Have you ever walked into a store with questions about a certain product only to find out you actually know more than the sales associates do?
You’re not alone.
Forty seven percent of shoppers list poor knowledge among store associates as the most disliked experience when shopping inside a store.
With the internet literally at their fingertips, consumers are one search query away from tons of product information at any time.
We’re not just talking prices either. Product reviews, quality comparisons, and consumer reports are just a few of the resources readily available to anyone with the click of a button or a swipe of a finger.
Combine this with expectations for a richer, more personalized shopping experience (something sixty percent of retailers say is missing from their stores) and you’ve raised the bar considerably on brick-and-mortar.
In an age where customer loyalty can be won or lost in a single shopping experience, you must make sure your frontline staff––the face of the company––is fully prepared to meet and exceed these steep expectations.
Transforming sales associates into valuable resources for customers
Wondering how you make sure those expectations are met?
It starts with clienteling––a means of alerting customers to new products and offers in order to increase store visits and purchases versus simply fulfilling a need today.
How is it done?
With today’s technology, it’s possible to tie together each channel shoppers are using and track your customers across all touch points to highlight the strongest paths to purchase.
To gather the contact information needed to track these customer journeys, store associates need to first establish a trusting relationship with shoppers inside the store.
This means carefully listening to the customer’s needs, demonstrating a deep knowledge of your products, and taking the time to make sure the shopping experience is focused on the individual.
When this relationship is formed, customers are much more willing to submit contact information in exchange for an even better experience the next time they walk through the door.
In order to understand how to give customers the individualized shopping experience they expect, you need to collect some key information from them first.
Taking the first step toward clienteling
Shifting to a full clienteling model doesn’t happen overnight, but you can get the ball rolling right now.
Before looking around for the tools and systems you can start integrating into your stores, the first step is to take stock of your current situation.
Here are the three key points to evaluate and take action on today:
1. First, get inside your stores and observe the experience from the shopper’s perspective. Mystery shopping is by far the best way to gather this kind of data.
Are your employees actually engaging customers and collecting the basic information they need to make themselves useful to customers?
If not, start designing a basic engagement strategy so associates can become the resource customers need them to be.
Start by actively approaching customers with questions that immediately form a trusting connection like:
“I noticed you’re looking at dresses, is there a special occasion you’re shopping for?”
Once the associates prove themselves to be a knowledgeable resource that took the time to focus on the shopper’s needs, it’s appropriate to ask for contact information in exchange for something truly valuable.
2. Are customers hesitant to share contact information with you? If so, you’re probably not re-engaging with the kinds of messages, promotions, and other information your customers find valuable.
Incentivize the exchange of contact information by giving them something they want in return. Attractive promotions that encourage return visits such as in-store discounts are a great place to start.
3. Are your company’s touch points aligned and talking to one another? Giving customers the ability to jump from one channel to another without disrupting the experience is absolutely essential to getting them into the store to shop in person.
Shopping apps, mobile-friendly website design, and cross-channel customer profiles all help make the transition from channel to channel seamless for your shoppers.
Assess your needs and measure success with actionable evaluations
Clienteling is all about building an experience around your customers.
There’s no better way to learn where the focus of your new approach needs to be than by asking them yourself.
Customer intercepts allow you to design custom on-site surveys built specifically to gather opinions, perceptions, and customer expectations you can use to maximize the value you give back to customers––the basic building blocks of a clienteling strategy.
But evaluations don’t stop there.
After your program is in place, these programs can be adjusted and repeated to track the success of your actions over time.
If you’re not reaching out to re-engage your customers with the kind of personalized, omnichannel experience they’ve come to expect, your competitors will. Make sure your investment in a clienteling system is truly valuable by getting the feedback needed to build it the right way.