Casting my mind back to the early days of the pandemic, I believed lock-down would last a couple of weeks, a month at most, and that life would be completely back to normal by June. I could not have anticipated that non-essential retail doors would remain locked and shuttered for as long as they did.
And whilst the shift from in-person to digital or online shopping has been a familiar trend for many years, the consumer desire to continue shopping during lockdown (especially in the luxury and premium markets) vastly accelerated the implementation of technology to facilitate the customer experience.
During this time, our customers talked to us about engaging with their customers digitally; how stylists and personal shoppers deepened personal relationships with their customers by being there for them, swapping lock down stories, recipes and workout plans. Use of Video chat and consultation soared, outreach email open rates increased as customers satisfied their need for rich, engaging content plus the ability to shop.
Customers Return To Stores
As the stores gradually began to reopen, aside from the first week’s massive peak of excited shoppers, footfall has been modest and numbers are far below the YOY figures.
Consumer fear, limitation of store capacity to maintain social distancing and the increase of digital commerce have all contributed, leaving stores with an abundance of stock and a workforce with fewer customers on the shop floor to engage with.
A good deal of the population continue to work from home and have no reason or desire to go into town. We should be unsurprised that many have discovered the ease of shopping digitally, connecting with stylists, beauty consultants and store associates over chat or video calls (and in many cases received a more personal service) and want to continue in this way.
Connecting to the customers that are new to online shopping
There has also been significant anecdotal evidence that suggests the digital shopping approach is introducing new customers to brands – perhaps previously they did not have a store local to them, didn’t have time to visit their local store or simply felt intimidated by the brand. Connecting digitally has made the brand accessible to them.
As we move towards peak, the leaders are addressing the imbalance between more customers wanting/needing to connect digitally and quiet stores by implementing a diverse range of technologies that allow their customer facing teams to continue to support consumers digitally as well as in person.
The secret to success: essential features of the ‘New Normal’ combined with clienteling
This can be as simple as offering an appointment booking facility, enabling customers to pre-book a slot in store for browsing or a service (such as personal shopping or beauty consultation) or for a video consultation. It can be utilising in-store staff to respond to customers wishing to engage on Live Chat or Video Chat – customers are twice as likely to convert having participated in a video chat, and smart retailers don’t introduce friction at the point of sale and will use instant Digital Payments to send the customer a payment link for a seamless customer experience.
Some brands have also seen great retail success by fully or partially repurposing stores into dark stores. With many already fulfilling from store stock and offering click and collect or kerbside collection, making these staff members available digitally for Live Chat, Video Chat and video consultations has proven to be incredibly valuable.
Couple this with personalised recommendations and edits and you have a proven formula to maximise customer engagement: Typical opening rates for a personalised edit when sent from a customer facing team member through the Proximity Insight platform are 50-70% and the average number of days between an outreach and a repurchase if 7-15 days.
So whilst AI, analytics and automation are important tools, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that people prefer to deal with people, and with top performing customer facing team members receiving a 1 in 5 response rate from outreach it’s clear that the power of people is more important than ever before.
Optimise your brand through digital transformation the human way
To address the changing needs of retails, Proximity Insight has developed the Essential Brand Toolkit that includes Appointment Booker, Video Chat, Live Chat, Queue Management, Collection and Look Builder and Virtual Payments. To learn more about how to onboard these features along with clienteling to better serve your customers now, book a demo with one of our experts.
By Mel Jensen Product Manager Proximity Insight
Click here to read the Taking Care of Retail Report Update written by Cathy McCabe