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The Intelligent Customer Engagement Blog

In our third-annual State of Retail survey, TimeTrade asked consumers what they like—and don’t like—about shopping in stores.

As in prior surveys, the popularity of in-store shopping remains strong, with 84 percent of respondents indicating they would do as much, if not more, of their total non-grocery shopping in stores this year.

The main reason for the continuing popularity of in-store shopping is consumers like to touch and feel products before they purchase. So until virtual reality makes that possible from home while wearing a headset, brick-and-mortar stores continue to have a strong pull for shoppers.

But there are plenty of areas where stores can up their game in order to make consumers’ shopping experiences even more pleasant—and lucrative for retailers. Take a look at this State of Retail 2017 infographic to see exactly where stores are performing well and where they have room for improvement, as they continue to battle online sellers for the minds, hearts and dollars of increasingly choosy consumers.

Download the full State of Retail 2017 survey report.

Customer loyalty programs and memberships have been around for decades. Consumers love the idea of saving money, receiving exclusive offers, and getting priority service from their favorite retailers, banks and service providers. But are these programs causing businesses to actually miss out on key opportunities that truly build customer loyalty?

There is a misalignment between what businesses expect from loyalty programs vs. what consumers want. Below are two studies from eMarketer that look at customer loyalty programs from the perspectives of retailers1 (on the left) and consumers2 (on the right):

Loyalty Programs Generate Price Loyalty, not Brand Loyalty

While retailers’ primary loyalty-program goals are to drive engagement, increase transactions, and increase the amount customers spend, consumers are mainly interested in product discounts and getting cash back on their purchases.

The problem is that consumers achieve their money-saving goals, but retailers aren’t earning the brand loyalty they crave.

“For far too long, ‘loyalty programs’ have really just been a mechanism for distributing price discounts, which really has virtually nothing to do with loyalty.  It frankly can create precisely the opposite behavior of loyalty. It can create loyalty to the lowest price, wherever that lowest price can be found.” – Katie Casavant, CEO, Kantar Shopcom3

Customer Loyalty Program Engagement is Declining

Of consumers who do participate in loyalty programs, only 45 percent remain loyal to a given retailer. The other 55 percent either reduce their brand loyalty or purchase from a competitor. This is what happens when customer loyalty programs are price-driven. They simply don’t create brand loyalty at all.

Furthermore, consumers, on average, belong to 13 different loyalty programs, which means your business is not the only one offering a discount-driven program. What’s even worse is consumers only actively engage in half of those programs they’re currently enrolled in.

On the left are figures about “loyal” customer retention4. On the right are statistics from eMarketer about actual customer participation in loyalty programs to which they belong5:

Customer Loyalty Programs Offer the Façade of Personalization—Not the Real Thing

Just because you’re sending an email addressing your customers by their first name and offering a price break on a few related products or services doesn’t mean you’re offering personalized service. We live in a consumer-driven economy where access to products and services is virtually limitless, leaving the power in buyers’ hands, not yours. Consumers want service that’s tailored to their needs and delivered on their schedule.

“Loyalty is an emotional state. The way to drive real loyalty is to create engagement through experiences.” – Mark Taylor, SVP , digital customer experience, Capgemini6

When customers engage with your loyalty program and visit your locations, your only attributable capture point is when they use their membership number on checkout—and that’s only if they decide to make a purchase!

Your loyalty customers could be walking in and out of your stores without you even knowing they were ever there. That’s money walking right out your front door.

Scheduling in-store appointments using online appointment scheduler or checking walk-in customers into a queue management tool gives your associates the ability to learn who is coming in, see what they’re interested in, and view their transaction history. It also prepares your team to deliver a highly personalized customer experience, including pulling desired and related products for your customers ahead of time.

Leading retailers, including Best Buy, Sprint, Nordstrom, Sephora, and many more have already implemented customer engagement solutions that deliver the personalization consumers are looking for and the attribution retailers need.

To learn more about increasing customer engagement solutions and delivering unrivaled personalization:

Footnotes:

All images and quotes are from eMarketer.

  1. Customer Loyalty Program Goals (211265), May 24, 2016
  2. Most Valuable Loyalty Program Benefits (214668), July 29, 2016
  3. Kate Casavant: “Loyalty Program Memberships Climb, but Participation Wanes,” Feb. 10, 2016
  4. Loyalty Program Retention (197989), Sept. 30, 2015
  5. Loyalty Program Participation (212688), June 7, 2016
  6. Mark Taylor: “Loyalty Is an Emotion, Not a Transaction,” Feb. 3, 2016

It’s that time of year again – finding a parking spot or treadmill at the gym puts you into warrior mode, health food stores are much more popular, and everyone is on some sort of diet – but like every year, it eventually dies down by mid-February.

For retailers, however, maybe it is time for a lasting resolution – one that will help create a better, more personalized customer experience. I know you’re rolling your eyes right now – how many times have you heard that term? It’s right up there with retail customer experience. But in today’s on-demand economy, customers expect retailers to be ready to serve them, and be knowledgeable about the products they are selling. Customers do their research online, and come into the store to either seek advice or narrow down their selection. In these circumstances, they want to talk to exactly the right person to help them.

Personalizing the Customer Experience for the Concierge Economy

Millennials are especially used to this level of personalization – growing up in an already connected world, they expect retailers to treat them in a certain way. They want that VIP treatment – think of the last time you were in a retail store with a loyalty card – you accrue points and receive either gifts or coupons. Retailers like Sephora (I’m a proud member of their “VIB” card – meaning I’ve spent way too much money there) have cards labeled “VIP” in some way to show status. Sure, money talks, and giving customers rewards and points is a great way to retain loyalty. But in an economy where customers have choices, how do you play to the on-demand economy, but with that human level of engagement?

Whether it is through implementing retail scheduling software or other in-store technology, retailers who figure this out will certainly win my loyalty. I’m going to venture to say they’d win over my peers as well.

With year-end upon us, it’s easy to feel that the busy holiday shopping season – and top revenue period for retail profits – has already passed. Although Black Friday and the traditional holiday shopping season have come and gone, retailers can still “make hay” in the weeks that follow the holiday. When consumers stir from their holiday coma in January and inventory their loot, retailers will have a prime opportunity for revenue. Indeed, January could become the “new Black Friday” if retailers take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by the post-holiday sales period.

The order of the day? Retailers should: 1. look to convert returns into exchanges (or bigger sales); 2. build community; and 3. win over customers for the rest of the year. It’s really that simple.

Think about it: how many consumers out there are happy with every present they received? Not every garment is a fit, nor every gift a hit…More likely that shoppers will visit stores in January to return unwanted or duplicate items. Retailers can take advantage of this period to help shoppers find replacement products; they can also, in many cases, help shoppers find additional, complementary items.

Optimizing the returns season opportunity requires retailers to provide a seamless, superior experience – one that even grumpy, post-holiday shoppers making exchanges or seeking discounts will find satisfying. Few shoppers relish making in-store post-holiday returns, but retailers can improve this often-negative brand experience and maximize the revenue opportunities.

How? Change shoppers’ perceptions of the process. Retailers can do this by allowing shoppers to make an appointment to facilitate their returns and exchanges. From a consumer’s perspective, it’s appealing to know that a knowledgeable associate will be waiting to help answer questions and quickly find replacement items. This helps draw shoppers into the store, as opposed to exchanging online or simply settling for the original gift. Consumers will be happier knowing they will receive a high-level experience and get the item they really want (which, upon arriving at the store, they may not even know they want). From a retailer’s perspective, appointment-based returns increase the up-sell opportunity, bring in additional revenue and build brand loyalty with consumers that will last all year.

The moral of the story? Retailers should view the time after the traditional holiday shopping period as a chance for to increase retail sales. The January period has huge potential for in-store traffic, with consumers dealing with holiday returns and even possibly looking for that specific item they may not have received over the holidays. Retail scheduling software helps merchants make sense of the holiday return chaos and deliver the best experience for both shoppers and consumers.

Want to learn more? Stop by the TimeTrade booth, number 2235, at the NRF Big Show in New York next month. The team will be on hand to chat about how retailers can capitalize on “returns season” to get consumers what they need, build lasting relationships and make January more profitable than ever before.

Whether you’re at the show or not, be sure to follow @timetrade for all the latest from the NRF show floor.

Personal shopping has long been the privilege of the elite. For example, at Harrod’s in London, the minimum spend for personal shopping service is the equivalent of $4,000 USD, where you get a personal style coach that will tailor every purchase to your liking.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend that much on the average shopping trip, so will the average person ever reach the heights of elite personal shopping? The short answer is yes. Personal shopping is already happening and is helping a much larger group of people make informed buying decisions.

Personal shopping is another arm of the “Concierge Economy.” With apps like Uber and OpenTable, everyone with a smartphone has a driver waiting or a reservation at their favorite restaurant. But, unlike Uber or OpenTable, personal shopping will not be provided by a new service. It will be the same retailers providing a more personalized shopping service to every customer that walks through the door.

By offering customers a self-service retail appointment scheduling option over any channel, a customer’s digital touch point can be converted into a highly personalized, in-store meeting. Once in the store, customers can meet with knowledgeable associates that have instant access to their customer profile and purchase history. Associates can then roam around the store with the customer, armed with a mobile device that gives them in-depth product and consumer knowledge at their fingertips. This enables employees to operate more efficiently and intelligently while providing a shopping experience tailored to each customer’s individual needs.

Intended to be a personal shopper, a new app called Mona allows consumers to enter in preferences and other specifics, such as price. It can even scan your email to look at previous receipts and other retail communications to better inform its decisions. The app then scours the web, presenting the user with potential purchases. However, it misses the mark as a personal shopping service in that it only helps consumers find what they’re looking for. Most people look to personal shoppers for advice based on the latest fashion trends so they can buy what’s going to be popular this year, not last year. Purchases based on past purchase history will only propagate fashion faux pas. It also keeps consumers from discovering new things that they might like. Personal shopping is about having someone more knowledgeable help you make buying decisions. Apps like Mona can’t do that like a real person can in a store where you can also see the product and even try it on.

At the end of the day, it’s virtually impossible to take the person out of personal shopping. The one-on-one experience and feeling of exclusivity is what shoppers crave. What’s more, today’s retailers are already set up to operate this way. In fact, leading retailers are already making strides in terms of creating a highly personalized in-store experience.

TimeTrade recently conducted a survey of 1,029 consumers, which asked in-depth questions regarding their perceptions and behaviors around retail shopping. What the survey reveals is that the in-store experience is more relevant than ever. To learn more about The Power of In-Store Service, click here.

Since the Internet first became mainstream, I have heard stories about the “death of traditional retail.” Analysts and industry pundits have long predicted how traditional brick-and-mortar retailers would ‘go the way of dinosaur’ in favor of their online counterparts.

A recent TimeTrade research report, The State of Retail, suggests that these opinions are far from the reality by shedding light on consumers

Despite the hype around e-commerce and online shopping, consumers still look to shop in the physical store. TimeTrade’s study investigates consumer preferences and features data collected from a survey of over 1,000 consumers focusing on their perceptions and habits around retail shopping.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Consumers prefer Brick & Mortar over Online Stores: More than 70% of consumers would prefer to shop a brick & mortar Amazon store versus Amazon.com
  • In-store expertise drives purchase volume: 90% of consumers are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable associate
  • In-store purchasing preferences span generations: 92% of responding millennials plan to shop in-store in 2015 as often or more than they did in 2014
  • Mobile purchasing is slow to grow: Only 13% of respondents have previously made a purchase using a mobile device

The survey data suggests that consumer retail shopping trends are favoring the brick-and-mortar model, despite perceptions that the rise of e-tailers would jeopardize the physical retail store. One Inc. article points out that even traditional e-tailers such as Amazon and Warby Parker are realizing the importance of the in-store experience as they open physical locations.

The findings of the report are clear: Consumers prefer buying in-store vs online. Given this information, the study suggests that retailers employ an omni-channel strategy that converts an initial online inquiry into a high-value, in-store experience. Once in the store, retailers must give customers prompt service with a knowledgeable store associate.

To read the full TimeTrade report, visit www.timetrade.com/state-of-retail.

 

Photo attribution: Public.Resource.Org, Used under a creative commons license

Online retailers are a huge force in retail. Early doom-sayers predicted that online retailers would decimate brick-and-mortar stores. Brick-and-mortar clothing stores however hold one gimmick online retailers can’t. They offer a high sensory connection with the product.

Online virtual dressing rooms give customers a similar ability to visualize the product they might find in a store. So how can on-the-ground retail stores protect that key component of the shopping experience? Better in-store dressing room technology, like augmented reality or smartphone integration, enhances retail customer experience off the web and it could bolster sales.

In-store technology like smartphone integration makes customers’ lives easier. A&G Labs have developed a fitting room concept called MVSE which combines online and in store shopping, CassandraDaily.com reported. “MVSE brings some of young consumers’ favorite online shopping features— namely, reviews, recommendations, shopping history, social sharing, and discounts—into the dressing room,” the article said. Cassandra reported the system would include “a touchscreen in the fitting room, a smartphone in the hands of customers, and a tablet in the hands of sales clerk.” The system would “help retailers upsell existing customers and win over new ones through social sharing.”


Engaging the Mobile Shopper for Online Appointment Scheduling
Download the Brief

Engaging the Mobile Shopper

Mobile is quickly becoming the most important reference tool for everything we do. A study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers found the average mobile user checks their phone nearly 150 times per day. That’s almost ten times every waking hour! In this day and age, if it’s not on my mobile, it doesn’t exist.

Download the mobile shopping brief to discover how you can engage the mobile shopper.

More interesting dressing room technology could simply make in-store retail shopping more fun. Retail stores that survive will be mainly about the experience of shopping, a Huffington Post article in 2014 said. Like many other companies, Ebay has purchased a startup designing holographic augmented reality software that “can be used in dressing rooms to instantly try on different colors of clothing or different styles… without physically trying them on,” the article says.

“Physical shopping will become a lot more fun because it’s going to have to be,” said retail expert Doug Stephens in the article.

Augmented reality tech could actually increase the conversion of prospective buyers into sales as well, Mashable recently suggested. In the article, Matt Szymczyk from AR dressing room company Zugara said that though brick-and-mortar AR is currently expensive, it’s an important link between the web and the world. “It provides a unique in-between phase for brick-and-mortar businesses,” Szymczyk said for the article.

The doom-sayers weren’t just off the mark, they were dead wrong. The internet won’t kill retail, but it will help it. Technology and the internet are simply being combined more and more with the in-store shopping experience to make it more fun, and more profitable.

Black Friday is coming. We all know the drill – buckle up and get ready for the mob. Crazed shoppers, red-eyed from the night long wait will pack the aisles in a yearly frenzy like no other. But the frenzy may be more subdued and, perhaps, even orderly this year depending on what technology stores are using. In-store mapping and smart phone beacons are technologies to look out for this Friday. On a big retail day, the two tools could improve usually hectic foot traffic flow and get customers to the deals they’re hunting for.

Many in-store mapping apps now work a hyperlocal level, to help stores manage foot traffic. In June, BusinessWire announced that mapping company Aisle411 would launch a project with Google’s Project Tango to provide Walgreens customers with an in store mapping app which would combine list shopping, augmented reality and product beacons to enhance their in-store navigational experience. The app lets customers create a list, and then directs them to each product with a GPS-like map, while highlighting products on sale in the aisles as they pass. Look out for other stores this Friday that use mapping software like Meridian, or Point Inside (Target, Lowe’s). Black Friday is a time when customers will need direction more than ever. With apps like these, prepared customers may well be strolling around with a new air of direction.

Smart phone beacon apps alert customers to discounts they may not have been aware of. Typically the difficulty in using smart phone beacons arises with customer interest. John McDermott for Digiday writes…

In order for a retailer to use beacons to reach consumers, the consumers have to download that store’s app, open it when they’re in the store and turn on their Bluetooth signal. That’s a lot of steps just to be able to have a store serve you a push note about a sale on jeans.”

But perhaps Black Friday offers a new venue for beacons. According to Marketing Land, a survey by beacon app company Swirl reported 61% of customers say they “would do more holiday shopping at stores that delivered mobile content and offers while they shop.” Black Friday is about the deals. Beacon apps that guide customers to discount items may be in demand to make hectic shopping smoother.

Black Friday will always be crazy. But as smart phone technology gets better, and stores begin to integrate more mapping software and beacons into their multi channel shopping strategies the big day might get a little more manageable.


Engaging the Mobile Shopper for Online Appointment Scheduling
Download the Brief

Engaging the Mobile Shopper

Mobile is quickly becoming the most important reference tool for everything we do. A study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers found the average mobile user checks their phone nearly 150 times per day. That’s almost ten times every waking hour! In this day and age, if it’s not on my mobile, it doesn’t exist.

Download the mobile shopping brief to discover how you can engage the mobile shopper.