You know the score. Customers are more demanding than ever. They are smart, they have high expectations, they know what they want and they’re willing to shop around to get it. So how are you upping your game to give them the experience they want and expect?
For many, the answer lies in using technology to recreate the magic of a local boutique where the owner treats you like you are old friends, and can help you pick out the perfect outfit for a special occasion. It’s an approach also known as clienteling.
Here’s a more detailed example of the power of clienteling in action. Imagine you are a shopper, entering a new electronics and homeware store. As soon as you step foot inside, you are greeted by friendly, knowledgeable sales associates, all holding tablets or smartphones which allow them to access the information they need to help you. If you’re looking for advice about a product, they can pull up the relevant information straight away and guide you through your options. If you have a question, they’ll be able to answer it – and if they can’t, they’ll look it up, or find someone who else who knows. They can tell you about current deals and promotions. And when you’re ready to buy, you can check out anywhere in the store at any time.
What makes the experience great is the fact it feels so personalized and seamless. And if the store is part of a chain, you should be able to get the same level of service whichever store location you visit. That’s because the technology the staff have at their fingertips allows them to gain a 360-degree view of the customer, and the information is presented to them in such an intuitive manner that it doesn’t get in the way of allowing them to focus on their number one job – serving you.
Clienteling puts the personal back into in-store shopping. It means that when your customers want a bit of hands-on assistance, your staff are in the best position to give it to them. It allows them to easily identify high-value, repeat customers. And it gives them the tools they need to be truly informed, not just about their customers, but about your products as well.
According to the Boston Retail Partners’ Special Report on Mobile, 89% of retailers plan to put mobile solutions and apps in the hands of their store associates over the next three years, with specific aims to use them for customer identification, customer engagement, associate training and task management, point of sale (POS) and payments.
Customers want this technology too. A survey found that almost half of respondents would be encouraged to shop in store if they could talk to knowledgeable store associates who could suggest products based on their purchase history. And almost three-quarters who have dealt with a store associate using technology to provide things like product info, credit card checkout and inventory look-up said it resulted in a better shopping experience.
The problem many retailers face today is that most of their customers know more about their products than their staff do. That’s because they have the tools at their disposal to carry out the necessary research before they come in store.
If your customers are looking to buy a new television, chances are they’ve already carried out comparisons online and read product reviews. And if they haven’t, they want your store associates to be able to provide that service and guide them to make the right decision. There’s nothing worse than them coming into your store and not getting the information they need. It’s likely to lead to dissatisfaction and lost sales.
So how can you get it right? You need to equip your staff with the same tools that your customers have. They need to be able to pull up product information on the POS and talk the customer through all of the options available to them. They need to be able to compare products, look up specific features and carry out price matches. If they can do that, they’re more likely to close the sale and gain a valuable loyal client in the process.
Even if you get all of this right, another big turn off for customers is having to deal with out of stocks – and, more in general, receiving unclear information about product availability. If a person has come into your store to buy a specific item, they’re likely to be annoyed if they end up having to leave without it.
Here’s where clienteling can help staff members turn disappointment into a positive experience. Take a fashion store, for example. A customer is trying on sunglasses, and a member of staff approaches to see how they can help. The customer says they are looking for a particular shape and color, and wants to see what options are available to them. The staff member takes the customer’s details, and brings up their profile on the screen of the mobile POS. Now, using the clienteling view of the POS, they pull up the full range of sunglasses and filter by shape and color. The layout is very similar to the web store the customer is used to browsing, and together with the store associate, they pick out some styles they like the look of. The store associate fetches glasses for the customer to try on, and they refer back to the tablet to compare prices, look up product information, see which styles are trending right now, and read customer reviews.
In the end, the customer decides they want to go for a pair which isn’t in stock right now. They’ve tried the glasses on and love the style, but they want a different color. No problem. The store associate arranges for the glasses to be delivered from the warehouse to the customer’s home the next day. They pay upfront, and take advantage of their existing loyalty points to get a discount. Even though the customer walks away without the product in their hands, they’re happy. They’ve had a great experience in store and they’ve purchased the exact sunglasses they want for a great price.
The good news is that it’s not hard or expensive to get hold of the technology you need to support your clienteling strategy. Indeed, our full retail management solution, LS Central, has clienteling built in as a feature within the POS.
The store associate simply pushes a button to take the POS into clienteling mode, and straight away they can use it to guide the customer through the shopping process.
In a recent Forbes article, mobile commerce expert Nitin Mangtani described clienteling as the future of retail. We couldn’t agree more. It’s time to revamp your in-store experience and give your staff the tools they need to become more knowledgeable and allow them to establish personal, meaningful relationships that generate more sales and boost customer satisfaction. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.
To find out more about how you can make clienteling work for your business, please get in touch with us and we’ll show you how you can take advantage of the built-in clienteling functionality in LS Central.