By Joe Gillespie, president and CEO of Zoove
The online shopping experience has many benefits: access to unlimited inventory, quick search capabilities, and overall convenience. But it lacks one key element: human interaction. Before making a purchase, consumers often want to try out products — to see and touch them, or get a second opinion. In fact, a recent IBM survey reveals that nearly nine out of ten consumers still finalize their purchases in-store.
This is because customers often mix and match the experience points they like from both worlds: browsing, conducting product comparisons and reading reviews via mobile or online, and then heading to the store to get a better view of the products, and conferring with sales staff. But no matter how savvy they are, there’s a limit to the information consumers can access digitally. This presents an opportunity for bricks-and-mortar stores to utilize their most effective, yet underleveraged, asset — sales associates — to bridge the gap between their in-store and m-commerce initiatives.
There are some obvious ways sales staff can use mobile to expand the possibilities of the in-store experience, but those methods focus on salvaging the immediate transaction at hand: price-matching against competitors, expediting turnaround times for out-of stock items, arranging for free shipping or in-store pickup. If such approaches aren’t already standard operating procedure in physical stores for dealing with today’s digitally aware clientele, they need to be. But associates who go beyond the basics and use mobile to enhance their face-to-face relations with shoppers can both close the current sale and bring in future revenue as those customers return (and recommend the retailer to friends and family).
It’s time to really empower sales associates and give them the tools they need to nurture customer relationships, create brand loyalty, and keep shoppers coming back. There are three mobile marketing techniques that will help bricks-and-mortar locations do just that:
1. Increase repeat visits with exclusive mobile discounts and coupons
Mobile discounts and coupons are far superior to yesterdays’ newspaper clippings. Customers no longer have the time to hunt down deals every week — but a sales associate can send them directly to the customer’s mobile device via SMS, calling code or email for fulfillment, in real time, right when the customer wants and needs it most. This not only sweetens the deal on the immediate transaction, but also creates customer affinity for the retailer. Secondly, retailers must let go of the idea that coupons and discounts are unprofitable: because of their immediate access, the rate of redemption is much higher — especially for exclusive in-store items — which leads to a potential increase in average order values.
2. Let customers opt-in for speedy sign-ups
There’s nothing worse than having to fill out a long, tedious form at the cash register for a loyalty program or store credit card…except standing behind someone who’s filling out the form! Sales associates can save the day by using mobile’s quick, easy-to use opt-in capabilities. Many shoppers are happy to divulge personal information — as well as allow contact or updates by phone — as long as they feel they’re getting something useful out of it –and without taking too much time. (Quicker signups also decrease the number of visits a customer makes before committing to them.) By updating your loyalty form sign up process to one that simply shoots the customer a text message with a link to your form, retailers can gather enough data to provide immediate access to program benefits — and sales associates can keep the line moving. Once customers opt in, mobile devices help staffers both recognize those customers when they return to the store and access their preferences and purchase history in order to provide more personal service. Plus, because it takes a lot less work to commit, customers are likely to enroll in these programs much sooner than they would have otherwise, simply because there is less work involved to commit.
3. Incentivize sales staff with precise commission tracking
More customer purchases lead to more staff commissions, which provides major motivation for associates to spread the word about their employer’s marketing campaigns. But the efficacy of mobile also provides an increased ability for managers and owners to track sales and commissions in real time — to find out not only who’s connecting most effectively with customers but which promotions get the most return business via associate interaction. Keeping better track of commissions and other staff incentives boosts staff morale, which leads to improved customer relations.
The human factor is still one of the most crucial aspects of in-store sales, and customer experience is becoming far more influential than price when it comes to shopping preference. By using mobile to swiftly give consumers what they want exactly when they want it — whether it be a discount, a credit card or loyalty program — sales associates can amplify both customer satisfaction and retail profits.
Joe Gillespie is president and CEO of Zoove Corp., provider of StarStar and StarStarMe, a unique mobile phone number that connects people with great content, great brands and one another. Zoove’s solutions and mobile expertise enable marketers to deliver a more relevant, on-the-go customer experience with unprecedented real-time metrics and media efficacy.