Retail is in the midst of a fundamental shift, thanks to the emergence of the digitally-savvy consumer. Shopping today often includes online product research, comparison price shopping between sites, online customer reviews and more – arming consumers with a wealth of knowledge before they even set foot in a store. While these behaviors have added a layer of pressure for many retailers who had grown accustomed to mainly relying on lower prices and shipping discounts as differentiators, it has also created an opportunity for omnichannel retailers to provide more personalization across the entire buyer journey.
The Informed Sales Associate
A key component to personalizing the customer experience and standing out from the competition is the technological enablement of a “smarter workforce.” Sales associates are the customer-facing front-line teams that require better tools to get closer to the shopper and work to resolve issues quickly and seamlessly. Empowering sales associates with a single application that guides them through the tasks in the omnichannel store enables those associates to be more adept at selling to the customer on the frontend while simultaneously fulfilling inventory activities on the backend.
Optimal Customer Experience
There is no one-size-fits-all great buying experience, as each customer has his/her own preferences and needs. Some may prefer a highly attentive sales associate while others prefer a more hands-off approach. What matters most for retailers is access to technology that offers a data-driven view of the shoppers’ habits, purchases, issues, and preferences to help supercharge the sales associates’ understanding of the customer and create a personal shopping experience. Customer insights should be available to the associate about the shopper, including his/her purchase history, return frequency and even the option to note something personal mentioned during a previous visit so it’s noted the next time the customer is at the store.
The Shifting Store
Influenced by the progress and innovations of online giants, consumers are expecting the same level of service and support during the in-store shopping experience. Shoppers have grown accustomed to the ability to purchase something online and have it arrive at their doorstep fast and free. As a result, retailers are transforming store fulfillment capabilities to compete. If shoppers find an item that may not be at a specific store, a growing number of retailers can now locate the item from their warehouse or another store location and ship it directly to the customer or to a preferred store pick-up spot within a couple of days. The ability to satisfy the shopper in this way has become an essential business practice for retailers. Without the ability to save the sales from other sources of inventory, retails are going to lose customers.
In an evolving retail climate, the ability to personalize the entire buyer journey requires a holistic understanding of the customer and his/her needs and wants. To succeed, it is crucial that retailers have commerce systems in place that were designed specifically for omnichannel and allow them to focus on the customer – arming sales associates with the intelligence they need to better understand their customers on a more personal level. The successful execution of these strategies will lead to greater trust, brand loyalty, and an optimal shopping experience.
Chris Shaw, director of product marketing at Manhattan Associates is a senior technologist with a passion for the buying experiences of customers around the world. A leader in understanding the convergence of digital and physical and how digitally empowered customers are forcing all merchants to respond to a new world order in retailing. Chris has been a marketing & sales leader, services architect and senior IT leader for some of the leading commerce companies in the world.