By Ben Pivar, Senior VP, Retail Leader, North America, Capgemini
Showrooming may not be as concerning as many traditional retailers once thought. In fact, retailers who embrace clienteling and other strategies can leverage showrooming as an element of the overall all-channel experience for their customers. Through the use of new technologies as well as in-store and online strategies, many of those retailers who have tested clienteling have experienced a lift in customer conversion.
Today’s customers leverage multiple channels for research and purchase, be it through websites, social media, community forums, customer reviews as well as through mobile solutions, in-store point-of-purchase and other communication methods. Combined, these options help consumers to determine the right product, price and purchase channel.
Loyalty has taken on a new dimension that’s tested at every interaction point, and customers’ access to alternative options has expanded exponentially. Today, “showing the love” means driving satisfaction and delight consistently across every channel, offering the right deal at the right time: an expedited shipment, an offer to ship an out-of-stock product for free to the customer’s home, a product suggestion in an inbox or a celebrity endorsement via Twitter.
Delight to Prevent Flight
When digital channels are integrated seamlessly with the in-store experience, customer experiences can be transformed into engaging, relevant and loyalty-building interactions. For forward-thinking retailers, the buzz around the all-channel experience presents a fast growing business opportunity where retailers are competing to bring new offerings to market. Bridging the gap between bricks and clicks can broadened their opportunities and, if managed properly, can help to prevent lost sales.
Most retailers, however, are still grappling with how to best manage the new omnichannel environment. Compared to the dynamic digital experience, today’s store interactions can be uninspired, inconsistent and uninformed. As a result, sales don’t always manifest at the register and retailers are missing opportunities to create stronger customer bonds. Customers grow confused by the inconsistency between their on- and off-line experiences with the retailer. In fact, more than half of shoppers surveyed in Capgemini’s “Digital Shopper Relevancy” study said that most retailers present themselves inconsistently across channels.
Of late, much progress has been made to close this gap. New technologies provide enormous opportunities. For example, deploying mobile location services, integrating diverse data sources, and enabling consumer communities have all shown promise in the market and are good places for retailers to start. But technology can only take you so far. Associates play a key role in your brand delivery and, to improve the in-store customer dialogue, many retailers are embracing clienteling capabilities.
By moving to a clienteling approach, retailers can better manage personal customer engagement in a way that drives traffic, provides an exceptional in-store experience and keeps customers coming back for more. Clienteling brings together the in-store and digital customer engagement experience and helps generates greater sales, customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The key elements of a clienteling strategy are:
A single, unified customer view
At the heart of clienteling is operating with a 360-degree view of customers. In-store employees can view recent customer interactions, past purchases, personal preferences, loyalty indicators, as well as social media and website interactions. This richer view significantly transforms the customer conversation from anonymous to personal, and from supporting to enabling. As store associates offer tailored suggestions and one-step-ahead insights and promotions, while in the store or as a follow-up in the hours or days after, sales are made and loyalty is earned.
Empowering store employees for personalized services
Clienteling provides employees with the right tools to deliver a differentiated, more intimate level of customer service that starts the moment a customer enters the store. It acts as a guard against those less than inspiring “moments of truth” where customers are lost in an instant. Store associates equipped with individual insights feel more empowered to influence buying decisions. They see the positive results as they meet targets whether the purchase occurs in-store or online. They know they are an important part of the larger customer experience.
Connection with other customers and communities
New technologies have profoundly changed shopper behaviors, leading to a fundamental shift in the retailer-customer relationship with customers now in control. Clienteling helps enable customers to serve themselves using tools such as smartphones, in-store digital signage or kiosks – all on their own terms. Shoppers also can connect with the broader customer community, and the more retailer-loyal customer can serve as an influential brand advocate and evangelist in their offline and online communities.
The road to clienteling has many on-ramps. However swift or complete a retailer’s strategy, this tactic can help improve in-store dialogue and serve as a means to proactively address showrooming. Creating a differentiated moment of truth at the most critical points is a good place to start. In the end, retailers stand to gain more traffic, more conversion, more revenue, more satisfaction and greater loyalty.
Ben Pivar, is senior VP, retail leader, at North America Capgemini.