KPI’s Retailers Need To Track: Part II: Retention, Talent & Marketing

In our last article, we talked about a bunch of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you can measure to help keep track of your retail goals, including overhead costs, online and in-store sales. These are all really great ways to measure your success. However, reducing costs and increasing sales may not be your only or immediate goals. There may be other metrics that you want to watch like: attracting and retaining talent, customer retention, even brand awareness. So, then how do you track these?

In this article, we explore what KPIs you can use to evaluate your customer retention, talent attraction, and local marketing tactics.

The Measurement Process

Like we mentioned in KPI’s Part I, measuring your KPI performance this way is a handy skill that helps you create conclusions based on the differences in your trends over time. It’s a vital skill for any retailer, and it’s easy to do with just a bit of experimentation!

First, you’ll need a control group: the reports on your sales, costs, or whichever figure you’re monitoring from 12 months ago. Next, make your business the test group by implementing one of these nifty KPI metrics for a while. Compare those figures from your current period to those from 12 months ago to see the results of your metric!

KPIs for Customer Retention

Cart Abandonment Rate:

Driving sales in e-commerce can be difficult when so many virtual shopping carts never make it to the checkout screen. While it may seem like counting a loss, measuring cart abandonment rate has a thick silver lining: it helps you keep track of potential customers that are already interested in your product:

Cart Abandonment Rate = 1 – (Total # of Completed Purchases / # of Carts Created)

Of course, you don’t need to do the math yourself. Marketing softwares such as those offered by BigCommerce can track your cart abandonment rate and respond by initiating email campaigns that convince customers to complete their shopping journey.

Customer Lifetime Value

Customer lifetime value is the projected revenue that a customer will generate during their lifetime. It’s a great metric that both measures your business’ return on investment and helps you strategize upcoming goals. Determining the lifetime value of a customer is simply a matter of calculating all the sales your average customer has completed since their first purchase and then doing some number crunching:

Lifetime Value = Revenue x Gross Margin x Average # of Repeat Purchases

Don’t know how to measure the average number of repeat purchases? Just use order gap analysis to calculate the time between each of your customers’ consecutive purchases.

KPIs for Talent Attraction

Source of Hire

Job boards, store windows, employee referrals, flyers—it’s easy to spread out your recruitment ads to fish for applicants. But did you know that employees’ performance tend to correspond with their source of hire? Tracking your recruitment sources and comparing them to performance reviews will help you determine which forums send the best candidates to your hiring manager. You can easily measure the effectiveness of your sources by using an applicant tracking system like iCIMS.

Offer Acceptance Rates

It’s easy to reflect on how many of your job offers are accepted, but what about those that were rejected? Understanding why your offers aren’t accepted by candidates can drastically inform and improve your recruiting process, which alone makes it worth measuring:

Offer-to-Acceptance Ratio = Total # of Offers / # of Acceptances

Low offer acceptance rates are a telltale sign that your employment incentives need improvement. It could be that you’re not meeting your candidates’ expectations or cultural tastes, or that they’ve taken a better offer from one of your competitors. Minimize the risk of losing attracted talent before they’re even hired by analyzing candidate feedback and offering new incentives.

KPIs for Local Marketing

Ranking and Reviews in Local Search

When locals search for a product you sell, is it your business or your competitor’s at the top of Google’s results? What about on Yelp, Facebook, or Apple Maps? Your ranking in keyword searches for your area is a strong indicator of how accessible your store is and how far your brand awareness has spread. Low rankings can be improved through SEO optimization tactics, such as pining for positive reviews online. The more (high) ratings you have, the more likely it is for your business to be featured with a star rating within search results. Take a look at Google’s review guidelines to learn more about how it’s done.

Social Media

Social media interactions can be pivotal in establishing your popularity among both current and potential customers, in addition to their own local network. While using this KPI effectively requires you to actively monitor and encourage growth in followers, likes, and so on, it yields great rewards in terms of brand awareness and foot traffic. Both Facebook and Twitter also have built-in analytics that can track customer engagement and web traffic to your site by tracing your shared links. Why not encourage check-ins and use of hashtags so you can follow along with your customer’s engagement?


Want more KPI tips and tricks? Check out our other article on easy-to-use metrics for overhead costs and both online and in-store sales!

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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

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

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

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

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 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

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

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.


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.

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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


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.


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.


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

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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

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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 –

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-

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

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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 –

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 –

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.

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Where Does the Associate Fit in an Automated World?

We’ve all imagined it- a world where our demands are catered to by computers and robots so that a lot of the daily drudgery is taken care of by someone else. And taking a look at the pace at which things are advancing, it looks like our lives are quickly hurtling towards complete automation.

While it’s interesting to believe that eventually we will be living in a utopia where everything is done for us at the tap of a button, there are major flaws to offloading our lives to computers. Anyone who has accidentally ordered the wrong item online can attest that sometimes automation can be a bigger pain than just getting the correct item in a store.

Associates vs. Automation on Flexibility

The reason ATMs have not made tellers extinct is the same reason that automated kiosks at fast food restaurants are slow to be adopted: people often need to interact with people to solve their problems. Programming and artificial intelligence are great, but you can’t code for every possibility of issue a person might experience. Ever tried to call the 1-800 number for a company and not had any of the number options apply to you? For a sizable portion of the population, this is often the case.

“The reason ATMs have not made tellers extinct is the same reason that automated kiosks at fast food restaurants are slow to be adopted: people often need to interact with people to solve their problems.”

The same holds true for retail. As much as people are fine buying consumables (shampoo, razors, etc) from an online drugstore, there are still people who will never buy a pair of shoes or a jacket without trying it on in store and talking to a sales associate.

Winner: Sales Associates

Associates vs. Automation on Personalization

Consider that while Sephora does a brisk business online, it’s very difficult for someone to find a shade of lipstick that would match a dress they have to wear to a wedding, or for someone to accurately understand whether a moisturizing or smoothing conditioner would work better for them, without speaking to a person who understands the product line. Even if a color swatch for a lipstick is 100% accurate (impossible to do with current technology) then there are the other qualities a lipstick has: texture, weight, matte vs shiny, longevity, whether it has plumping or smoothing ingredients, to consider. 2 minutes with a sales associate and you can have all the answers and make an educated decision on whether that lipstick is right for you.

Consider all the areas in your life where you hold opinions on how something should be, or you have special requirements. Even if you read all the text on a page for a sweater and all the reviews, you still might not know whether 5% Merino Wool will make you itch. 2 minutes in a dressing room will tell you. 5 minutes with a sales associate will give you other options you might not have considered online.

People often view suggestion engines on e-commerce platforms as replacing the role of the Sales Associate in making recommendations, but algorithms are not people. Algorithms don’t know what percentage of “people who bought this item” bought it for uncles or husbands. This is an important distinction that Sales Associates can find out in a very quick discussion.

“Algorithms don’t know what percentage of “people who bought this item” bought it for uncles or husbands.”

Use cases are only some of the reasons that people need and prefer sales associates. Developing relationships with sales associates can help you save money. Good sales associates will tip off valued customers when sales are imminent.

Winner: Sales Associate, with automation as the helpful sidekick

Associates vs. Automation on Social Intelligence

The most important distinction that separates trained sales associates from computers is being able to take in hundreds of pieces of subjective data and turn them into a “sales diagnosis.” Salespeople are able to look at a customer from the time they walk into a store and suss out their style, their mood, and through pleasant interactions, understand the immediate needs of that customer, whether they are buying for themselves, or someone very different from themselves, understand any budget concerns, and suggest items to fit the needs of that customer. This becomes infinitely harder for computers who might be able to identify your face as “you,” but not understand any of these other key pieces of data, or judge your mood.

A surprising amount of  subjectivity goes into the shopping experience. People are better educated consumers- meaning they understand the average price for goods, common feature sets, what to look for in a quality item, etc. but many customers still go into shopping for gifts or major items a bit bewildered. They often have lots of questions. If you’ve ever used a “frequently asked questions” page on a website, you understand the limitations. No algorithm will be able to tell you how easy to clean one fridge is versus another one, where a Sales Associate will have the answer to this, and also ask follow up questions about product suitability if that question leads them to believe the person asking the question has children. One fridge might be safer than another for little fingers or have the water dispenser in a less accessible place. No algorithm can take these pieces of data into proper consideration and deliver a suggestion the same way.

“If you’ve ever used a “frequently asked questions” page on a website, you understand the limitations (of automation).”

Sales Associates are also the keepers of secret information that they can use to help customers. If there is a problem with a product, Sales Associates often know the best way to get in touch with manufacturers, where to have products serviced, or altered, and often can tell you before purchase if an item being sold is “white labeled” by another company. (Something even consumer reviews can’t tell you, but could be critical in the event of a product recall or a malfunction.) Secret knowledge holds great value and power for consumers, and there is no easy way to get this information online.

Computers can store a lot more information than humans and access it incredibly quickly, but they don’t pick up social cues.

Winner: Sales Associate, with automation as the helpful sidekick

Best of Both Worlds

So where does the associate fit in an automated world? At the helm. Beginning now, and expanding in the future, sales associates will be able to leverage the best parts of big data and artificial intelligence coupled with their tried and true methods of customer care.

Sales teams will be able to share secret knowledge and customer insights. They will be able to flag questions that often arise from customers to help their fellow associates more effectively learn and pass on product knowledge. They will be able to proactively communicate with valued customers to alert them of private events, and sales on specific items they’ve expressed interest in, thus raising the purchase cadence of these valued customers. They will be able to  record important events in a customer’s life- birthdays, anniversaries, etc. and prepare proactive communications to entice a customer to come in to shop for that event.

Data on its own can sometimes be seen as an intrusion, but data coupled with a friendly face and a confident Sales Associate can help close deals. For many customers, the less they need to think about or disclose about their needs, the more they appreciate the service.

Service industries will always be with us, and sales associates are a vitally important part of the retail ecosystem. Imagine buying a car or a house without speaking to a person. Customers have needs that technology won’t be able to meet in the same way that a person can. Humans can leverage the best parts of technology to deliver the best solution for customers in ways that anticipate and serve the needs of customers in new and exciting ways.


7 Ways to Shift Your Customers from Showroomers to Webroomers

While headed home late after a hectic week at work, Carol suddenly realizes that her friend’s birthday bash is THIS weekend. In a split second, she also realizes that she hasn’t bought a present for her friend, nor does she have anything to wear to the party, which is at the swankiest new club in town.


The stores are already closed for the night and she doesn’t have much time the next day to traipse all over town looking for the perfect present or outfit. As soon as she gets home, she goes online to do her research. She spends her evening looking for both the gift and the outfit, then goes into the store the next day to pick them up.


The above story is far from being rare. More and more shoppers are using online stores as to research their offline purchases in a phenomenon called ‘webrooming’. In fact, a recent research study found that 81 per cent of shoppers research their purchases online before buying offline. People are busier than ever and the choices are more plentiful than ever, so shopping around online to be more strategic about where to go to buy in-person makes perfect sense.


This phenomenon is the opposite of the much-dreaded act of ‘showrooming’ – when customers come into a store to research products they end up buying online. Showrooming customers are motivated by one thing: price. They could be swayed by superior service or loyalty to a brand, but their first instinct is to save a few dollars.


Webroomers aren’t as motivated by price, though they could be swayed to go to the store with the sale or better deal if other factors are absent. Other factors include convenience, certainty, and great service.


If, as in the example with Carol above, your retail location is more convenient for the customer to access than another retailer with a slightly lower price, she may choose your store instead. Certainty is about things like fit and size and quality as well as the product being in stock and not having to wait for a delivery. These are things that you can’t control as much. But the third factor, differentiated service, is something you can.


As mentioned in our article on learning from the retail renaissance, customers today are seeking out retail experiences. Customer service is core to a great retail experience. But, then, how do you create the kind of experience through customer service that will drive the webrooming customer into your store more often?


Here are seven ways to shift your customers from showrooming to webrooming:


Number One. Anticipate Their Needs



You may not know that Carol’s best friend has a fancy birthday party coming up, but you do know when seasons and sales are coming up.


December is definitely fancy party season, for instance. Whether you carry the outfits to help dress your clients for the parties or the gifts they will bring for the hosts, sending out a reminder email with personalized suggestions will not only be appreciated, but put you at the top of the list for these purchases.


Number Two. Create Demand



Perhaps Carol hadn’t even thought to buy a new outfit for the soiree? She was just going to wear that green dress from last season. She could do that, or she could be tempted to pick up something new because she received your latest personalized message or Lookbook from you with that gorgeous sparkly number.


Even when there aren’t any reasons to buy something new, getting products in front of your customers that you know they’ll love could create that demand.


Number Three. Be There When They Have Questions



One of the most popular features for sales associates on Salesfloor is Live Chat. The more you can be present on live chat for your customers, the more likely it is that they will come back time and time again to do their shopping.


Associates can load the Salesfloor application on their mobile phone and tablet and join the chat queue as often as possible to signal to their customers that they’re always there for them.


Number Four. Make an Appointment



It may sound pushy, but you’d be surprised at how few sales associates actually reach out to their customers to pro-actively schedule appointments to preview and plan for the upcoming season. This type of outreach is not only unique, but it’s also welcomed by many busy clients who schedule almost everything in their days.


Sending a quick message right before a busy shopping season or at the launch of a new line that says, “I’d love to set up an appointment to show you our new collection,” will help your clients feel looked after and special.


Number Five. Set Aside Picks Just for Them



In addition to offering a personal shopping appointment, make sure you also mention that you have picked out items that you think they would like (and include a description in the note) or send them a Lookbook (if you are on Salesfloor) of the items. Of course, you need to make certain that the items actually suit your customer’s taste and style, but making that extra effort tells them that this isn’t an impersonal mass email.


Number Six. Offer Up In-Store Incentives/Events



In the retail renaissance article, we mentioned that many of the popular retailers these days create events that incentivize customers to come into the store, even if they aren’t shopping for anything in particular, the event gives them a good excuse to swing by.


You can be as creative as you want with these events, but keep your clients’ interests in mind. Could you offer a seminar? A networking night? A book signing by an author popular with your clientele? Creating an ongoing series that would be of interest to your clientele would go far to building ongoing relationships.


Number Seven. Build Lasting Relationships



Speaking of building ongoing relationships, this is probably the most important point that underpins all of the above. The more personal touch points you have with your clients, the more loyalty they will feel towards you.


By reaching out on a regular basis and keeping track of all of your clients’ history and needs – something that Salesfloor helps you focus on – you build stronger and stronger relationships with each and every one of them.




Almost everyone is a webroomer nowadays, but if you want to drive those researching online back to you as many times as possible, you need to keep top of mind. Using platforms like Salesfloor and some creativity will help you do that.


So, thinking of the upcoming holiday season, how many of the above tips can you implement to drive those webroomers into your store?


Forget Omnichannel, Think Omnipresence

Customers could care less about your omnichannel efforts, they just want consistency across mediums

“I expect an omnichannel experience with my favourite retailers…”

Said no customer ever.


However, this doesn’t mean that customers aren’t expecting their favourite brands and retailers to be accessible across multiple platforms and channels. In fact, according to many studies expectations are that, no matter the preference, the customer will be greeted with the very same level of service they are greeted with in store.


The biggest issue with this is continuity. Here is an example of an ideal customer experience:


Alicia is a busy city lawyer who still likes to keep up on fashion trends. She has very little time to shop, so she spends most of her time online. She can search across multiple retailers on search sites like Shopstyle or Polyvore to get a sense of where she should spend her precious few hours in the week going into a physical store. This week, she’s looking for a statement Fall coat, something she read about in a fashion magazine while she waited for her dentist.


She loves the color blue and searches on Polyvore for good options. She eliminates coats under $250 because she wants better quality, and over $1000 because she feels like she won’t get more than a season’s wear out of it.


She falls in love with a gorgeous blue Milly coat, available at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and FarFetch, but isn’t sure yet, so she tweets out an image of the coat asking her friends for feedback.


She’s being followed by her Saks associate, who sees the tweet and replies, “That coat just arrived and I love it, too! Want me to put it aside for you? I’m around all day.”


Alicia tweets back, “Yes please! I’ll stop by this evening.”


Later that evening, Alicia stops by, tries on and buys the coat – and a few other items set aside for her by the associate, who took some extra time to go through Alicia’s social channels to see if there were other items that she was considering.


As you see through this example, it is the continuity of the service – from online to offline – that won over the client. In an ideal world, a customer would have the same experience from end to end.


It’s no wonder that loyalty is waning. Many retailers are fragmenting the customer experiences across channels. Marketing runs social media, customer service runs the call centre (which is often farmed out), IT runs the online storefront, and the sales associates? They have none of the online context when a customer walks into the store. A true omnichannel approach needs to recognize and support the customer not only through tech interfaces, but through human interfaces as well.


Online isn’t a replacement for customer interaction, it’s an extension of it. Whether you are using a platform like Salesfloor to deepen your customer service online, training your associates on  customer retention, or using social media to get to know your customers better, none of these tactics should be seen as distinct. Rather than thinking of the approach to customer service as omnichannel, you should think of your service as omnipresent. You need to be consistently present for your customer no matter the medium.


And if you think this is far fetched or that customers will resist such a dominant presence by brands, you would be wrong. In a study of 500 North American consumers on their online and in-store retail shopping habits, we heard from real customers who were asking to have this omnipresence in their entire shopping journey, from wanting to shop online with an associate (53%) to indicating they’d spend more with an associate who remember their personal preferences (73%).


Retailers that adopt an omnipresent mindset will be the ones who build and retain loyalty in a world where technology is creating more and more of a distance between brands and their customers.


So then, you may be omnichannel, but how omnipresent are you?


The Bots Are Coming…But What Does It Mean For Retailers?

Over the past year, multiple messenger bots have launched, but does that spell the end of human interaction in retail? Not likely.

“Using a single app to find a date, schedule an oil change, or notarize a document also enables WeChat to collect a staggering volume of personal data. They know what you talk about, who you talk about it with, what you read, where you go, why you’re going there, who’s there, how you spend money when you’re online, how you spend money when you’re offline…”


In a video produced for their Times Video channel, the New York Times demonstrates the data capabilities of WeChat, the super application that has taken over China. In the video, they weave a fictional, but completely realistic story that shows everything a user can do without ever leaving the app.


From ordering and paying for food to investing to coordinating outings with friends, WeChat is the app that has swallowed everything in China.


It isn’t a leap to assume that North American companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have set their sights on a similar future. Though bots have been around since before the web browser, there has been a real push for brands to develop within the giant platforms.


Facebook, in particular, is aggressively promoting bot development within their messenger platform. At F8, their annual developer platform conference in April 2016, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg stated, “We think you should be able to message a business just like you’d message a friend, so today we’re launching Messenger Platform so you can build bots for Messenger. It’s a simple platform that’s powered by artificial intelligence so that you can build natural language services to communicate directly with people.”


According to reports, while the platform was popular for developers, the consumer adoption was very low. It turns out that people don’t really want to talk to a computer after all. Many of the existing chatbots try to understand natural language and emulate human interactions, but the artificial intelligence is no match for real human responses.


So, what does this mean for you as a retailer and the future of customer service?


Bots and Humans Need to Work Together


We believe that bots shouldn’t be seen as a way to automate customer interactions and replace humans, but as an opportunity to enhance human interactions.


The WeChat future is a bleak one for retailers focused on customer service. These bots are almost completely designed to take the human out of the interaction. However, artificial intelligence and bots should not be about replacing human interaction, it should be about enhancing it. This means that bots open up a new opportunity to enhance, not replace, relationships with your customers.


Here is a fictional scenario where bots and humans could work together to create a fantastic customer experience:


Your customer needs a new pair of jeans, and engages your chatbot to do a search through your catalogue.


The chatbot offers up a bunch of options in her price range, but she’s not sure if any of the styles fit her body type, so asks the chatbot to send her personal shopper a message to get advice. The personal shopper gets a message on Salesfloor and responds to the customer that the Hudson Jeans option in the mid-rise would be a great fit.


The customer has experienced the convenience of browsing the catalogue quickly while never leaving her messaging app, but the personalization of being able to connect with her associate on Salesfloor when she needs extra care.


If you can use bots to increase human presence for customers, rather than removing human presence from the equation, you will truly become omnipresent


Bots Still Have a Way To Go


Whether it’s bots in Facebook’s Messenger, Apple’s iMessage, Google’s Allo, or something else entirely, it’s pretty clear that we’re moving towards an artificial intelligent, on-demand future where consumers will expect to do all of their organizing, chatting, reading, watching, and shopping from where they want.


However, early signs of where we are with artificial intelligence (AI) technology tell us that we have little to fear when it comes to bots taking over from humans.


In March, Microsoft launched an experimental bot with very advanced learning AI on Twitter under the name TayTweets. The idea was that the bot would listen, learn and adapt to the human conversation, responding in natural language and, hopefully, demonstrate that a computer could emulate a human being in a modern-day Turing test. In less than 24 hours, the bot had learned the very worst of human behaviour and Microsoft had to shut it down.


Though it is certainly true that AI has come a long way and is advancing quickly, it’s doubted that computers will ever be able to learn the subtleties of human interaction and the individuality of human needs – things that most people are inherently good at picking up.


Our Future with Bots


Our prediction is that bots will become another important way to communicate with customers, so it is important that retailers start thinking about how to implement bots into their channel strategies.


We don’t want to say too much yet, but we’re definitely thinking about this ourselves. However,  as we think about how to meet the needs of future customer expectations, we are thinking about bots as a way to create MORE opportunities for connecting customers to associates rather than finding ways to replace this important relationship. Like the fictional scenario presented above, we imagine chatbots as a great way to lightly engage with your customers wherever they want, then hand them off to humans when they want that, too.


So, we welcome our bot friends and look forward to working with them in the future. How do you see this partnership between bots and people evolving?