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Improving Retail Service With Access To Shopper Data [Future of Retail]

How brands can arm in-store employees with personal customer information to facilitate memorable shopping experiences.

Nestor Bailly, PSFK
Nestor Bailly, PSFK on November 28, 2013. @NKBailly

One of the biggest boons e-commerce provided to brands and customers alike was the use of their purchasing and browsing data to suggest items they ‘might be interested in’ or show things ‘people like them’ also purchased. For the first time, retailers could offer customers quasi-personalized recommendations without actually knowing them, without having a brick-and-mortar store of dedicated salespersons committed to establishing long-term client relationships.

But now that customers are used to receiving this kind of service online, they are left wondering why they can’t get this same level of personalized attention alongside their in-store experiences as well. Imagine helping store staff better meet the needs of shoppers on a personal level with on-demand customer profiles and preferences gathered from a number of channels. What if  insights built from these interactions could then be added to an evolving customer profile that ensured they were always relevant to the customer?

These informed interactions not only offer value in the moment, but can build lasting relationships over time. Taking digital insights and applying them to the human context so sales staff can offer better services and create better experiences is a trend in PSFK LabsFuture of Retail report that we are calling Connected Relationship Management.

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It used to be that many established retailers would have long-time employees that could learn the preferences of repeat customers, reinforcing their relationship with the brand. After all, sales increase by 25%-50% when customers are helped by a knowledgeable retail associate according to a 2013 survey by TimeTrade (PDF). However, for large retailers with many stores and hundreds or thousands of employees this was not viable, until now. Connected Relationship Management tools and systems take those online data successes and puts them in the hands of employees who interact with customers face-to-face. This empowers employees to become like the shopkeepers of yesteryear, who know what to recommend to people not under a ‘Other People Like You Also Viewed’ headline, but with a smile.

Leveraging multichannel data in the brick-and-mortar retail environment is the direction brands should seriously consider to survive and thrive.”Technology in itself means nothing if it doesn’t enable a differentiated customer experience,” says Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread. “So those people that are able to figure out how to use technology to enable a better guest experience will win.” The tech-savvy customer is already there, in-store waiting for retailers to catch up. 50% of shoppers want to be able to ‘log-in’ at a physical retailer to save purchasing preferences, reported comScore in 2012, and check-in apps like Foursquare have been serving millions of users for years. It is just a matter of taking the data you already have and the information people willingly volunteer and giving it to the right people in your stores.

Of course, a huge component of personal data management is trust. Even the best-tailored deals and service won’t win with consumers if they are uncomfortable with how you are using their data. When looking to build out Connected Relationship Management systems,  PSFK Labs‘ Director, Scott Lachut warns brands that ”just because you have information about your shoppers doesn’t mean you should use it. Go the final step by helping them understand how sharing their purchase history and preferences will lead to a better service experience.”

As you look to arm your employees on the retail floor with personal customer data and prepare them to offer personal, relationship-building service, ask these questions of your company:

  • How can you enable  customers to control how and when they’d like to receive assistance?
  • How can you empower associates to connect with shoppers based on individual purchase history?
  • How do these new platforms impact the way you hire and train associates?
  • What customer data can you track to better recommend complementary products?
  • What information should associates be adding to existing customer profiles?
  • How can you establish trust with your customers and build on that relationship over the long term?

In the fourth edition of the Future of Retail Report, PSFK Labs brings together two interconnected themes and eleven key trends that provide a foundation for the modern shopping experience. The findings are brought to life with best-in-class examples, actionable strategies and leading questions to inspire leading retailers and brands. Join us at our San Francisco conference on Nov. 21st where talks from retail innovators will bring the key themes to life.

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Contributed by: Nestor Bailly

 Images: NPR

 

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