Three Ways to Win Over Reluctant Shoppers
By Gary Ambrosino, president, TimeTrade
The November Consumer Confidence Index made headlines as the numbers slumped to the lowest point within the last six months. On the surface, this could cause concern for retailers this holiday season. However, when you’re in a store, how often do you actually think about an economic indicator when you’re deciding how much to spend?
Instead, shoppers are focused on the customer experience – determining how well they trust the brand and more importantly, the sales associate assisting them to find what they need. Hesitant shoppers present a huge opportunity for retailers to win them over, now that the price-matching has leveled the playing field.
Here are the three ways retailers can increase holiday sales and keep customers coming back in 2014.
Personalization – at every stage of the buying cycle.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all world when it comes to anything these days, especially customer service. In a world where you can personalize your cell phone, customize your shoes and even your barista calls you by name, the demand for personalization is higher than ever before. Shoppers want to feel like they are a retailer’s only customer, and that begins before they ever step into a store. According to a recent survey of 1,000 consumers, 92% revealed that a more personalized, improved experience is the thing they want most from retailers, trumping lower prices.
Giving customers the personalization they are looking for goes far beyond an email with the customer’s name in the subject line. Retailers have a wealth of customer data at their fingertips to create more targeted, meaningful campaigns and promotions. Imagine if you could know exactly what a consumer wanted before they stepped into a store? It’s possible today.
A retailer’s most untapped resource: The employees.
Combine a deeper understanding of buyers’ needs with knowledgeable employees and you’ve created a formidable force. Major retailers surveyed at the Future Stores Conference in July 2013 found that consumers will spend 25-50% more when assisted by an informed, helpful store associate.
When a customer trusts a store associate, they trust the brand. The most successful retailers today are investing in training and equipping store associates with tools they need to more efficiently work with shoppers. Store employee structures are also evolving, especially during the holiday season. Temporary staffers rarely have the depth of experience or product knowledge that consumers crave. As a result, product experts are becoming the front lines for assisting shoppers while temporary hires support them. This creates a more streamlined process for both the staff and the consumer.
Create the most convenient experience possible.
Few people enjoy holiday shopping – fighting over parking spots and dealing with crowds isn’t for the faint of heart. However, what consumers really want isn’t complicated: answers to their questions and the ability to quickly find the products they need. The more retailers know about customers before they walk in the door — the greater chance retailers have of providing a valuable, personalized and satisfied buying experience. Retailers that reinvent what it means to go shopping during the busiest time of year will beat out the competition and set the stage for success in 2014.
In the long run, price-matching and flashy sales won’t earn you long-term customers. It’s about efficient, personalized service. In order to cash in this holiday season, retailers have to take the focus off of price and volume, and focus on customer. For many consumers, holiday shopping forces them to purchase from retailers they typically wouldn’t – that’s the biggest opportunity. If retailers can give first-time, rushed holiday shoppers a unique experience, they can turn a one-time purchase into a lifetime customer.
Gary Ambrosino is president of TimeTrade. He can be reached at [email protected]
Sears Holdings’ other spinoff offers update
Sears Holdings’ plan to spin off Lands’ End may have gotten all the attention on Friday, but the retailer’s former hometown and outlet stores division shared results showing how it has fared after receiving similar treatment a year earlier.
Last October, Sears Holdings spun off the Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores business, which operates 1,239 stores nationwide focused on home appliances, hardware, tools and lawn and garden equipment. On Friday, the company shared financial results for its third quarter ended Nov. 2, which are not necessarily indicative of how Lands’ End will fare as a stand-alone company.
Sales during the period increased by 0.7% to $561 million, mainly due to higher upfront fees charged to franchisees, while same-store sales declined 2%. The comp decline was made up of a 1.5% decline at the Hometown division and a 3.4% decline at the Outlet division. The company cited lower major appliance and apparel sales as drivers of the decline at the Outlet division while the lawn and garden tools categories were the culprits behind the comp decline at the Hometown division. Also negatively affecting sales was the planned exit from the consumer electronics business that was only partially offset by higher major appliance sales.
The uneven sales performance caused profits to decline 12% to $7.7 million, or 33 cents a share, compared to $8.8 million, or 38 cents a share, the prior year.
"Sales of home appliances increased during the quarter, while sales of lawn and garden, consumer electronics, and apparel, which is only sold in Outlet Stores, declined,” said Bruce Johnson, CEO of Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores. “The fourth quarter of 2013 will be the last quarter where we will have a significant negative comparable store sales impact due to our exit from consumer electronics in most stores in our Hometown segment.”
According to Johnson, the company has begun rolling out a franchise model in its Outlet segment which generates higher initial fees and continues a transition to an asset light, franchised operation.
“We also completed a successful test of furniture sales in our Outlet stores and have a limited selection of furniture inventory in place across the format for the holiday season,” Johnson said. “This continues our strategy of shifting our product mix toward higher margin categories, which began last fall with reductions in consumer electronics and expansion in mattresses and tools."
Black & Decker adds PepsiCo Americas Beverages president to board
Stanley Black & Decker has added Debra Crew, president of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, to its board of directors. Crew joined PepsiCo in 2010 as president of the western region of PepsiCo Europe, and was promoted in 2012.
Prior to PepsiCo, she held a number of management and leadership roles at Mars, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream and Kraft Foods.
"Debra Crew brings an impressive record of success with some of the world’s leading consumer products companies, and a broad range of experience in marketing, operations and strategy," said John F. Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Stanley Black & Decker. "Her global perspective coupled with proven commercial capabilities and exposure to world-class innovation planning processes will be of tremendous value as we continue to pursue profitable growth. We welcome Debra enthusiastically and look forward to her contributions."
Crew graduated from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree, earned her MBA from the University of Chicago and previously served as an officer in the United States Army.