of lowering friction to purchase, increasing purchase frequency, and increasing purchase sizes for retailers.

Observing, Listening to and Responding to customers is not a purely offline or online play.

We’re thrilled to work with our partners to watch this transformation of retail happen in real time and are excited for what’s next.