In this piece, Olga Kotsur, CEO of Mercaux, explains how retailers can harness the pull of peak season though staff productivity and look to create additional revenue streams.
Understandably given the pandemic, ecommerce has seen an unparalleled increase in demand over the past 18 months, but despite this growth fresh research from Google and Kantar suggests that most shoppers are still planning to make in-store purchases – to interact directly with the products due to being able to instantly purchase and walk away. The research contends that “browsing in-store is seen as the most useful touchpoint by 82 percent of respondents”, and “while the findings suggest a 56 percent increase in people who say they will buy products online in the future, the 66 percent majority still intend to shop in-store.” Consequently, retailers are still weighing up how best to cater to shoppers this peak season, and how their reliance on ecommerce during periods of lockdown has meant that new service models are more readily accepted by them.
So, how should retailers ensure their readiness for the impending golden quarter, and how can they harness the data collected from new and existing customers through the increased footfall to create new revenue streams in 2022? Here are a few of our top tips – they’re all quick and easy to deploy and won’t only prepare retail stores and staff to welcome in an increased influx of shoppers, but also build relationships and grow lifetime value through delivering hyper-personalised services.
1. Maximise staff productivity with digital tools
Many retailers are still facing staff shortages due to isolation and illness as well as the headaches that remain with Brexit. With a reduced workforce, it’s essential to look for alternative solutions to service the higher number of customers visiting the store.
By equipping sales associates with assisted selling tools that provide support such as product discovery, descriptions and availability (so they don’t need to go back and forth from the stockroom), it ensures that more time is spent on the shop floor and less time back of house.
The good news is that new research we’ve carried out amongst 200 retailers for our “Pulse of Retail 2021 Report” found that 73 percent view investing in physical retail as a top or high priority, so these digital support tools are going to become increasingly visible in-store and amongst store staff, enabling them to facilitate a much improved shopping experience.
2. Offer alternatives to save lost sales
If staffing issues in-store haven’t been challenging enough, retailers are also battling staff shortages further down the supply chain with delivery drivers, resulting in inventory shortages on the shop floor. Combined with peak season demand, this will undoubtedly result in a high number of potential lost sales in-store where an alternative can not be offered.
By using digital tools that encompass the endless aisle of products, staff are able to quickly offer alternative suggestions that are available in-store, or by deploying omnichannel capabilities, offer the requested item in another store for click and collect or seamlessly purchase online to deliver to their home.
3. Avoiding long queues at the tills and outside
More than a third (37 percent) of in-store consumers globally say a fast or express checkout would significantly improve their shopping experience according to research commissioned by Facebook, so look to avoid the build up of long queues by providing sales assistants with a way to take payments anywhere in-store. The assisted selling tools that we’ve mentioned above can also act as mobile payment (mPOS) devices, allowing associates to transact by the customer’s side. This will prevent queues beginning to build and reduce the risk of customers abandoning their baskets.
We’ve seen in previous peak seasons that demand can be so high that queues form outside of the store just to enter, and with the current climate, stores may wish to limit the number of people entering further still. In this instance, sales assistants can use assisted selling tools to service customers in the queue in front of the store – helping customers browse, build baskets, and give styling advice, all before they’ve even stepped foot in the store. This will also reduce the amount of time the customer needs to spend in-store, as the sales associates can transfer the baskets to colleagues in the store to fulfil the order, speeding up the customer journey and allow people to move through the store quicker.
4. Use footfall as a way to build your customer database
You’ll spend a lot of time and effort welcoming existing and new customers into the store during the busy peak season, so it makes sense to extend the impact of this heightened footfall by continuing the engagement and conversation with them into the New Year and beyond through bounce back campaigns. By arming sales associates with digital tools, you’ll be able to collect precious opted-in customer data and enhance it with behavioural information about their purchases and preferences. This gives sales associates with incredibly valuable data to continue the conversation remotely to cross-sell items matched to that specific customer.
Take WhatsApp as an example – one of the most popular messaging apps in the western world, which savvy retailers are beginning to take advantage of. By using the insights gathered from previous online and in-store visits accessed via clienteling capabilities, store associates can create bespoke messages to each customer in the New Year to encourage January sales purchases.
The technology enables retailers to use key calendar dates, occasions or customer touch points as reasons to reach out – encouraging them to view products to purchase online, or join a video call to have a virtual shopping experience. The store associates may wish to then encourage return visits to the store by sending invitations to special events or private shopping consultations to the most engaged customer base – a hyper-personalised remote shopping experience.
5. Use your data insights
Whichever way you choose to begin a conversation with a customer, it’s imperative that you utilise the insights gathered from previous engagements to tailor the talking track and deliver a 1:1 personalised service relevant to that individual.
Shops may have reopened, but our research reveals that 44 percent of customers still want the option to speak to a store associate remotely, the demand for these types of digital services really are continuing to grow. Our research found that just 14 percent of retailers have launched remote selling solutions to date, but 59 percent are in the planning or implementation stages.
We strongly suggest retailers take a look at how quickly and easily in-store digital tools can be deployed (some can be fully deployed in a matter of weeks for example), but even more important is that once deployed, they use the insights gathered in-store to support those customers across every touch point, creating lasting relationships.
Good luck for peak season 2021….