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.

Winning the Holidays with Seasonal Associates

The holiday season is upon us, and the frenzied shoppers are already busting down the doors. With December quickly approaching, it will only get crazier. Retailers know that this means it’s time to brace themselves and their stores for the rush of holiday shoppers. Bracing yourself means that you need to have enough associates on the floor to handle the volume increase. And though this sounds simple enough, you may find yourself asking the same question every year:

“How do I find good seasonal sales associates and get them trained quickly?”

In this article, we’ll look at the best tips and tricks for bringing the much needed extra manpower on board for the holidays and how to prepare them for their new roles in the bustling months ahead.

Recruiting

So you need to hire, but where do find the right talent? The good news is that there are a number of options available to you. They key is to make sure you get in front of the right people in order to streamline the process.

Student job boards: Students make for great seasonal associates for two reasons: they are always eager to earn extra money, and the temporary status of the work suits their schedules. You can target student job boards in programs that are relevant to your business as well. Fashion retailers can target fashion students. Book retailers can target literature students. They can bring their new knowledge to enhancing their position.

Online platforms: If you want a broader reach, consider posting on online platforms like Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter, where your post will be found by keen job seekers looking for seasonal work. Also consider doing an online search for your local temp agency where you can find those looking and available for short-term work.

Social media: Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have fantastic targeting algorithms that allow you to get in front of people within interests in your area and people familiar with your brand. This means that you’ll be connecting with the people who are already knowledgeable about your company and industry. Finding new hires this way could reduce the time it takes to familiarize them with your products and how your store operates.

Referral bonus: Consider giving your current employees a little extra compensation for referring somebody they know who is looking for a job. Your employees will be more inclined if something is in it for them, and your hiring decision can be better informed, coming from somebody you already know and trust. This could add an extra bonus: friends of your employees would have a personal mentor as they are coming on board.

Virtual reps: Have you considered a virtual representative? At Salesfloor, we are piloting a virtual associate program that can help boost your online sales with a personalized storefront and virtual seasonal reps. With more and more people shopping online (or at least doing their research ahead of time), beefing up virtual reps could be a great way to scale your staff 24/7!

Training

Finding and hiring your seasonal sales associates is only half the battle. The other half is getting them ready to hit the floor and service your customers quickly and efficiently. There are a few surefire ways speed up this process.

After-hours training: Consider bringing in your new hires after-hours for a couple intensive training sessions without the distractions of customers and other employees. Week-long training sessions can be time-consuming and slow.

Buddy system: Sometimes the best way to learn is by jumping in head first. Pair up new employees with your preferred veteran staff for a busy hands-on learning experience on the floor with someone who you trust to show your new hires the way.

Instructional content: Above all, make sure you’re providing new employees with the best tools to succeed and remember to supplement your training regimen with learning materials like videos and binders covering common questions, problems, and troubleshooting. Ensure that they have this at their disposal, and will continue to self-train beyond regular training sessions.

Salesfloor can also help make training easier with our mobile associate app. Using Salesfloor’s Omnichannel Clienteling module gives the seasonal sales associates access to a comprehensive view of their customer’s profile, purchase history and shopping preferences for both online and in-store transactions. This makes it easier and quicker for seasonal associates to develop a relationship and recommend products based on past purchases and omnichannel customer profile and all of this information is in one place.

We know that the holiday season is a balancing act of increasing both service and efficiency, but with the right know-how you can stay ahead of the crowd and plan for it.

Happy holidays and we wish you an enormously successful season!

3 Things You Can Do to Avoid the Retail Apocalypse

Every day, there seem to be more announcements that retailers are in trouble or closing. Certainly, there are multiple reasons why retailers fail, but there are a few common themes to the current closures that we can all learn from. Understanding the needs and habits of today’s consumer, we cover some ways to avoid joining the growing list of retailers affected by the retail apocalypse.


1. Make service a priority

 

Most interactions in retail stores are about servicing customers, and it’s important to recreate that experience online. That’s why all apocalypse-thriving retailers have web features that bridge the online and offline service gap that plagues other lagging brands.

Rent the Runway, an NYC-based luxury label rental store, has increased business by 100 percent since opening their first store by amping up their online service to the quality of that in-store. Online, customers can purchase rentals or even request items to be delivered within three hours for a nominal delivery fee. Rent the Runway also makes their reputable fashion and fitting consultants accessible to customers online via their “Dedicated Unlimited Concierge Team” service subscription.

Similar digital service features are also being successfully used by high-end brands such as Harry Rosen to connect customers to in-store sales associates. In fact, after integrating customer engagement banners into webstores, service requests went up 50 percent on average.

2. Be data-centric

Personal data is the key to understanding the preferences and purchasing patterns of shoppers, and it’s been beauty giant Sephora’s secret weapon in becoming retail apocalypse-proof.

Sephora uses customer data to construct highly personalized marketing campaigns, offers, and adverts to convince casual browsers to check-out online and in-store. The insights gained from their online shoppers and VIB loyalty program have helped them become the number one selling cosmetics retailer in Canada and the US, and their brick-and-mortar locations are only expanding.

Using data from online channels also helps in offline marketing. Monitoring customer product reviews online, for example, now helps retailers better manage and display their inventory in-store. Best Buy has just recently integrated such data into their own stores by displaying online reviews alongside their products on shelves, which makes their customers’ omnichannel shopping journey even easier.

3. Use the newest tech

Top-tier retailers are using only the latest gadgets to improve their shopping experience. In fact, you could say there’s now a retail arms race to integrate new “endless aisle” technology into stores.

Endless aisle-ing is yet another omnichannel approach that allows customers to easily order out-of-stock items on their mobile device or other convenient interfaces installed in their local store.

Walmart Canada has already begun pioneering endless aisle tech by outfitting touch screen kiosks in its stores and providing local pick-up options to combat the rivalling convenience of other online mega-retailers such as Amazon.

Sephora has also geared up its stores by collaborating with Pantone to produce ColorIQ, a program that pairs shoppers’ skin tones with a matching shade of makeup. The beauty giant continues to produce other creative solutions through their innovation lab in a race to be one of the most tech-enabled brands in the market.

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Brands taking steps to improve their service, data collection, and tech demonstrate the difference between surviving and thriving. Bringing the online shopping experience into brick-and-mortar stores and vice versa expands consumers’ purchasing options, and that convenience brings foot and web traffic running to brands.

If you, too, want to avoid joining the ranks of the retailers succumbing to the retail apocalypse, you’ll need to keep up with your customers’ expectations. And yes, we can help with that.

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.

3 Ways Omnichannel has Changed Clienteling

With 73% of consumers now shopping both online and in-store, retailers are on the move to adapt. Enter the omnichannel approach: an integrated shopping experience that allows customers to shop however they like, whether they buy in-store, online, or both simultaneously. The media strategy has brought new possibilities to clienteling by changing the way people shop and how businesses interact with them.

Simply put, omnichannel marketing is improving relationships with customers dramatically, and here’s how:

#1. It brings customers back to you

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http://gph.is/1sFeE2t

Over the past five years, foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores has declined, yet the value spent on each visit has nearly tripled.

Why? Google estimates omnichannel is to blame.

Shoppers are increasingly researching products, ideas, and availability online before heading over to their local store, but it doesn’t stop there—82% of smartphone users say they consult their phones on potential purchases while they browse in-store as well. According to the Harvard Business Review, this studying pays off: shoppers who conducted prior research on retailers’ sites spent 13% more in-store than those who did not.

Providing an omnichannel shopping experience not only adapts retailers to modern purchasing behavior, it also builds customer loyalty. Offering online shopper incentives such as in-store only coupons and free shipping on their orders if sent to their local store gives them options for how to proceed with their purchase and makes the brand more accessible to them.

Digital channels that feature live chat messaging applications with retail associates can especially be used to inspire customers to visit local retailers and experience their customer service first-hand. More importantly, retailers can use this virtual interface to engage with their customers online with the same level of service that they would otherwise have in store.

#2. It puts the customer first

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http://gph.is/2bBXNYc

Omnichannel considers the customer experience from their perspective, and in that, convenience is key. Customers now expect brands to be relevant, accessible, and easy to navigate no matter what or how many channels they use. In fact, according to Google, 60 percent of online customers begin shopping on one device and continue on another.

With an omnichannel interface, interactions both online and offline allow shoppers to identify themselves, access their personal shopping history and preferences, and pick up their shopping journey from wherever they left off—whether they continue shopping online or in-store. This cross-platform access gives the buyer total control over their shopping process and ensures that their experience is seamless from start to finish.

By recognizing the value of personalization, the omnichannel approach allows customers to build a relationship with brands at their own pace—anytime, anywhere—and that reliability shapes clienteling.

#3. Data is now a give-and-take

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http://gph.is/2cHdDli

When customers take advantage of the user data saved by omnichannel interfaces, they provide retailers with their own data—behavioral data, such as when they visit the site or store, what products they’ve viewed, and which shopping channels they’ve used. Even clickable products can send in clienteling if monitored by the right omnichannel application. Predictive analytical tools can then use this data to determine which customers are more likely to use discounts, free shipping, or other offers, and then make those deals available to them.

This omnichannel marketing approach makes clienteling easier than ever; it stiffs full-blast email ads by opting for a more successful one-on-one approach that promotes specific offers based on individual shoppers’ needs. Bottom line: This data provided by customers is invaluable for retailers seeking to build a long-term relationship with their clientele.

http://gph.is/1eAeL2T
http://gph.is/1eAeL2T

Does your retail business have an omnichannel platform yet? Getting started now will help adapt your clienteling for the modern world. Check out Think with Google or Salesfloor for apps, articles, and tools to set up your own omnichannel experience.

6 Lessons We Can Learn from Sephora

[title image from Flickr]

Sephora is now the #1 specialty beauty retailer in the world, and it’s all due to how they’re different from your mom’s makeup buying experience. Sephora’s success shows that when you let customers create a shopping experience that works for them, it also works for you. Here’s how you can do the same:

1. Build the in-store experience they desire

http://gph.is/2cD1nBU
http://gph.is/2cD1nBU

When you walk into a back-lit, booming Sephora store, you feel more than welcomed, you feel empowered. Sephora’s approach to merchandising has contributed immensely to their success as they identified all the hurdles of purchasing makeup and promptly tossed them out the door.

Sephora knows that customers are exhausted by the grab-bag quality of pharmacy makeup aisles and the competitive product-pushing found in traditional department stores. The Sephora alternative offers a more accessible shopping experience that’s designed to be low-pressure. Retail assistants are taught to refrain from the hard sell that department stores rely on and instead work with each customer holistically to find the products that match them best while stepping back as needed. This gives Sephora customers the power to choose both their products and their service; they have the freedom to explore the store as they would a pharmacy without sacrificing department store-quality brands, tutorials, and assistance.

2. Offer a personalized approach

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http://gph.is/2feVUAr

Customers are increasingly demanding customization as part of their shopping experience—especially if they’re shelling out for luxuries like makeup. Whether it’s primer for oily skin or moisturizer for dry, Sephora recognizes that their customers require a unique and personalized approach, and they offer this through in-store swatch samplings and makeup demonstrations that allow shoppers to test different brands to be sure they’re buying the right product at the right place.

But Sephora doesn’t stop there: their personalized shopping experience extends to the web, which has been a major key to their success in keeping customers loyal to their brand.

3. Reward loyalty

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http://gph.is/2gm4Ffa

While baby boomers tend to be brand-loyal, the growing millennial market is more cost-conscious and would rather selectively pick and choose across brands so long as they fit their budget. So how do you get them to be loyal to your business? Give them the most bang for their buck: a loyalty program that rewards them and caters to their needs.

One of Sephora’s secret weapons is its VIB loyalty program, which grants members free gifts, in-store event offers, and discounts after their purchases. What makes VIB so dangerously effective is that it also requests that its members fill out their profile with information regarding their complexion, skin type, and other preferences. Sephora then analyzes this data to create a curated set of product recommendations that suit their specific needs.

The strategy is meant to digitalize the personalized, in-store shopping experience that customers have upon walking into their local brick-and-mortar.

“[We] figured out early on that if we were to get the basics right, we should ask the questions as if we were standing in the store,” Bridget Dolan, VP of Interactive Media at Sephora, shares with Forbes. “What skin type do you have? …If she tells us that she has dry skin then the product that she’s going to receive in an email will have that attribute.”

Evidently, all that tailoring works—Dolan says that a whopping 80 percent of Sephora’s transactions now run through VIB and that clearly, “It’s a win-win.” [Source]

4. Think mobile and digital first

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http://gph.is/1EG0D3R

Much of Sephora’s success is due its digital customer experience, which is interactive, multipurpose, and totally on-point. Nearly half of Sephora’s digital traffic is through its mobile interface [source], which features almost all the accoutrements of its desktop site, including a user-friendly layout that conveniently highlights all product news on the front page.

But Sephora didn’t just build their website around their customers’ desire to shop—it also accommodates their pressing need to ensure quality before they buy. This is why Sephora.com is revolutionary for providing sections for user-generated content such as BeautyTalk, a forum for casual customers and experts alike to discuss products, and the Beauty Board, a space for customers to post pictures of how their Sephora-bought cosmetics fare out in the real world.

5. Collaborate with the culture

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If your customers aren’t already shopping through your website, they’re still likely to research your products online. Beauty bloggers on YouTube and Instagram are gradually replacing counter clerks in educating consumers on the best makeup brands and application lessons. Sephora embraced this culture by partnering with such key influencers, and their collaboration has indirectly increased the brand’s engagement with all other consumers online.

The reason why is simple: word-of-mouth continues to be the best way to market, and these big-name beauty bloggers are trusted by even the most discerning customers. Bloggers will speak plainly when they feel a product is expensive or reliable, and because customers crave this authenticity, they’re more likely to follow their advice than that of expert cosmeticians. Sephora now owes a great deal of its brand awareness to these bloggers who preach the quality of their products; their promotion has helped increase traffic to Sephora’s online storefront and cultivate a positive reputation on social media.

Speaking of social media…

6. Be truly social

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http://gph.is/1Az5DFO

Customers hate feeling that they’re speaking to a marketing department; they want brands with an online presence that’s personified, humorous, conversational. This is why being interactive with consumers via social media is crucial in giving them the experience that they want.

Along with actively liking, commenting, and responding to customers’ posts, Sephora frequently uses their Instagram to share looks posted by their fans. The prestige that comes along with this promotion has since encouraged thousands of users to tag #Sephora in their posts for a chance to be featured on their page. It’s Sephora’s sincere, mutually beneficial, give-and-take relationship here that keeps their customers engaged and their social media truly social.

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Combining the best of both in-store and online shopping is what makes Sephora shine in the industry. The beauty brand knows that digitalizing the in-store experience is the new market tactic, but it’s no secret—and it’s applicable to all retailers.

Want to bring your customer service to the mobile world, too? It’s easier than you think! Get started now with a retail app that works for you.

How Retailers are Harnessing Data to Increase Sales and Make Happy Customers

Data data data. Seems like everywhere you turn these days, it’s being thrown around as the answer to all of your woes, but when you dig deeper, it’s impossible to figure out how to leverage it to solve anything.

Most retailers these days don’t have a problem with data – they have plenty of it! With more and more technology, we have data about our supply chain, sales numbers, customer preferences, and much, much more. The problem is how do we harness this data to make meaningful changes in our customers’ lives?

We think about that a lot, too, so we’ve put together five examples of retailers that are harnessing customer data to increase sales and create happy customers.

#1. Improve Merchandising – Modcloth

If you aren’t familiar with Modcloth, it is an indie fashion site, carrying a mixture of vintage and vintage-inspired fashion. Or, at least until it was recently acquired by Jet.com and Walmart, it was.

Either way, it has a strong community of users that buy up their new arrivals faster than they can post them. The reason that they have this level of commitment and success is due to their incredible openness to customer input in their merchandising program.

Up until the recent acquisition, they had a feature called “Be the Buyer” on their site that invited their customers to vote on the items that were to be added to the store:

This popular feature worked two-fold: they were able to improve their merchandising as well as sell products before they even hit the site. Those that voted on items would be notified when they were available in the store.

#2. Leverage Your Customer’s Passions – Sephora

Reviews and star ratings on a website are quite often more confusing than helpful, but Sephora is a retailer who has learned to leverage the right kinds of reviews to tip confused customers in the right direction.

I’ve often looked at a lip color online and wondered how it would look on me – with my fair skin and hair. Enter Sephora’s Beauty Board, where tens of thousands of customers have uploaded themselves wearing various lipsticks, eyeshadows, blushes and more:

#3. Guide and Empower – Harry Rosen

Some sales are lost because the customer is just plain overwhelmed with choice or an inability to do something as simple as putting an outfit together. Harry Rosen solves this by connecting their online customers to in-store advisors through Salesfloor Connect™. This allows them to increase customer engagement by integrating their own links, buttons, banners or other call-to-actions within product pages as they look native to the site (as seen below). Recent results showed that service requests by customers increased by up to 50% after retailers integrated Salesfloor Connect directly within site pages.

This means that a customer who comes to the site and feels a little lost can reach out to their closest associate. They can start a conversation, search for an advisor and explore their profiles to see one whose style suggestions match their tastes, and get the help they need to make the right decision.

They can even request an appointment to go into the store to get full-service help and reserve products in-store with click and collect. This has been a successful strategy for Harry Rosen. All in all, the in-store sales impact of associates serving the online customer is that for every $10 sold online by associates leveraging Salesfloor, $4 in sales was driven in-store..

#4. Uncover the Latest Trends – Saks Fifth Avenue

For customers who are more about browsing and discovering hot new items, data is useful for this, too. Another Salesfloor customer, Saks Fifth Avenue, is using an associate Storefront, which gives them access to the newly released Most Recommended feature to further customize recommendations to their clients.

How it works is that the Salesfloor’s Associate Data Cloud pulls in data from activities across all stores in the network and displays to shoppers what the most recommended products are that day. Displayed in order by the number of recommendations, the section is automatically populated with the product name, image and price and updated daily. When a shopper clicks on the image, they are navigated to the product detail page on the retailer’s website. The shopper can then continue to shop with their associate as the footer is accessible across the site. They can also live chat or send an email at any time.


[according to these recommendations, it must be Spring dress shopping time!]

What this means is that the customer will get recommended the hottest new items fresh every day. If you are a customer who loves to discover the latest greatest, this use of data will definitely excite you.

#5. Predict Their Next Move – Target

Though the media has made it seem like a bit of a boogeyman to customers, predictive analytics is more useful than nefarious. Almost everyone is familiar with the story of how a father found out his daughter was pregnant through Target’s predictive algorithm (this may or may not have been a viral hoax), illustrating how far predictive analytics has come. Though you never want to move into creepy territory, understanding what your customers are buying and mapping buying patterns in general may help you to better serve your customer’s needs.

If someone buys a bathing suit in winter, you can probably infer that they are planning a warm vacation. It makes sense to follow up that purchase with other items frequently purchased for a winter getaway. If someone starts looking at maternity clothes, it’s pretty safe to say they’ll need baby items in 6 months or so.

As long as you don’t push your boundaries too far – like sending a congratulations note – your customers will feel better served.


These are just a few examples of retailers using data to make happier customers and, ultimately, drive more sales. If you have any other examples to share, let us know.

7 Ways to Recruit Great Salespeople

Our economy is shifting from a manufacturing based one to a services based one, and that means those who understand customer service models are bound to be more successful than those who don’t.

While there’s a lot of evidence that people do enjoy shopping online for “mindless” items (items they purchase with a regular cadence, where they have a provider they’re happy with,) when it comes to buying items that count for customers or the person they’re buying an item for, shopping in-store with a sales associate is still the preferred method according to the Harvard Business Review.

However, your company is only as good as the staff you have maintaining the store on a day-to-day basis. Running a retail operation with the belief workers are replaceable and not skilled is a huge mistake in this new environment. Educating and empowering staff goes a long way. Attracting retail staff that’s motivated, engaged and a cut above is actually much more important.

Enter the Retailpreneur.

Retailpreneurs are sales staff in a retail environment that are engaged in their roles where they see themselves as ambassadors of the brand, and that they’re not there just to service clients as they enter the store, but to actually seek out, handle and close “whales” (clients that account for a larger percentage of the bottom line) or increase the sales cadence of their existing clients.

How do you find Retailpreneurs?

Because retailpreneurs go above and beyond, you will have to go above and beyond as well to find them and win them over. Here are some tips to do just that.

#1. Offer Entrepreneurial Incentives

Giphy – http://gph.is/2gKFAMm

They are called retailpreneurs for a reason, they thrive off of a challenge and want to be in control of their income and future earning potential. If you are going to attract and retain this highly motivated associate, you need to offer them a chance to go above and beyond in their role.

This type of offering would include things like commissions, milestone bonuses, tools to use to build client rosters and sell outside of regular store shifts, resources to amplify their own marketing efforts, and programs that reward taking initiative.

#2. Give Them the Tools and Technology to Grow

Created on Giphy – http://gph.is/2p7n9Tn

As a sneak peak to the release of our latest study, 66 percent of sales associates say new technology and tools is a must-have at their future retail employer. Not only that, but 80 percent more likely to stay at their retailer if they provide new tools and technology that enhance their job.

It’s one thing to offer incentives and encourage retailpreneurialism, it’s a whole other thing to enable it through technology. With more and more opportunities for sales associates today to create residual income through online tools, it’s better to create these opportunities rather than compete with them.

#3. Make Your Job Description Stand Out…in a good way

Sue Sylvester (Glee) Gif on Giphy – http://gph.is/2cnIapV

When you look at most job ads for retail, you’ll notice they are all identical except for the store name. Separate yourself from the crowd by looking outside the industry for tips. You don’t have to make it flowery or use too much fancy jargon. Look at websites for start ups and Kickstarters for the kind of language that incites people to want to join a cause. Make a special section on your website that’s not called “jobs” at all, but rather reflects “sharing our values” or “joining us.” Steer clear of the played out “join our team!” jargon you see on every company website.

#4. Recruit on Social Media

Shelley Pfefferman (Transparent) on Giphy- http://gph.is/2d7LRRj

It’s true that you can find just about anything on social media now, and Retailpreneurs are no exception. It may seem strange to find your next great salesperson on Instagram, but you need to seek out where your ideal candidates already are. You can advertise on your social media channels by showing off your brand values and what it’s like to work for you to entice fans and followers to get in touch or share these posts with their own audiences. Studies show many candidates check the social media presence of companies and make decisions based on it.

#5. Be Open, Authentic and Bear Your Soul

Lisa Simpson (Simpsons) on Giphy – http://gph.is/1MOmdwT

If you want to find the best, you have to sell your company as well as you need to sell your product, so look at “what’s in it” for the sales associate. If you have schedules that work with associates, make sure you declare it. Have a great company discount? Let them know upfront. Consider ways to lower barriers to employment for your potential sales people, and make good on them. Look to start ups and ad agencies for small ways to make employees feel wanted and cared for.

#6. Have A Secret Sale…For Your Brand

Puppy Surprise on Giphy – http://gph.is/1bgRxl0

If you’re still looking for people that you haven’t found yet, it’s time to look at creative ways to get them in the room. Scout out people online, through email lists, or even existing, trusted customers and contact them to let them know about your event at your store. Throw a party in the store and make sure you have signage and information available (and even ways to apply or connect to recruiters right in the store) to capture the right kind of motivated engaged people who already like your brand. Find ways to get them to opt in for follow ups after the event, and keep in touch. You never know who knows who and that person might be one degree away from you.

#7. Ask Their Advice In the Interview

Edna Mode (Incredibles) on Giphy – http://gph.is/1fX8lRM

To judge whether someone is thinking like an entrepreneur, ask them to make suggestions for what you could be doing better in your store. People who are willing to share these tips with you in a constructive way are the exact type you should hire. This is a tried and true method start-ups use to weed out “lifers” from the passers by.

It’s not enough to attend job fairs or put a sign up at the point of sale in your store anymore. To find really great sales associates, you have to think strategically about how and where people with an entrepreneurial mindset live. Once you’ve found them, judge them on their initiative and reap the rewards in screamed sales numbers and customer satisfaction.

5 Ways to Stop Showrooming in its Tracks

It seems like every day, there is more news about the demise of retail stores in America. Some of America’s stalwarts are faltering under what’s being dubbed the Retail Apocalypse. JC Penney, Sears, and Kmart are all companies closing more than 40 stores each in the coming year. Traditional wisdom held that there would always be room for the big players, but these numbers tell a different story.

What’s at the heart of the shrink? A number of factors, including online ordering, reduction of sales floor staff at locations, leading to customer dissatisfaction and a phenomena which 10 years ago changed the electronics and tech retail space: Showrooming.

Showrooming is when a customer interested in buying a product visits a store to interact with the product, ask questions and decide between available models with the express purpose of going home and purchasing the exact product online for a cheaper price.

10 Years ago, you could witness this happening at most electronics stores, but with the expansion of SKUs available online and increasingly attractive delivery options, like same-day delivery in major markets, it’s becoming easier than ever for people to get any item they want delivered, which has led to an expansion of this showrooming behavior.  

Is there a proven way to combat showrooming?

There’s no magic bullet to stop showrooming, but companies that have managed to slow and stop it altogether share at least one of these five approaches:

#1. Acknowledge It Directly (and non-defensively)

Just recently, I was standing in front of a shelf full of printers at Staples with my iPhone out, scrolling through reviews to get more information to help me make a decision. The prices that were coming up on Amazon and other sites were slightly more competitive, but it was the next action that drove me to buy in-store that day.

The sales associate in the printer department, who had noticed me checking my phone against the various printers walked up and said, “If you find a price online that beats ours, let me know and I’ll match it.” And then he added, “And if you are still having a tough time deciding, let me know what you are looking for and I’ll help walk you through your options.”

Honestly, the online reviews weren’t making my decision any easier, so I took him up on his offer. He skillfully walked me through the various options – naming off the pros and cons of each printer. In the end, I picked out a much more expensive model than I planned to buy because of price to quality and he made good on his promise to match the price to Amazon as well as gave me the Costco-bundled rate for extra printer cartridges.

However, because of his non-defensive approach, I would have gladly spent the extra $40 I saved that day. Sales Associates who approach customers checking their phones for reviews and price matching in a non-defensive way open up the opportunity to make the sale on the spot.

#2. Make it Personal

Think about the local butcher shop. Their business isn’t about beating a large grocery store on the price of chicken breasts, it’s about building relationships. The local butcher will ask you questions about your meal plans, and steer you in the right direction, let you know what cuts you might want to try, and even give you tips on how to cook items if you’re looking to try something new.

That’s the way you should look at and approach your business. If you position yourself as a friend with good advice to give, and you manage those relationships every time you deal with a customer, you will bypass their desire to shop around, and they are more likely to shop with you, because you’ve made them feel confident about their decision.

Looking back at my interaction with the sales associate at Staples, this same rule applies. He helped me feel more confident about my decision. Personal touch and human interaction are two things a person pushing a “Buy Now” button can’t get. These are your strategic advantages.

#3. Give Them A Good Excuse To Follow Up With You

There will always be times when you can’t make a sale in the moment, but good sales teams and owners understand how they can still win the day. If you have a rapport going with the customer, find ways you can still accommodate their request.

If you are out of stock in the item they want, offer to call them when it comes in. If you can’t beat a price in the moment on an item, see if they would be interested in being contacted when that item goes on sale. The Salesfloor app makes this incredibly simple for the sales associate to set up instantly:

If someone isn’t in urgent need, and you’ve spent the time interacting with them already, then you should have built trust enough to get their contact information and service the client when they’re not even there. This is a small effort for you that could build strong relationships and lead to future return sales.

#4. Follow Up. Make Good On Your Promise.

It goes without saying that if you take a customer’s contact information, you have to follow through on what you promised: updating them on the status of their request even if the update is bad news. Building rapport is one thing. Building trust is a bigger, better thing.

If you build trust with a customer, they might shop with you or send other people to you because of their connection to you and not for any other factors. That’s important, because there is no digital equivalent of having a person’s trust and delivering consistently excellent customer care.

#5. Anticipate Their Future Needs

Finally, what better way to stop showrooming than catching your customers BEFORE they even head to the store?

The skillful associates at the Saks Fifth Avenue makeup counter have a knack for knowing when I’m about to run out of my favorite products every month and send me a helpful email, letting me know that they can either set aside the products for me to pick up or help me with an online order. This ensures that I don’t even think of walking into another department store or do a search online for the products.

By anticipating your customer’s needs, you can get ahead of their showrooming and make them feel taken care of.

Showrooming will never end as long as there are consumers who are motivated solely on price. However, you can combat showrooming effectively by embracing this lesson: deliver a human experience that caters to the specific needs of each client.

Creating an Endless Aisle for Your Brick and Mortar Store

My veterinarian has a tiny showroom area with barely enough room for more than a couple of patients to wait for their appointments, let alone hold shelves filled with products. I, like many pet owners, rely on specialty food for our furry friends that we can only buy at the vet clinic, so it was becoming a real hassle to arrive for our appointment and be told they are out of the product we need. Even calling ahead didn’t always guarantee they would have the items I needed in stock, which would lead to me having to drive halfway around the city to find that special brand that my (fussy) pup loves.

Busy waiting rooms are common at small clinics. There is just no room for excess merchandise.

But in the past year, my vet came up with a great solution to extend their physical space and make it even more convenient for me to spend money on high-end pet food: they found a virtual pet food supplier to create an endless aisle. From the comfort of my home, I can order my dog’s food, treats and accessories easily through a storefront branded for my vet clinic, and if I happen to be at my vet’s and they are out of the products, they just enter my order into their system and it arrives on my doorstep a day later.

Even better, my vet has the record of what I’ve ordered on my file, so if my dog runs into problems, they know what they’ve tried and can suggest something new.

Lots of retailers, even beyond vets, are now transitioning to having zero inventory and putting excess inventory in an online shop to create an endless aisle for their customers. With an endless aisle, the customer can make individual purchases or set up regular deliveries for food and personal care items on a cadence that works for their lifestyle. Knowing you can get what you want without having to consciously remember every month to make a purchase is a convenience that most shoppers crave and in some cases are happy to pay a premium for.

For retailers, the gains from offering an Endless aisle are obvious and immediate: for every customer you sign on for a subscription to products, the more passive income you can count on every month when looking at your sales targets. The more customers who receive their goods regularly and frictionlessly will feed into your intake funnel through referrals, organically adding to your bottom line.

There’s another reason to offer an endless aisle, which is the same reason grocers have gum near the point of sale: impulse items. In setting up your subscription service, you’ll look at a wide selection of items and might decide to add a few smaller things. Your cart might be nearing the magical number to receive free shipping, so you add some items you know you will need in future just to escape the shipping charge.

Just because consumers have set up a frictionless delivery schedule doesn’t mean you can’t expect an increase in these impulse purchases. Every time someone greets the delivery person at the door or sees the box on their doorstep, your brand has made a touch with them. They will momentarily think about your brand. If your brand hasn’t considered creating an endless aisle, now might be the time to, as the benefits are numerous.

The Endless Aisle can also help you capture shoppers who forgot to complete a transaction in store, but still have a need. Often, these customers are lost to competing companies closer to where that customer lives, works, or is already running errands. Knowing they can visit your store in a convenient way on their own schedule keeps them loyal to you, and physically out of competitors’ stores.

Online shopping isn’t your competition, it’s your store extension

You may not know this, but Salesfloor can help your company set up an Endless Aisle easily. Customers can log on, shop, even receive shopping advice, customized offers and receive the kind of care they would be used to in store, all from within the site. Once they’ve completed their purchase or set up their delivery schedule, you can gain insights into what they’re looking at and how regularly they are using your services.

Understanding how often customers purchase is as important as understanding what they are most likely to purchase. Customers will often walk away if they are feeling upsold in a store, but if you are walking them through their purchases and helping them at the exact time they have a need, they are less likely to shop elsewhere and more likely to recommend you to friends and family.

People like to recommend brands that solve a problem for them without them having to invest a lot of time and energy on research or comparison. Your integrated sales team, combines with analytics and purchase cadence knowledge is an unbeatable combination that could help you acquire customers, keep customers, and develop customer evangelists, the holy grail for retailers.

The advantages of the Endless Aisle are too numerous for retailers to ignore, just like the siren call of a store that customers trust, with excellent sales help, available at their convenience is nearly impossible to ignore. Even people who love to shop have items they simply hate or resent having to shop for, not to mention how busy everyone seems these days.

If you’re continuously solving problems for customers, leaving them with positive experiences, you’ve set up one of the most powerful marketing systems in the world: word of mouth referral. The combination of word of mouth referral with subscription based deliveries could transform your bottom line.