The ease of online shopping has drawn many customers toward e-commerce, but the value of in-store human interactions should not be undervalued by retailers. Experts report the majority of shoppers still prefer to shop in-store; it’s their expectation of service and personalization that has changed.
“Shopping in brick-and-mortar stores used to be an intimate experience — we shopped small and local, saw the same people, and store associates knew you by name,” said Bill Zujewski, EVP of marketing at Tulip, a “clienteling” mobile platform. “As retailers grew in size, both in square footage and number of locations, and online shopping took hold, intimacy faded or even disappeared.”
Some 92 percent of retailers earn 70 percent or more of their revenue from in-store purchases, making the brick-and-mortar experience an important investment. Many brands have added appeal by launching activations and events, designed to draw customers to a store for a specific occasion. However, a rising number of clienteling services are focused on the average shopping experience, particularly the relationship between customer and sales associate.
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“When consumers enter a store, they are not looking for a passive interaction,” said Nitin Mangtani, founder and CEO of clienteling app PredictSpring. “They are seeking one-to-one contact with a store associate and a service orientation akin to that of Nordstrom. This experience needs to be positive and memorable in order to drive loyalty.”
Clienteling covers multiple aspects of the consumer’s experience, from product displays and sleek checkout processes to post-visit communications. Technologies like PredictSpring and Tulip give sales associates mobile access to full product catalogs and data, as well as a customer’s profile and purchase history, so that they can make insightful product recommendations that relate to the customer’s taste.
“Aided by real-time digital intelligence, combined with their human insights, [associates] can now add context and intimacy to the brick-and-mortar experience in a way that no standalone digital database or AI engine can match,” said Zujewski.
A common frustration of the in-store experience is not being able to find a particular product at that location. Clienteling platforms are able to equip the associate with online inventory records so that if an item is available at another location, the purchase and shipping can still be handled in-store. With Tulip, a customer is able to combine these multi-channel purchases into a single transaction and, if they wish, pay via a preferred saved method on their smartphone.
As customer loyalty becomes an increasingly crucial component of retail success, keeping in touch with shoppers is more important than ever. Once a consumer has left the location, the platforms allow for follow-up communication and notifications via text or email. Through a combination of AI-directed prompts and recorded customer information, the associate can target consumers with personalized recommendations, celebratory promotions (for a birthday or anniversary) or add-on items that match their recent purchase — and receive credit for sales purchased through these digital messages.
“This is particularly useful during associate downtime and non-peak shopping periods,” said Mangtani. “Associates can continue to build rapport with their loyal customer segments to ensure they are always in the know about upcoming promotions, loyalty rewards, new collections and events.”
By treating the consumer well and keeping them informed about relevant products, retailers can develop customer relationships that will perpetuate future sales for years to come. Tulip, for instance, reports an increase of repeat purchases up to 20 percent, in addition to increased store sales and order sizes.