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Addressing Retail's Unfulfilled Promise

By Lauren Mead, VP-Marketing, TrimeTrade Systems

Lauren Mead, VP-Marketing, TrimeTrade Systems

Today’s retail landscape is more challenging, competitive and dynamic than ever before. Technology improvements–particularly around mobile–have revolutionized retail in recent years, giving consumers the tools to ensure their immediate satisfaction from any location. This evolution has sparked the “on-demand” economy, which is perhaps best represented by ride-hailing service Uber. With Uber, customers are able to get a ride whenever they need it, wherever they want it, directly from the palm of their hand. The advents of services like these have taken the consumers’ experience to a new level, but there is still room for improvement.

"Attaining a true “concierge economy” experience is not an easy process, but with the right tools and approach, it is certainly achievable"

The on-demand economy promises that consumers get the products they want when they want them, but it leaves one crucial promise unfulfilled: the personalized service and customized attention needed to create unparalleled retail experiences. Reaching this goal of personalized experience will involve up-leveling the offer of the basic on-demand economy to a more personalized, “concierge economy.”

This raises a few critical questions. How can retailers push their businesses forward to truly deliver on-demand personalization? What approach and tools are needed to take a business from simply delivering an on-demand experience to truly executing on the promise of the concierge economy? The answer is the ability to add personalization, attention, and unique experiences for each customer. One of the biggest challenges of online shopping is the lack of personalized assistance, which is where brick-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to grab market share. Personalized in-store assistance goes beyond digital personalization because it adds people to the mix. Those people are experts and can answer the consumer’s detailed questions and provide advice about the product or service they are looking to buy.

Focus on Training

Retailers must address three key areas to improve in-store shopping and truly deliver a “concierge economy” experience. First, they must invest in employee training. Consumers look to store employees for information, and they expect that they’ll be able to provide informed counsel on different products, their use, the competition, etc. Retailers should ensure that their employees are familiar with the products in stock and equipped with the technology needed to access additional information if needed.

The retail industry depends on a significant amount of temporary workers, especially during peak times. Training should not be ignored for this group either. In fact, thorough training is arguably more important for this group, as consumer levels increase and tensions on both sides of the register rise with holiday crowds. Ultimately, employees are the face of a brand, and if they’re not equipped to provide helpful, knowledgeable assistance, a company has no chance of delivering a concierge experience. Retailers can maximize their training investment by tracking which employees have completed what training programs and matching those employees with the customer looking to speak with an expert on a given topic. The ability to match employee skills to customer interest means that not every employee needs to be an expert on every topic.

Embrace Omnichannel

Another key factor to consider is that retail stores no longer operate in silos. Today’s retail world is all about omnichannel, and that means that consumers likely have several different digital interactions with a brand before even entering a store. This has significant implications for an in-store experience. A consumer who has started the buying process online by researching and comparing items does not want to start from scratch in-store. In the world of 21st century retail, there is a growing expectation for in-store employees to have access to a customer’s previous interactions. They should know exactly where customers stand in the buying process and be aware of specific preferences they’ve already shared with the brand through other channels. Delivering a concierge experience means seamlessly connecting channels and arming employees with the personalized customer shopping information they need to pick-up wherever the shopper left off.

Provide a Service Guarantee

Finally, one of the most frustrating things customer can encounter in-store is a lack of available help. For many shoppers, a dearth of in-store attention could cause them to leave the store all-together–even to take their business elsewhere. Retailers can manage this issue by empowering shoppers to reserve an appointment with an in-store associate in advance, providing the customer with a service guarantee. Personal shopping has traditionally been reserved for luxury brands and their elite clientele, but expanding that service to a broader base is a great way to help more mainstream retailers elevate in-store service. This approach gives shoppers the peace of mind of knowing that help will be waiting the moment they enter the store–no time will be wasted trying to flag down an employee or wandering the aisles for assistance. Having the ability to tap into a shopper’s previous interactions with a brand also ensures that said employee will be armed with the consumer’s preferences and shopping history, ready to deliver a high-level “concierge style” experience, the moment the shopper arrives.

The evolution of technology has changed the retail world significantly in recent years, in many ways increasing consumer expectations and spurring competition and challenges for retailers. The on-demand economy has arrived and taken hold, and forward looking retailers are now focused on up-leveling that service even further. Attaining a true “concierge economy” experience is not an easy process, but with the right tools and approach, it is certainly achievable. As we look to the future, technology and expectations will only continue to evolve, and retailers who succeed at delivering personalized, on-demand attention, will be the ones that set themselves apart from the crowd. 

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