It is user-friendly. Chat features. Images that are strong. __S.4__ However, ecommerce cannot compete with in-store experiences in terms of human interaction, personal warmth, and humor.
Shopping today is all about convenience, price and variety. If this were true, brick-and-mortar retailers would have closed their doors years ago. E-tailers would not.Opening permanent storesAt breakneck speed.The shopping experience is still a favorite of many people. They need someone to listen, to generate ideas, and to help them find the right product.
Retailers and customers expect more from sales floor employees. Plus, bonus! They aren’t just helping in-store sales; they also help with e-commerce.
How do stores find this person who is able to interact with both the digital and live worlds? Sales staff rarely arrive with the right tools and knowledge to manage the matrix on their first day. It requires well-thought out training.
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From mass-market merchandise to high-end luxury
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Retailers are seeing a lot of sloppy training. Macy’s has given its sales consultants the permission to post Instagram photos featuring Macy’s products. This is a way of leveraging their digital savvy and knowledge. They are part of the Style Crew and can interact with customers both online and in-store. Cassandra Jones is the Senior Vice President of Fashion and Digital Strategy at Macy’s. She says, “Macy’s employees love design and aesthetics.” It’s logical to empower and engage them in order to show what’s next for our customers.
Saks Fifth Avenue continues to increase the number of its style advisors. Saks recognizes that not everyone is familiar with the Personal Shopper concept. However, Saks also recognized the need to broaden the service and make it more accessible to all. Saks customers can access a Style Advisor, who will help them choose the right items before they arrive in-store. They will also travel to their place of business, home or office, and will be available for live chat via a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
Harvey Nichols, a renowned British luxury retailer, has increased the visibility of its sales consultants by using ASKHN. According to the company’s website the in-store team can send pictures and livestream from the shop floor to customers as well as send product recommendations via the company website. The staff can show you what’s in stock, as well as guide you and style you.
Walmart, the giant of mass merchandise, is not just increasing the sales staff’s role. It also has its Walmart Academies which is helping to increase sales skills. According to Walmart’s blog, “As these graduate are going back into their stores and implementing new skills, they’re helping to transform our shopping experience so that it’s a consistently positive one.” All of these skills are complemented by a huge dose of confidence. Walmart has opened more than 100 Academies across the United States, making it one the most comprehensive training programs in America. The training’s effectiveness is not solely based on sales. It also includes customer service, satisfaction, and employee retention. These are all positive trends.
Walmart, Saks Harvey Nichols Macy’s, Macy’s, and other forward-thinking retailers recognize the importance of digital in their sales funnels but also realize that customers still need a personal touch from knowledgeable salespeople.
I like the fact that a sales rep can stream live so I can view makeup samples and choose the right shade. I also love the ability to converse with a person who can describe the texture of fabric. I am a visual person who sees graphics on digital devices for a lot of my day. Colors can look different on-screen than in-person.
The psychology of buying:
Famous retail guru Paco Underhill wrote in his book Why we Buy: The Science of Shopping that “Eighty-six per cent of women consider price tags when shopping.” Only 72 percent of men do. A man’s ability to ignore the price tag almost speaks volumes about his virility. Men are more likely to upgrade than women shoppers. Men are also more sexy than women, and they are much more eager to leave the store.
Imagine a male shopper talking to a sales representative who can suggest pants for that jacket, a sautepan to go with the stockpot, accent pillows for the new sofa, and even the standing lamp. The retailer loses opportunities to provide helpful value, enhance the shopping experience, and upsell. You’ve earned the loyalty of the customer and their repeat business by creating a memorable In Store Shopping Moment(tm).
Underhill puts it so well: “Majority of retailers, manufacturers and display designers pay attention to male behaviors and are willing to adapt shopping experience to them…men are especially suggestible to the desires of children as well eye-catching displays.” You are invited to join me and my children when we go grocery shopping.
It’s more than adapting sales skills to men. It’s adapting to all types of shoppers: seniors, millennials and tweens. Sales consultants have an advantage when they are educated in the nuances and trigger points of each type of shopper.
Curation with a personal touch
Sales associates may believe that more is better. However, too much can make a customer feel overwhelmed and confused. Shoppers are looking for guidance and someone to help them. Large-screen TVs are one example. It’s better to present three manufacturers, three and threeLED models and a variety of features than it is to reduce recommendations to three top contenders.
A sales consultant will not only explain why these three things make sense but can also provide evidence. The sales displays that list features and relate to personas provide the clarity and information shoppers and staff need. Are you the biggest football party in town? Do you want an immersive movie experience or are you just looking for a simple viewing experience? Are you looking for a room that is bright and sunny or one that is hidden in the basement? Sales staff can learn from training and support materials what questions to ask and how they should be answered.
It’s a time to ring with cheer
The holiday season is a crucial selling period for retailers. For some retailers, the holiday season can make or break their business. Only those who differentiate their in-store experience will be successful. There is a clear psychology about buyers’ personas, as we have discussed. The purpose of shoppers who show up at stores is not to fulfill a mission, but to enjoy the holiday season. They are emotionally driven shoppers – they want to enjoy the holiday season, and surround themselves with music, decorations, and goodwill towards others.
Goodwill starts with the sales team for retailers. A well-trained sales staff is happier and more relaxed when they are confident in product selection, delivery, personalized options, and special offers. This is evident in their manner of speaking and how they interact with customers.
The war for convenience and price will not be won by physical retail. Brick and mortar cannot deliver holiday spirit, inspiring ideas and intoxicating experience. It can be a live demonstration, a surprise display of products (including those from other retailers as coshopperation), a special guest appearance or any combination thereof. This fulfills the expectation that shopping is entertainment and puts shoppers in the right mindset to purchase.
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For success, train
Training is the first step to instilling confidence and empowerment in sales staff, from store managers to sales people to customer service personnel. This includes everything, from product knowledge and on brand messaging to store etiquette to corporate policies. Everything should be able to run smoothly like a well-tuned machine. You want more than just a machine. You want to promote warmth, humor and empathy. This is the human emotion that has more impact than a screen on a laptop.
Individual training can be supported with “cheat sheets”, which contain product information, floor displays, signage, and other signage that align with buyer personas. Floor guides also help to pinpoint the location of products.
Fun group exercises can also be used to train staff. We have worked for several years with a national retailer to help them manage their training. We know firsthand the positive effects of gamification modules as well as fun takeaways. Although the cost is low, the benefits in store are immense.
You must ensure that your training is successful. You need to ensure that sales floors are organized well, that products are clearly labelled, that technology is well understood, as well as automating mundane tasks. Your store and your staff will be heroes if they are able to quickly identify what customers need and make recommendations.
Although training isn’t glamorous and visible to customers, shoppers recognize well-trained staff and reward stores that invest in their sales representatives. Training is the key to success.