From Clicks to Bricks: Omnichannel Customers Expect More from Retailers

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From Clicks to Bricks: Omnichannel Customers Expect More from Retailers

By Oscar Sachs, Co-founder and CEO, Salesfloor - 11/22/2016
With new technology used by both shoppers and retailers, brick-and-mortar stores are facing massive changes. There is growing demand for improved sales and service from retailers, especially as more customers choose to research and make purchases online.

In order to find out how consumers’ shopping habits vary in-store versus online, Salesfloor conducted a study of 500 U.S. consumers, called the 2016 Omnichannel Retail Associate Study, on how sales associates impact the shopping experience. The results are that shoppers want to connect with associates when they shop online. There are several benefits for retailers who make their store associates available to serve online shoppers.

Sales associates have a direct influence on customers’ omnichannel shopping path
Eighty-seven percent of shoppers say their in-store purchase decisions are influenced by store associates, and more than half of shoppers feel that service is lacking online. It’s clear that many retailers have not leveraged their associates to service online customers, which is becoming an increasingly growing segment of overall shoppers. It’s estimated that the number of online shoppers this year – 211 million – will grow to nearly 224 million by 2019. No longer can retailers choose to service their online shoppers differently than those in store.

It all starts with integrating retailers’ biggest assets – their sales associates – online. Already, 84 percent of in-store shoppers seek out help or recommendations from sales associates and 53 percent want this option online. But this doesn’t mean retailers should haphazardly integrate a live chat button (which is often not actually staffed by local retail associates, and rather those in an undisclosed location), or rely on “Products Recommended for You” or “Products Similar to This” features.

Empowering store associates to serve online shoppers is most effectively carried out by giving sales associates their own personal version of the retailer’s e-commerce site. Once sales associates have this micro-site of their own, they can set up their own personal profile on their page, recommend their favorite items and communicate one-on-one with their customers. What’s more, shoppers can make purchases at any time through their favorite sales associate. They no longer need to stop by the retailer during store hours to buy – instead, they can go to their associate’s page and shop directly at anytime, anywhere, and know they are buying from someone they know and trust.

The impact on sales and marketing initiatives
This strategy can have a huge impact on sales figures and marketing campaigns, if executed correctly. With 58 percent of shoppers saying it would be helpful to see sales associates’ recommendations and insights online, there is a direct correlation between associate and customer relationships, brand loyalty and retailers’ bottom line.

Eighty-seven percent of shoppers are more likely to buy an item recommended from a sales associate and 77 percent of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase from a sales associate who has helped them before. It’s clear that recommendations and relationships play an influential role in driving sales.

The relationships that associates have with shoppers should be leveraged across all channels and especially online, since 73 percent of shoppers say sales associates who remember their personal preferences and style impact how much they buy. The research clearly indicates that when retailers integrate their sales associates online, these relationships can be nurtured at a localized level, which enhances the personalization aspect even more. Shoppers are able to engage with and talk directly to an associate at their local retail store, rather than a call center or support agent employee. The benefit to this is obvious – the local associate knows the local trends and can easily meet the shopper in person at the brick-and-mortar store when necessary. 

Additionally, this provides the opportunity to maximize customer engagement through marketing campaigns. Retailers can leverage the relationships their local associates have created within their community to communicate one-on-one with shoppers and establish greater connections for deeper and ongoing relationships. Shoppers are saying that they want this, too – 62 percent would rather receive personalized marketing emails from an individual associate and 60 percent are more likely to share their email address and personal information with retailers if they know the communication is facilitated by an individual associate.

The bottom line is that retail sales associates are the driving force behind fostering customer relationships and driving sales, but they’re excluded from serving the online customer. Instead, customers are left to sort through hundreds of online product pages with little to no help, causing frustration and, possibly, a loss of sales.

While the idea of omnichannel retailing is all the buzz across every aspect of today’s retail landscape, most retailers have not yet empowered their omnichannel associates to serve their customers online. It’s time for retail sales associates to make themselves available to service and market directly to local online shoppers, better personalize the online shopping experience and be empowered to drive more sales beyond the physical sales floor. Retailers should make the change now to redefine the role of the sales associate. 

Oscar Sachs is co-founder and CEO of Salesfloor, which connects retail sales associates with online shoppers for a more personalized customer experience.

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