The Personal Shopper Returns

Posted on March 15, 2018 9:22 AM | Updated on Dec 12, 2018 6:00 PM

crowded shopping mall$90 Billion Dollars. A figure that represents 13% of holiday sales by US retailers in November and December of 2017. Think of the resource planning, the countless leadership initiatives, the employee training and the raw labor hours that went into producing this robust revenue outcome — only a portion of the $692 billion brought in through the accelerated holiday season.

Coincidentally, this is the exact figure the National Retail Federation1 expects to have seen returned by February 28th, 2018. $90 billion dollars in stocking movements, merchandising tasks and thoughtful gift guesswork by loving family and friends. As a retailer, it’s easy to count the fourth quarter win and forget the attrition that occurs over the coming months, as holiday gift misses trickle in to back of house.

So allow me to pose a question — is it more important to move the product regardless of fit, or more important that it stays home once purchased?

A Tale of Two Retail Giants.

Brand loyalty is an ever moving needle these days. In many cases, products no longer define many brands’ relationships with consumers, and in fact, perform relatively in spite of their product success. The emotional connection consumers have to a label falls into one of two buckets — cost and convenience or status and experience. The brands that get it right are the ones that find their way into both categories — the Amazons and the Apples of the world.

people in apple storeSo, let’s cut to the chase. Why do we go to retail today? The short answer for the vast majority — when we have to. A phone screen was smashed and we begrudging drag ourselves into the “bar without drinks.” Maybe you’ve got time to kill and the not so endless aisle of a mediocre label offers a brief respite from the head-scratching “what do I do until 5.” The bottom line is, we haven’t looked to retail associates for trusted advice on what to buy for loved ones, ourselves or our homes for some time now.

Until now, that is. Amazon has moved in the direction of completely eliminating the need for human interaction with their Go shops; a veritable Prime purchase in-person with no aggressive or dispassionate retail associate badgering you about questions you may have on products. Conversely, Apple has focused on creating a safe space for consumer education, in a non-commissioned environment, where shoppers can explore their passions, deep dive into product testing and learn new, relevant technology skills in a perfectly curated retail environment.

Herein lies your choice. It’s either fancy shelf sensors and clienteling cameras, or creating a culture of technology empowered associates that can passionately guide a customer to a better understanding of what your brand has to offer and give them a reason to trust once again. Both roads can lead to victory. The only choice that doesn’t play out is an uncommitted one.

Enter the Personal Shopper.

This is what shoppers truly want. They want your associates to listen and to truly understand their needs. They want them to take their time. They want to be approached only with a sense of curiosity, not a drive for commission. They want you to give them a highly personalized set of recommendations or leave them alone entirely. There is very little middle-ground.

In my recent blog post, The Three Commandments for a Great Retail Experience, and subsequent webinar (linked below), I spoke about the necessity to hire the right associates — not based on operational experience, but on passion, curiosity and a willingness to engage someone in genuine conversation. This is a necessary baseline. Once the right people are in place, you can give them the tools to have a truly genuine experience with product recommendations, market insights and even promotions and coupons at their fingertips. If you can increase the chances that your associate is the only one engaging technology, you’ll increase your conversion, accessory attachment, and traffic retention.

Imagine a world where your associates had one tool, one single source of truth, for their customer-facing product information, their role-based training, their retail execution tools, and the ability to contact anyone with the business for support, without leaving the customer’s side. This is the new Personal Shopper, and it’s what we do every day for retailers at Bigtincan.

Check out the webinar I held recently with Connection’s Director of Retail Strategy, Brian Gallagher, where we dive deeper into crafting a mobility plan for today. Don’t wait any longer — 2018 is the year your shoppers return to shop side by side with your associates, or not at all.

1https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-stores-do-with-90-billion-in-merchandise-returns-1518777000