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.

The Omnichannel Retail Associate: 4 New Trends

Article originally featured in: Masterclassing.com


Luxury retailers have invested so much to create a premium experience inside the store, with a specific focus on personalized service from their most valued asset: sales associates.

 

Think about shopping for a Mother’s Day gift at a premium department store. If you were to visit a store, you would be greeted by a friendly, helpful sales associate ready to assist you with expert advice. The objective would be to find the right gift based on your particular set of needs. This dedication to personalized service is the cornerstone of shopping at a luxury store.

 

Now consider the same shopping scenario, online. Regardless of your needs, the website would likely feature the typical Mother’s Day merchandise to all visitors: lingerie, perfume, spa products, etc. But what about the premium experience? Where is the personalized service? How is it that in today’s omnichannel world of ‘supposed’ seamless experiences, that customers are driven to what essentially resembles ordering from a product catalogue 30 years ago?

 

Until recently, retailers have not leveraged their most important asset when it comes to online shopping. Although the sales associate is what connects the in-store experience seamlessly to a premium web experience, the sales associate has been excluded from serving the online customer.

 

With the help of the right technology partners, today’s leading omnichannel retailers are creating new ways for customers  to shop online with their local store and associates. In order to achieve this, they are redefining the role of sales associate to be as responsible for the online customer experience as they are the in-store customer.

 

4 new ways retailers are using omnichannel associates to serve online customers:

  1. Customers have a new place to shop online with store associates. Real-life associates are a retailer’s biggest asset, converting higher than any other selling channel. For example, sales associates at Saks Fifth Avenue can create their own personalized version of the retailer’s website, so customers can shop online the same way as they do in-store. Associates are empowered to curate their own products and to serve the online shopper regardless of time or physical location. Recent data for customers who purchased online directly from associates show a 75% increase in average order value.
  2. E-commerce is being differentiated with personalized service from local stores.Online shoppers should experience the same level of personalized service that they receive in-store.  Who better to serve the online customer then the local store associate that has product training and knows how to sell. By creating a bridge between online customers and their local store, retailers can differentiate their service offering online, increase conversion rates and create relationships at scale. Retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales have started connecting their website shoppers to real associates in local stores, resulting in a 10x lift in online conversions.
  3. Associates are marketing directly to their local customers. Your associates know more about their local customers than anyone else. With the right tools, retailers can use associates to market directly to customers with expert advice and personalized offers. For example, when clothing advisors from menswear retailer, Harry Rosensend email marketing messages to their customers, email open and click rates skyrocket by up to 300%. Customers prefer to receive a personalized message from their sales associate compared to an impersonal, national newsletter.
  4. Influencers are being empowered to become virtual associates. Retailers are creating their own communities of sellers who drive sales within their local and social networks. Equipped with their own version of the retailer’s e-commerce site, these virtual associates can promote the brand and drive sales. Imagine a network of stylists and personal shoppers being able to represent the entire assortment of a luxury department store to their local customers?

 

In the last year, customers have demonstrated that they want to shop this way and retailers have proven how valuable their associates are when it comes to online shopping. The result has been an increase incremental sales, online conversions and new customer acquisitions.

 

How are you leveraging your stores and associates?

Write to me at ben@salesfloor.net with your ideas or add your comments below.

3 Benefits of Enabling People-Powered Ecommerce

Article originally featured in: Multichannel Merchant


In an increasingly competitive shopping landscape, brick & mortar retailers have a unique opportunity to leverage an advantage that none of their web only competitors have; their store associates. Retail associates are the driving force behind the in-store experience and the personalized service shoppers need to not only make purchases, but also become repeat, loyal shoppers.

 

While all retailers acknowledge the power of their people when it comes to their brick-and-mortar locations, they’ve practically ignored their most important asset when it comes to online shopping. Who better to personalize the online experience and serve the online customer than the associates that do it everyday in-store? Although sales associates are what should connect the in-store experience seamlessly to a premium web experience, they have been excluded from serving the online customer.

 

This doesn’t make sense, especially considering the numbers. It’s shown that store associates are the best converting channel, with 20 to 40 percent conversion rates on average. Online is a retailer’s biggest traffic channel, converting at 1 percent on average. So why aren’t retailers combining these two to get the best of both worlds?

 

The role of a store associate should be to serve their local online customers just as much as their in-store customers. These omnichannel associates can provide online shoppers with a much better experience and can bring retailers the following three benefits:

 

Delivering personalized service to the online experience

 

Currently, shopping online is a very impersonal experience. Shoppers are left to sort through hundreds of product pages and have limited expert guidance. They only have customer reviews and vague product detail blurbs to rely on when making a purchase decision. This lends to a poor customer experience that causes shoppers to ultimately make their purchase on whichever site they can find the product on for the cheapest. Little to no service online has a major impact on conversions and average sale value.

 

Bringing sales associates online to help shoppers on their path to purchase creates a more compelling customer experience. Instead of asking for help from the traditional customer call-center, shoppers can get product recommendations and expert advice from real associates, from local stores. By connecting store associates to customers online, retailers close the gap between their web and store experience.

 

Building relationships with customers at scale

 

When it comes to developing relationships between shoppers and retailers, brick-and-mortar stores are second to none. In-store sales associates are already trained to foster a connection, provide expert advice and create a superior experience that will turn the shopper into a repeat customer. When it comes to online, it’s more challenging to sustain these relationships. Currently, the only personal interaction online shoppers have with the retailer is when they call someone in the support call center. Even then, this isn’t a true relationship between the customer and the retailer, and the call center agent isn’t a person the customer can visit in store the next day.

 

By providing store associates with their own personalized versions of the retailer’s e-commerce site, retailers can create a new place for customers to shop online with local associates even after customers have left the physical store. What’s more, they’ll be able to create similar relationships with the millions of online shoppers who maybe have never set foot into their store – opening up a new customer base by increasing contact acquisitions. This means the associates are no longer limited to their physical sales floor or to having the customer in the store. They can sell anytime, anywhere, because associates can market directly to specific shoppers and transact online 24/7.

 

Retaining top talent and evolving the role of today’s associate

 

It’s not just customers that benefit from retailers integrating in-store sales associates online. Retailers, themselves, benefit immensely, as well. By giving their associates the opportunity to broaden their customer contacts and sell in a way never before seen, retailers are redefining the traditional role of an in-store retail sales associate. They make selling more interesting and exciting by giving associates more potential to make an impact on the business.

 

Additionally, retailers who are able to do this successfully will be seen as innovators in their space. The skill sets of today’s generation rely on texting, instantaneous communication and the integration of the internet in all facets of their everyday lives. By bringing these skills to life in sales associates’ everyday job roles, retailers are setting up their employees for success and giving them the power to leverage what they know best in order to drive the most sales they possibly can and create meaningful relationships with their customers.

 

It’s clear that the most effective way to connect with web customers is to bring store associates online so that they can serve customers with their expert advice and personalized product recommendations. Empowering the associate to provide real personalized service online allows them to grow their relationships and make an impact on the business online and in-store.