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

The root of Boomers' brick-and-mortar preference is tied to their high expectations of customer service.

 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.

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 skeptical 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 skeptical 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.

7 Trends That Will Continue to Impact Retail in 2017

2016 has been one interesting year (to say the least). We’ve lost too many of our classic rock icons, we had one of the most divisive political races in history, and we found out that the UK will be leaving the European Union. We’ve talked to many people who are ready to move into 2017 with an eye to a hopeful future, and we are, too.

With that eye on the hopeful future, we’ve taken a look at seven hot trends that have really taken off in 2016 that we predict will make an even bigger impact on retail in 2017.

1. “On demand” Shopping

Though Google’s Project Wing partnership with Starbucks – along with the promise of drone-delivered lattés – has recently been shelved, the inevitability of drones delivering goods to our doorstep at a click of a button isn’t too far off into the future. Ever since Amazon released the test drone delivery footage in 2013, we’ve been anticipating the day we would see our packages flying through the skyline. And just recently, the Federal Aviation Authority gave Amazon the ok to proceed with the service.

Though a few retailers already provide same day delivery and pickup in-store, it won’t be long into the future before it’s expected that your customers will be able to get their purchases within hours of their purchase.

via GIPHY

2. The Internet of Things

Not one, but two different ‘internet fridges’ were offered to the buying public this year that turn your ice box into a smart food centre that allows you to do things like order groceries and browse recipes. Google is monitoring our homes with Nest, Amazon’s Alexa is our home voice-activated personal assistant who will do everything from playing music to suit our mood to ordering toilet paper and beyond.

What’s next? Will our vanities order expired cosmetics? Will our Apple Watches remind us when we are walking by the mall that it is our mother-in-law’s birthday coming up? Will our shoes send a message to our personal shopper that it’s time for a new pair because they’ve worn out?

You may think this is far fetched, but at the pace of technology, it’s not that far off into the future. As everything in our physical world gets connected to the web, more and more opportunities for retailers arise. Have you imagined how your business will take advantage of this?

 

smartfridge

[credit: http://theverynearfuture.com/post/137280998764/smart-fridge-what-is-this-comic-about-samsung]

3. Personalization

It’s not new or news that customers want to feel like they are more than just a number. For a long time, personalization has been key to improving the experience for the customer as well as increasing sales for the retailer.

There is nothing like coming into your favorite business and being greeted by someone who not only remembers you from your last visit, but can also show you directly to the new products based on their memory of your previous purchases. It saves you time and makes you feel special. It also influences your purchase. According to our recent study, 73 percent of shoppers say sales associates who remember their personal preferences/style impact how much they buy from a retailer.

But it isn’t only in-store where personalization can make a difference, you have the opportunity to do more than just recommend products through algorithm. Tools like Salesfloor allow you to give the same level of personalization online that you give offline. This isn’t a trend that is going to go away. As more and competition appears, personalization is going to become even more important.

4. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Have you ever looked at a chair or table in a showroom and tried to envision how it would look and fit in your house? We have. Back in the day of catalogues, we even cut them out and stood holding the clipping out in front of us to get a better sense. Thankfully as Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) have evolved over time, we no longer have to carefully cut out pictures, we can just hold our smartphones up to the room, place the furniture piece and -voila!- we can see how it will fit in its surroundings.

For those who don’t know the distinction, Virtual Reality (VR) is the technology that immerses the user into a simulated world, and Augmented Reality (AR) is technology that brings simulated elements into the real world.

In regards to VR, you have probably seen the goggles such as the Oculus Rift, where the person wearing them escapes to a 360 degree fantasy world. Though virtual reality is mostly used in gaming, we are seeing travel companies use it to create simulations of escapes, realtors use it for virtual tours of homes for sale, and car companies use it for virtual test drives. HBR.org gives the example of being able to test a tent remotely.

AR has been around for many years (Converse used it in 2010), however, the rise of Pokemon Go this year has not only brought it into the mainstream, it’s ignited the public’s desire for more applications of the technology. AR is especially attractive because it’s so simple: anyone with a smartphone can use it. To our example above around furniture, Wayfair, online home goods and furniture marketplace, launched Wayfair View to help customers visualize furniture in their homes (though Ikea did this back in 2013).

vr

[credit: http://gph.is/2bFPCMq created from Lee Jeans ad]

5. Direct to Consumer

Direct to consumer fashion brands have been popping up all over for many years now, but according to Racked, many established designers and brands are also pulling their lines out of department stores and creating their own direct to consumer online and offline boutiques. This move is accelerating now because of several factors:

Number one, designers and brands have grown more direct relationships with their customers through social media. Number two, creating online stores is easier than ever and since more and more customers are shopping online, this has created a great revenue source to help fund (number three) the brick and mortar experience.

Though this could prove tricky for some department stores, others like Saks Fifth Avenue have embraced the idea of the direct to consumer model, creating shop-in-shops that allow for their brands to create unique branding experiences while enjoying access to the Saks clientele.

saks_flickr_thomashawk

[credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/12241789/]

6. Mobile Payments

Currently, there are only a handful major retailers that offer mobile payments: the Apple Store, Home Depot, Starbucks, Macy’s, Walgreens, Bloomingdales, etc. But we know that this is going to grow a lot in the next few years because of the number of options consumers now have available. According to TechCrunch:

A recent report noted that 39 percent of all mobile users in the U.S. had made a mobile payment in 2015. This is up from 14 percent in 2014 and by my estimations will in the 70 percent range by 2017.

There are three overarching categories of mobile payments:

  1. Near Field Communications (NFC), which you’ll find in Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay, allowing the customer to just tap their phone to a device and authorize the transaction.
  2. Commerce payments, where customers use an app with a stored credit card. Anyone who has checked themselves out at the Apple Store or used the Starbucks App have experienced this.
  3. Mobile Wallets, where customers can store their cards on their phone to scan.

If you haven’t considered offering mobile payments as an option to your customers, it’s probably a good New Year’s resolution to make.

mobilepay

[credit: http://themerkle.com/shake-giving-android-apple-pay-run-for-money/]

7. Enhanced Experiences

As we wrote in our article on the retail renaissance, the retailers who are driving the most profit per square foot in their stores are those who are prioritizing experience over sales. Though it seems like a contradiction to get more sales from de-prioritizing sales, this is what appears to be a factor contributing to the enormous brick and mortar profits of retailers like Apple, Shinola, and Warby Parker, and more established retailers and department stores are taking note.

Bed, Bath and Beyond just announced that they are adding a cafe in their stores and have even applied for a liquor licence. Saks at Brookfield Place in New York offers up an experience they call  a Power Lunch, which gives you a beauty treatment, style consultation and lunch – no purchase required. Harry Rosen partnered with Macallan Whisky to create a tasting bar in store.

The more excuses you can give your customers to just ‘drop in and hang out’ with no pressure to buy, the more likely they will buy. And the more often they have these experiences, the more they will start to get used to them. 2017 and beyond we are sure to see a rise in enhanced experiences in retail.

frankandoakbarbershop

[Credit: Guru Blog covering the Barbershop in Frank & Oak’s Montreal retail location]

When it comes to trends, 2017 looks a lot like the next iteration of 2016, which will make things even more exciting for retailers and customers. Now, here’s hoping the trends outside of the retail world don’t continue along the same path as 2016. Have a happy holiday and a prosperous new year!

Photo Shinola Detroit: Russ, Flickr

What Can We Learn from the Retail Storefront Renaissance?

After waiting in line, you walk in to find a bustling, energetic space filled with people. You observe the crowd to include a mix of hip, young couples, casual academic types, and others who look like they just stepped out to lunch between client briefs at their creative agency. You worry that you may not be cool enough to be here, but there is a positive, excited buzz in the air and a hostess welcomes you with an enormous, warm smile. You relax and start to look forward to the experience. This is definitely different.

You’d think that this was a description for the newest hipster cocktail bar or art gallery, but you would be wrong. This is the scene entering the Warby Parker retail location in Soho on a breezy, fall Sunday afternoon.

If you aren’t familiar with Warby Parker, it is a prescription eyeglass and sunglass retailer founded in 2010 as an e-commerce lifestyle brand. In basic terms, they offer cool, inexpensive eyewear that also makes you feel good about buying from them because for each pair sold, they donate a pair to someone in need.

In 2014, seeking to extend their commitment to personalized experience online to the offline world, Warby Parker opened their first location in the Soho district of New York City. Less of a retail outlet, their stores are designed to be more of a brand experience. From ‘wasting’ prime space by repeating merchandise on multiple shelves through the store and selling local author’s books, to minimizing their branding on the storefront, everything seems to be more about the experience than driving sales.

 

Photo New Orleans Warby Parker Storefront: Warby Parker
[Photo New Orleans Warby Parker Storefront: Warby Parker]

 

But it isn’t just a bunch of cool kids hanging around looking at glasses. This approach drives some serious sales as well. The Wall Street Journal estimated that Warby Parker was raking in $3000 per square foot each year in these ‘brand experiences’.  For reference, the national average of sales per square foot in the US is $341 in retail malls, and $400 per square foot in specialty retailers according to The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

So, what’s the secret? In a time when well-established US retail chains like The Gap, Office Depot, Barnes and Noble, Sears, and even former millennial favorite Aeropostale are announcing major store closures, how is it that someone like Warby Parker has lineups to get in? And what can retailers learn from them to get more customers in-store?

Three Lessons from the New Breed of Retail

Most experiences of retail are, frankly, pretty unremarkable. It’s still surprisingly rare to walk away from a store with a memory worth sharing – other than the purchase itself. This leads to commoditization for customers. When there is nothing more than the product to remark upon, the impetus for the purchase will become the best deal.

But when it comes to those stores that are filled with people from open to close, such as Warby Parker, but also Shinola, Apple, J.Crew, Frank & Oak, Sephora, and Harry’s, the price isn’t as big of a consideration. Why is that?

There are three overarching themes that have completely shifted the customer relationship with the retail brand to note. They are:

  1. Adapting to the local customer’s community
  2. Using technology to streamline customer service
  3. Prioritizing experiences over sales

One. Adapting to the local customer’s community.

Photo Shinola Ann Arbor Storefront: Vasenka Photography, Flickr
[Photo Shinola Ann Arbor Storefront: Vasenka Photography, Flickr]

Connecting with the local community is something Shinola – an upscale lifestyle brand that sells watches, bicycles and leather goods – understands intimately. Much like the Warby Parker stores, Shinola stores are filled from open to close and their sales show for it. Even Jimmy Kimmel is a fan of the brand, promoting them on the show after purchasing one of their bikes for his wife.

Though Shinola was originally a shoe polish brand founded in Rochester, New York in the 1800’s, the name was acquired by a Dallas, Texas based venture capital firm in 2001 and rebirthed in Detroit, Michigan in 2011 as a lifestyle brand. The choice of birth city for Shinola was intentional. It’s tagline is “Where American is Made,” harkening back to the roots of Detroit. By making the decision to base its home and create jobs in a city once known for manufacturing (and now hurting for the offshoring of manufacturing), they ignite a local pride that has propelled the brand into the hearts and minds of American customers.

In the case of Warby Parker, each store that is opened takes on the flavor of it’s new neighborhood, with painstaking efforts to blend in beautifully with the local culture and tastes. They pick locations locally thought of as ‘cool streets’, a term coined by commercial property realtor Cushman Wakefield – essentially where the cool kids hang out. Even the books they choose to promote on their shelves are hat tips to local authors.

By understanding the local context rather than imposing a generic brand standard on a local population, they communicate that they are not invading, but rather, becoming locals to serve the locals. This creates trust and an instant familiarity (even a sense of ownership) with the brand.

Two. Technology Enhances Customer Service.

salesfloor_screen

 

All too often, technology is introduced to a retail environment as a way to make sales more efficient and streamlined, but the leaders know that technology should be used to streamline the customer experience first and foremost.

For Warby Parker, customers can upload their prescription information online, then come into a store to try on the frames. When they get there, the sales reps can access their entire history: shopping date, prescriptions, wish lists, and general profile.

This is also how Salesfloor is used by thousands of retail associates engaged with the platform. A customer can choose to buy from their local associate or browse online and pick their own favorites, then come into the store where their associate will know exactly what they are looking for, potentially setting aside more suggestions ahead of time.

This hyper-personalized use of technology creates a deeper relationship between the associate and the customer, who doesn’t feel sold to, but instead feels understood.

Three. Prioritizing Experiences Over Sales.

Photo J.Crew Men’s Shop: Shinya Suzuki, Flickr
[Photo J.Crew Men’s Shop: Shinya Suzuki, Flickr]

Shinola holds regular whiskey tastings in their stores. Warby Parker holds regular events in their stores, such as a tribute to Buddy Holly (a famous spectacle-wearing icon). J.Crew has a flagship men’s store that also has a bar inside. Sephora gives customers makeovers and has regular live makeup tutorials. Frank & Oak – a contemporary online menswear brand out of Montreal, Canada – has a barber shop and a cafe in their stores. Apple has regular classes on how to use products.

What all of these popular stores have in common is that they have multi-uses for their retail spaces – not for sales events (though they do that, too), but for social and learning events. These events give customers yet another excuse to come into the store. There is no pressure to buy at these events, but if you were meaning to get a new shirt or headphones, they are there to help with this, too.

But it’s not only special events that drive people in-store. Every day, these stores focus on creating an environment that prioritizes the experience over sales. This may seem counterintuitive to what we’ve learned over the years, but several studies point to people more willing to pay for experiences over stuff nowadays. And why is this? Because experiences create memories and bonds and are shareable:

“I will literally say, ‘I don’t want to spend $150 on this dress — but let’s go to this awesome sushi restaurant where I’ll spend $200,’ ” Allen-Mehryar said. “I don’t get buyer’s remorse when I buy food,” she added, because dining out is something she gets to share with friends and family.[Shoppers are choosing experiences over stuff, and that’s bad news for retailers, The Washington Post, January 8, 2016]

By couching products in an experience, you give the customer something more than “stuff” to buy…you give them a story.

 

Photo Apple Store Opening: Paul Robertson, Flickr
[Photo Apple Store Opening: Paul Robertson, Flickr]

 

The more the customer gets accustomed to personalized, localized care, technology that streamlines their interactions, and retail that feels more like an experience, the less they will be satisfied with unremarkable ones.

Nordstrom has seen this and has hired the creative team behind the store experiences for Shinola and Warby Parker, Partners & Spade. And it’s not about whisky tastings and barber shops, either. It’s about understanding the shifting desires of the customer in an increasingly commoditized space. When everything looks and feels like everything else, they will gravitate to something that treats them different.

So, what is that experience that you think will drive more customers in store?

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.