When we originally started planning for our second clienteling customer group event we could never have anticipated that the world would be turned upside down by the then new and unknown Covid-19 virus.
As it became ever more apparent that we would need to take our discussion online, we also realised this would be a great opportunity to share our industry insights with our customers and hear directly from them on how their business is responding, what was working (and what was not), how their employees were coping and what their customers were saying.
Going digital meant we also had the freedom to open up the event to all of our customers regardless of their global geography, and we were delighted by the sheer volume who were eager to participate and confirm their attendance (especially our customers in Australia, joining despite the unsociable hour!).
The Clienteling Customer Group Forum
Held on the 23rd April 2020, we opened the forum by sharing some exciting news about some award nominations and new customers that had been onboarded this year, before recapping on the previous Customer Group held in the UK in December. One of our key takeaways from that event was that we needed to spend more face-time with our customers, understanding their needs better and feeding that understanding back into the product. We have invested a great deal in doing this during the first quarter of 2020 and our customers agreed that it has helped to develop a stronger relationship and an even better user experience.
We shared some insights regarding what was happening in the industry during the crisis which indicated that whilst eCommerce orders were climbing, consumers were still craving that personal interaction and wanted rich, experiential-type content to consume. Jarrod Hunt, our Head of Customer Success shared some observations on the various ways our customer base had been responding to the crisis. One stand out observation Jarrod highlighted was that a relationship building approach where brands were checking in with their customers and showing they cared was more successful than a traditional sales and marketing approach.
Our clienteling customers confirmed this method had produced unexpected success. Consumers were entering into dialog about everything from Joe Wicks to recipes, wanting human interaction and building those relationships even if it’s not the right time for them to buy right now. They also still wanted access to expertise and advice, whether they were first-time parents needing help to prepare the nursery or wanting to find the right piece of clothing to bring comfort and help make them feel special.
“It’s more than reaching out to sell them something…. it’s reaching out to clients saying we’re here, we’re in the same situation – if you need anything let us know. The feedback that we’re getting is very pleasant…..The proximity app is really helping us.” Valerie, MCM
“It’s been an incredible relationship builder.” Sidonie, Matches
Proximity Insight Adapts to Meet Customer Needs
Cathy McCabe, our CEO, shared how Proximity Insight had adapted to support our customers changing needs, and how key it is to still reach out to consumers when they can’t (or perhaps don’t want to post-lockdown) come into store.
We see seamless real-time payments, video chat capabilities, personal experiences and unification of communication regardless of channel as being pivotal to success; these will help remove friction from the transaction. For example, if a customer has a great video consultation – be that for beauty, nursery or wardrobe – if you then send them elsewhere to transact you break the momentum and possibly create irritation.
*Additionally, at this time many of our customers in APAC had already cautiously reopened stores, and had seen a larger than anticipated surge of interest in shopping as a social activity. In some cases, revenues were 40% higher than expected in those early weeks.
We can expect similar patterns globally, and retail stores need to be ready to support this “revenge-spend” phenomena whilst being mindful of the challenges of keeping employees and customers safe. Cathy went on to share some considerations for reopening stores in a post lockdown world; social distancing, consumer aversion to crowds, public transport & confined spaces and virtual commerce services are all the new normal.
A Roadmap Built For The Next Era of Retail
At Proximity Insight, this aspect has been at the forefront of our minds, and we have pivoted our roadmap to bolster brands capabilities to provide seamless customer journeys in the Covid-19 world. Jarrod gave the participants a sneak peek of some of these new and improved features:
Video Chat including screen share feature.
PayByLink which will allow a store associate to create a basket for a consumer, send them a link to pay via SMS, chat or email and close the transaction in real time.
Collection Management that allows you to build and manage collections in a look-book type format, empowering you with a high degree of format flexibility and creative control that can be shared with consumers via email, SMS and chat.
We were absolutely delighted that our customers gave great feedback on our strategy and roadmap. Here they shared some of their valuable insight with us:
“I’m very excited, thank you for listening to all of our feedback.” Sidonie, Matches
“It’s fantastic how quickly things are developing and effectively coming to fruition, thank you to the team at Proximity Insight” Tom, John Lewis
“… we’re delighted with the help we’ve (had?) from the team…..our customers are delighted to see us [via private appointments] and that it didn’t matter if their normal salesperson wasn’t there as they we’re still able to connect with the brand.” Mary, Harrolds
As I review this customer group event in retrospective, I do so with a great deal of hope and positivity. At the time of the event there was a high degree of uncertainty about what the future held, not only from a retail business context, but from a personal wellness perspective. As the world takes its first steps towards normal (or the ‘new-normal’, at least), we are seeing business’ bringing back furloughed team members, plans being carried out to re-open stores, and digital transformation continuing to accelerate to give the customer that rich, highly personal retail experience that they continue to desire.