Closing the gap between rising online sales and falling store sales
Many UK retailers are facing flat or falling sales, while online shopping enjoys double digit growth. We have seen several high street brands forced into administration, including Peacocks, LaSenza and Blacks, and some businesses such as Best Buy UK deciding to move entirely online and having to compete directly with the likes of Amazon.
In recent months, store footfall has fallen by 2.2 per cent according to the British Retail Consortium. In the meantime, retailers have struggled with the fundamental challenge – how to increase the number of customer visits and the amount the customer spends on each visit. Sectors such as jewellers, luxury and fashion should consider how to fight back by creating more compelling store experiences.
Improving store conversion involves understanding customers properly, having the right merchandise and delivering a winning customer experience. However, knowing exactly where to invest remains a major challenge.
CRM is finally moving into the store
Successful retailers instinctively understand their customers. They certainly know about management. However, applying the ‘relationship’ element of CRM can be puzzling, since most customers want a good retail experience, rather than a relationship with their retailers.
However, higher end retailers encourage sales associates to develop high-touch, personal relationships with select clients. Their best salespeople patiently record shoppers’ preferences, activities and important dates in individual ‘black books’ to create lasting and profitable relationships with customers. This is a proven model that drives repeat visits and increases sales per visit.
Obviously, this commission-based, high-paid model is not applicable to every retail organisation. But its essential function – to apply the right touch of service and drive a lifetime of value from customers – is one from which any organisation can benefit. A blend of technology and business processes termed ‘sales optimisation’ is emerging to deliver on this increased sales productivity.
Driving store sales through clienteling
A new breed of clienteling software is enabling retailers to take sales optimisation from theory to practice. The clienteling process involves each staff member actively managing a clientele of customers; recording their preferences, viewing their sales habits and providing relevant goods and service. Purchasing history and preferences are combined to create follow-up tasks that drive repeat business into the store. These interactions range from handling click & collect through to managing private sale events and personal shopper services.
Order information can be imported from all channels, including online and point of sale (POS). When this complete purchase history, personal preferences and social history are combined, it provides a 360 degree view of a customer across all sales channels, allowing the store sales associate to offer far better recommendations.
Dedicated store tools empower staff, providing a natural means of browsing the store catalogue with customers or accessing extended online catalogue for greater choice. In mobile tablet form, this provides customer insight and orders processes to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right moment.
Bringing the channels together
It is critical that retailers’ multi-channel strategy incorporates a unified, customer-focused approach to every transaction. Cross-channel is becoming the shopping method of choice for many consumers. Bricks and mortar still represent the lion’s share of revenue for most retailers, and in-store experience is an area that requires greater attention.
Those retailers that transform their in-store customer experience via clienteling will successfully capture the next generation of high-margin, cross-channel consumers and thrive in the future retail marketplace.
Roger Mitchell is Vice President of Ecommerce, EMEA at retail workforce, warehouse, supply chain, inventory and transportation management software solutions provider RedPrairie