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A recurring theme at NRF 2020 revolved around retailers improving in-store experiences. Despite an increasing number of brick-and-mortar stores closing and e-commerce growing at an exponential rate, physical stores are evolving rather than dying. The focus is more on quality over quantity by refining the customer experience within flagship stores. Brands are transforming their stores from being strictly point of sale to a hub for experience and point of service.
Here are three ways retailers can enhance in-store experiences.
An integral part of the store evolution is the changing role of the sales associate. The personal touch of in-store customer service is something online shopping cannot beat and retailers need to take advantage of. Brands should encourage their sales associates to think beyond the transaction and become enterprise sellers — empowering them to take the sale beyond store inventory. This is possible with a retail order management system that provides enterprise-wide inventory visibility down to the associate level.
Today, a common practice is for sales associates to have a mobile device that enables them to order items from online inventory in case what the shopper was looking for is not available in the store. This is a perfect example of taking the sale beyond the store, delighting the customer and attributing an additional sale to the store. Furthermore, the sales associate can recommend other products, push out product information, search inventory, etc.
Many stores now offer appointments with a sales associate. This allows for a highly personal conversation and experience that increases loyalty and basket size. The sales associate can get to know the customer and their needs, something that websites attempt to do with personalized recommendations, however, without the human element. To be successful, retailers should equip sales associates with a complete view of the customer profile and purchase history. This enables the sales associate to know more about the customer and to give personalized recommendations. The more a brand can arm their sales associates, the better off and happier their customers will be. These tools help extend the role of the sales associate and elevates the communication with the customer to be more meaningful rather than just transactional.
Brands are also expanding their in-store services to make shopping more convenient and customized. One way of enhancing the in-store experience is hosting in-store events such as early access to products. This is another instance of taking the experience beyond just a transaction and making your customers feel valued. These types of events foster loyalty and a sense of community. Experiences like these, which customers cannot get online, are what help stores maintain their competitive edge.
Other examples of services stores are offering include self-checkout and accepting a wide range of payment options, such as permitting customers to pay with their phones. These can help reduce friction within the buyer journey and improve the store experience.
To enhance the in-store experience and support omnichannel initiatives, retailers are interlocking digital experiences within the store. Brands that give their customers the option to customize their clothing or shoes online are now allowing in-store customers to do the same through an iPad or computer. This provides customers the ability to shop digitally with the assistance and expertise of the sales associate, if needed. Some stores even equip their iPads with barcode scanners and mag stripes allowing customers to self-checkout, thereby offering convenience and reducing register queues.
Additionally, a hot topic every company was talking about at NRF was buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS). This popular service connects the physical and digital shopping experience and is something more and more consumers are expecting brands to offer. BOPIS eliminates shipping fees and offers quicker service while attracting your customers to your store — the store that is today providing exceptional experiences and customer service.
These three takeaways are just a few examples of how brands are enhancing their stores. As retailers are competing with the likes of Amazon and the growth of e-commerce, focusing on enhancing their stores by providing memorable experiences and meeting customer demands is what will set physical stores apart from digital and allow them to continue to thrive.