These Tools Are Helping Retailers Get Personal With Shoppers — Even as People Stay Home

As retailers increasingly rely on e-commerce efforts and curbside pickup to prop up sagging sales, they’re also racing to answer a new question: How do you maintain a personalized experience without any in-person contact?

With most stores across the U.S. closed in an effort to guard against the spreading coronavirus, footwear players are turning to the technology sales associates use in-store to maintain relationships with consumers online — and possibly generate even more business.

“The reason you go to the store is for multiple factors; one is touch and feel, but the second is the knowledge of the associates,” said Nitin Mangtani, founder and CEO at PredictSpring. “That level of dialogue and conversation that was happening in the real world is now moving online till we open [stores] back up.”

Platforms such as PredictSpring and Tulip include clienteling features that equip sales associates to better assist their in-store clients. By providing access to store inventory, product catalogs and shopper purchasing history, associates can guide customers through the assortment, perform checkout and then create curated recommendations for future purchases.

Crucially, the apps also allow employees to follow up with customers post-visit and communicate offers, product updates and tailored recommendations. That service is more valuable now since shoppers lack the ability to visit a physical store for the same experience.

“One of the most important ways for retailers to replicate the in-store experience is to continue to provide the same level of personalization in a virtual format,” said Pouneh Hanafi, VP of marketing at Tulip. “You have customers who want to shop and associates who have time.”

That can be particularly relevant for the luxury sector, which is seeing diminishing sales as customers limit their nonessential purchases. Known for their superior and personalized customer service, luxury retailers can attempt to maintain this elevated experience by equipping remote staff to support customers digitally through one-on-one interactions.

In response to this growing market for clienteling tools, Tulip has added a real-time video-messaging feature alongside its text-based communication channels, expanded its remote-pay capabilities and provided functionality to support curbside pickup and fulfill from store.

At PredictSpring, the focus has been on leveraging the app’s ability to support curated collections of product. Once an associate knows about the shopper’s goals, they can recommend items based on budget, functionality and even availability. For instance, if a customer needs an item the next day, the employee can first verify the item is available at a nearby warehouse from which they can ship the product.

While nonessential goods are seeing a dip in sales across most markets, executives at the clienteling platforms believe this customer communication can help brands and retailers stay connected to consumers in a personal way. As stores reopen and sales begin to ramp up again, it is this customer investment that will see rewards, they said.

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