Millennial Women Tell Retailers How to Improve the Shopping Experience

The twenty-first century has had a significant impact on the way people shop, especially when it comes to clothing and accessories. This leaves retailers asking more questions about how they can improve the shopping experience, often without concrete answers.

At Alert Tech, we recently hired a retail technologist to answer many of the pressing questions retailers have. We conducted an informal survey involving Millennial women between the ages of nineteen and thirty-three, and what was uncovered about their shopping habits and retail preferences was quite surprising.

Most Women Go Online Before They Buy

Over 75 percent of the women surveyed stated that they go online and choose what they want to purchase before they go out, suggesting that most purchases are pre-meditated and not a spur of the moment decision.

All participants agreed that they went shopping with a specific product in mind. However, they also admitted that each trip typically ended with multiple purchases being made – the majority being goods and accessories that would complement their primary purchase.

Shopping Can Be a Frustrating, Time-Consuming Experience

All participants agreed that upon entering a store they begin to browse through the store’s offerings, hoping to stumble upon their pre-meditated purchase while moving through the racks and shelves.

Because the presentation of goods differ from store to store—some arranging items by color (which each of the twenty-two ladies agreed they hated), some by season, and some by designer—the participants said that they find themselves aimlessly wandering through a store feeling confused. They felt lost and frustrated.

Other retail issues voiced by the participants were:

  • They are unable to find the product they want. As a result they head to a competitor’s store to find an alternative product despite several other alternatives likely being available in the store they are in.
  • They are unable to find the product in the correct size. They then visit different stores in hopes of finding a product that will fit.
  • They find the right product and right size but they don’t like it. They give up on that store and head to another.

Approximately one-third of the participants said that they would consider continuing to browse through the products of the store, but their feelings of disappointment lessens their desire to buy. The remaining two-thirds stated they would go to another store and start the purchase process all over again.

Your Product Is Not Worth the Wait

Each woman agreed that after finding the right size she would head to the fitting room to try it on. Eighty percent of the time the participants said they would buy the product.

The issue the ladies had was having to wait to try it on. The participants all agreed that unless the product was for an important event (i.e. for a wedding or as a gift) they would not wait:

  1. For a fitting room
  2. In line to purchase the product

One solution may be to allow consumers to buy a product online and try it on at the store. Twenty of the twenty-two participants said that if they see a product they like online, they would head to the store, walk through the door, and try it on immediately—that is, if there wasn’t a wait for the fitting room. If it fit they would keep the item and if not, they would exchange it.

Here’s more good news for retailers: the participants said that if complementary products were also available to try on at the same time, there was a 90 percent chance that they would make more than one purchase and they would not head to a competitor’s shop. This can be even further enhanced if a retailer had the ability to check into the purchase history (i.e. style, color preference, size, etc.) of a shopper so that sales staff can make more intuitive product suggestions.

Personal Service Dramatically Increases Chance of Sale

Each survey participant had visited Victoria’s Secret at one point, though only eight had used the fitting room. These participants were particularly appreciative of the call buttons available in the fitting room to call an attendant when they needed a different size, color, or product (especially in this situation, where she would otherwise need to completely re-dress to find another garment). Each woman agreed that personal service significantly increased a retailer’s chance of making a sale.

Personal service can also eliminate the aimless wandering women find themselves doing when in a store. Customers are busy people. If you save them time by offering what they want when they want it, you are more likely to make a sale on either the original product or the complementary product(s) offered.

Understand Buyer Behavior with Alert Tech

Retailers can enhance their buyer’s experience from the beginning through to the end with Alert Tech’s innovative retail solutions. With over twenty-five years of experience in retail and actively present in over seven thousand stores, our platform has been proven to boost sales, improve the customer experience, and give retailers the insight they need to survive and thrive in today’s retail industry.

Four Things Retailers Can Do to “Keep up” with Changing Consumer Preferences

How people shop, research, and buy products is changing faster now than ever before. In order for retailers to survive and scale during these tumultuous times they need to revisit their overall strategy and see if it is aligning with the consumer preferences of the twenty-first century.

These are four things retailers can do to stay on top of things.

1. Act Fast and Act Early

The number one rule is not to let the brand get stale. The longer one waits to take action, the more costly it’s going to be to acquire leads and draw customers away from the competition. Instead, retailers should take the time now to make necessary decisions for the future and avoid the “slow no” at all costs. The key is to be proactive, not responsive.

2. Differentiate Your Brand

In the past retailers were able to differentiate themselves based on logistics such as the city or country they were located in. Now with almost every business

holding virtual real estate online, retailers have to think more about what makes them valuable and how they can fit into the lives of their customers.

Cost, convenience, and necessity are all factors customers will be taking into consideration before buying a product. Decision makers and stakeholders should ask themselves questions such as:

  • What makes my product unique, and why do my customers need it?
  • What are my shipping costs?
  • Do I deliver products straight to my customer’s door, and if not, can I?

3. Focus on Creating “Customers for Life”

Stores could initially lose money trying to capture customers through the use of promotions, discounts, and other resources, but if they put the focus on acquiring customers for life rather than snagging that one single transaction, it is a profitable investment that will pay off in the long run.

4. Deliver the Best Omnichannel Experience

How customers engage with the store must resonate with the overall brand. This means paying close attention to website and app design, reading and reacting to what people have to say about the brand on social media, and providing/evolving the right in-store and online experience. 

For example, International Property Group CBRE and Ipsos Mori surveyed more than 13,000 European consumers in 2016, and the results suggested that customers want greater integration between channels and increased use of technology in physical stores.

Learn More about Customer Preferences with Alert Tech

Alert Tech is a globally recognized fitting room solution leader that helps retailers meet the demands of the twenty-first century consumer. Our revolutionary platform gives retailers the insight they need to uncover exactly what happens from the time a customer enters a physical or virtual store to when he or she leaves so that they can deliver the ultimate brand experience.

To learn more, check out our unique solutions here.

“Slow No” Is Quickly Killing Retail

I recently came across an article titled “Retail Reframe: Death by ‘Slow No’” written by retail speaker and strategist Carol Spieckerman. In the post, Spieckerman delves into the uncomfortable truth many retail technology and solutions partners face today: due to retailer indecisiveness they are indirectly (or in some cases, directly) being told “no” over the course of several months, or even years, and it’s killing their company.

She did a fantastic job putting her finger on a key problem in retail. I will take it a step further, there are issues that I’ve encountered in my own experience while in retail that have me believing that this “slow no” problem is far more serious than Spieckerman admits.

The “Slow No” is like tire kicking for enterprise retail: Looking and strategizing while the field of play crumbles around your brand. By the time you pull the trigger, it’s a different landscape. That solution provider you were working with for two years has the new technology now, but you’re going to have a lot of meetings before you can get a pilot off the ground. Better hold off until next season.

These moments below happen even when clear success has been shown. Massive customer engagement, clear success stories. I know the difference, and I definitely call it out when there isn’t a fit. These situations are fits.

Cultural Blanket of “Slow No” is Destroying Enterprise Retail

My position has allowed me to work with dozens of retailers around the world. Over recent years I have witnessed brands struggle, stores close, and brands excel in their space.

I have found this “slow no” to be a leading indicator of these successes and failures.

The one thing that the struggling and closed stores had in common was their inability to act. In the article, Spieckerman touches the fact that “no” often means “not right now,” and I agree with that. However- that “not right now” needs to be understood and applied carefully. If you’re finding that “not right now” is just your brands cultural version of “slow no”, then start working on a way to be decisive.

There is a strong correlation between your ability to make decisions and your ability to succeed.

Add to this a common occurance of having the person whose job it is to bring the brand “Ideas and new tech” not being the person whose job it is to get those technologies into the fleet… trouble.

Being in a constant state of consideration creates a false sense of security.

Competitive Advantages are Dying on the Table During Your Reorganization

The era of the cutting edge POS saving the brand millions have passed. Everything going forward is bigger, more interconnected, and requires integration (sorry, this isn’t all plug and play).

Especially the Star Trek “store of the future” you talked about in the board room.

In many cases, head quarters staff are not in their job roles long enough to work through configuring and deploying an effective new retail strategy (or technology). Inherent inter-department company politics can create lengthy blocks which can bring progress to a halt. It has repeatedly been my experience that even the best proponents for new technology see the transition coming from so far out that they freeze well before it arrives.

Tight budgets for leadership and HQ head count cuts are hard to reconcile with project management cycles. Be open about those realities when the project kicks off so solution providers can keep up the tempo.

Despite technology being essential when it comes to thriving in this space, there is an immense lack of resources and experience when it comes to tech-savvy individuals in the retail industry. I suspect that pending H1B changes are going to rock the industry as well. It also does not help that the IT department is usually high on the business resources chopping block.

A key example was a major global conglomerate retailer that just announced massive store closures. They were unable after 5 conference calls to get a team together that could enact a router policy change on a single pilot stores stack. That’s not a joke.

If this sounds familiar it’s time to move quickly to make some changes.

Playing Against a Stacked Deck

The best retailers in the industry are risk-takers. They are not afraid of failure and are innovative at their very core. They know their brand so well that they project it and draw customers to them. They don’t have an existential crisis about “who is the customer” and they don’t hire consultants to periodically dive in and tell them. Be genuine and set the trend.

I’m looking at you LuluLemon. Great work.

Amazon, has ended hundreds of online retailers in its wake. Once they have a strategy in place the company pushes it forward at breakneck speed, which has turned them into an online retail giant. Add in a dash of fawning media praise for projects that don’t do so well, such as Amazon Go, and you have a recipe for tough competition.

Don’t play their game. You are different – you have stores, you have a brand, you can tell stories that they simply cannot.
Get to work connecting your Associates with your Customers. Believe in both groups.

Beating the “Slow No”

Retailers have to start trusting their gut instincts more and initiate strong calls to action if they want to beat the “slow no.” Here are a few ways I think this can be achieved:

  • Create timelines that inspire action. Scale your decision making and initiative testing timelines so that they coincide with the amount of time the teams making decisions are in their decision making roles.
  • Use metrics that work, and go with your gut. Don’t believe a third party analytics suite, and don’t believe that comps matter. Get into the stores and realize that the only metric that matters is the experience in the store. Find a metric that makes you proactive instead of reactive, and don’t believe a red-light/green-light black box.
  • Hire young, motivated talent and believe in them. Younger teams tend not to accept a problem as being a permanent one, and are more willing to take the risks necessary to find a solution. Don’t just hire them- give them authority to innovate. Make that the culture. If you’re not finding people who think fast, fail fast, and aren’t afraid of some misses- you’re setting up your own retail “slow no” moment.
  • Start celebrating risk. Wall Street may frown upon you and fellow retailers may give you the cold shoulder, but remember that the best competitors in retail are regularly praised for their boldness—even when their plans fail. This isn’t War Games and you’re not Matthew Broderick.
  • Pick solution providers with passion and expertise. Obviously, that means working with me if you’re focused on the fitting room or call buttons, or any number of other things – but really it means finding someone who you can trust to partner with and make it happen. Nothing is plug and play at scale, and that’s what you need to be focused on as a retailer. Find industry vetted partners who can deploy to every single store. Find your advantages and move them to those stores- rinse and repeat.
  • Don’t spec technology that’s only for the flagship. If you can’t move it to the whole chain, stop chasing it. The industry needs to show experience to as many people as possible and fast. Sure it looks awesome in NYC|Milan|Hong Kong but it’s going to win your brand in Schaumburg and Greensboro.

Retailers who drag their feet and choose inaction over action miss out on opportunities and are immediately outpaced by their forward-thinking competitors. I believe it is those which choose to embrace the ever-changing landscape of retail by implementing new technologies, producing clear expectations and outcomes at the end of every meeting, those who take action are going to be able to bend “slow no” to their will and stop it in its tracks.

How Retailers Are Answering the Age of Consumer-Driven Retail

The retail landscape today looks quite different than it did a decade ago. How customers are making purchasing decisions and buying items has changed significantly. Customers will often be physically present in a store, yet still consult their smartphone to complete the buying decision. They will read product reviews, compare pricing, take pictures, and sometimes even purchase the product itself.

Rather than struggling with this consumer behavior shift, successful retail companies are coming out on top by embracing technology and blurring the line between the online and in-store shopping experience.

Delivering a Seamless Customer Experience Throughout All Retail Channels

From discovery to being ready to buy, next generation shoppers want to be able to do it all with minimal effort.

Retailers are responding to this demand by investing business capital into syncing systems. Global inventory management, merchandising, and logistical data meets with online platforms to provide a true omnichannel experience. This gives customers the information they need to know at their fingertips, such as real-time item availability and shipping times. Multi-channel communication also means that a retailer can eliminate overselling by viewing unified sales and inventory information across all stores and retail channels.

Empowering Employees and Customers with Technology

As global trends have shown, the prevalence of smartphones in brick and mortar stores is only going to increase over the next several years. Forward focused retailers have accepted this fact and have shifted their focus to providing a more mobile-friendly customer journey. Some examples of this which can be found in several stores today include:

  • Customers can bypass the traditional time-consuming checkout process and by using optimized websites and native smartphone apps.
  • A growing number of retailers are integrating in-store pickup or BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) technologies.
  • Retailers are providing customers with “call” buttons which allow them to receive service-on-demand from a sales associate.

Today, customers have a higher expectation of sales associates than ever. This new engagement technology means that employees can quickly respond to the needs of a customer, help them find the most suitable product, and increase the likelihood of a customer walking away with a purchase.

Gaining Better Business Intelligence to Drive Sales and Loyalty

How customers research and buy items is becoming more technologically driven, but it still does not compare to being able to physically touch and try on items. This creates an opportunity for retailers to utilize technology in order to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

Retailers now have the resources available to keep up with consumer-driven retail. With access to these tools, they can deliver a better and more memorable customer experience while driving sales and profitability.

4 Reasons Brick-and-Mortar Continues to Win Over E-Commerce

Even in an age where technology rules, people prefer shopping in store. Long live Brick-And-Mortar.

Read more

Make Data-Driven Decisions When Rightsizing Retail Stores

As the online eCommerce boom moves steadily onward, more brick-and-mortar stores are closing their doors because their brand must downsize to be financially sustainable. While the public perception of downsizing may be detrimental to local companies, rightsizing can make sure that a business continues to thrive in this volatile marketplace.

Downsizing vs. Rightsizing—What’s the Difference?

The key difference between downsizing and rightsizing is that one is reactive while the other is proactive. Downsizing is where businesses are in the position of needing to lay people off. It can be stressful, disruptive, and have a significant impact on company morale.

Rightsizing, on the other hand, is a constant part of the management process. Leaders look at a variety of factors that will affect how they run their stores, including:

  • Market needs and trends
  • Alternative approaches and new ideas
  • New technologies

The focus of rightsizing is on the future, and as such, leaders use rightsizing technologies to steer their organization in the best direction for their brand. This helps  develop a clear strategic direction, which includes the gradual hiring or re-education of employees as necessary (which, as opposed to a mass layoff, can improve how locals view your store).

Store Closures Don’t Necessarily Mean Failure

A common misconception today is that the closing of a store means that the store has failed. But with the retail landscape constantly evolving, the closing of stores is often strategic and is a reflection of how consumers are shopping as opposed to outright business failure.

 

The online retail industry is growing at a rapid rate, but brands shouldn’t react by closing all of their physical stores. Consumers, as happy as they are to shop online, are even happier to find exactly what they want in a physical store for a number of reasons, including:

  • Online retailers cannot instantly deliver what a consumer wants (many consumers want to walk away with something in-hand).
  • Shopping in a brick-and-mortar store presents the opportunity for social interaction and advice.
  • Consumers want to try things on to check the quality of the garment and to guarantee fit.

Deliver the Best In-Store Experience

The key to brick-and-mortar retailers surviving today is to differentiate themselves by delivering the best in-store experience for their consumers. Associates can go beyond asking, “Is there anything I can help you find?” and can instead be presented with an entire purchase history for that customer beforehand, allowing the associate to make more meaningful recommendations. They can reserve fitting rooms, know who is in which fitting room, and be instantly alerted the moment a customer needs assistance.

Having data on consumer preferences, the number of customers visiting stores, and conversion rates is critical in the rightsizing process. Brands can make intelligent decisions on staffing levels, what sizes and types of garments sell best in which locations, and how they can improve the customer experience.

Technology is a critical player for online and offline stores alike. With the right tools and data-driven insights, any store can increase customer conversions, see a drop in returns, and significantly boost the number of people who walk out with their next favorite piece of clothing in-hand.

How Brick and Mortar Stores Can Do More with Less

The competition between online and offline retailers is driving many businesses to search for ways to cut back and save pennies. What if we told you that you could do more with less without having to lose valuable associates, sacrifice the quality of your products, or reduce the customer experience?

You can begin to shift the performance of your shop immediately by improving communication, implementing the latest retail technology, and carrying out detailed analysis.

Implementing Effective Floor Communication

Poor floor communication can reduce the overall performance of your store. Not only can it result in apathy amongst your team, but that same bad attitude can then be communicated to your customer.

It pays to be able to effectively communicate with your teams. You can begin to revise or refine your current communications strategy in a few ways.

Centralizing All Store Communications

Assign one person (the manager, in most situations) as the single point of contact for a team. This person will become the communications coordinator who will be responsible for triaging, bundling, and expediting messages as necessary.

Reduce Any Unnecessary Store Communications

The better the quality of the communication the better your overall communication strategy will be. Before an associate asks a question or makes a comment, he or she should ask themselves the following:

  • Is the information important?
  • Does the information deliver value to the team?
  • Is the information concise?

All Communications Must Be Accessible

Your team must be able to easily access what, where, and when communications are sent in a way that is convenient and reduces their time away from the floor. The best way to do this is through technology – such communicating with handheld radios, in-store tablets and smartphones, or through your POS system.

Connecting Customers with Associates Using Technology

 

In-store technology is revolutionizing the customer experience by providing customers with a way to communicate with associates whether out on the floor or trying on clothes in a fitting room. It improves customer-associate interaction and it makes the interactions between your sales associates and the customer a lot more meaningful.

High tech in retail is valuable for a number of reasons:

  • Technology can be used to recognize an individual’s purchase history
  • Associates are provided with real-time data about the customer (i.e. demographic information, purchase history, etc.)
  • Associates can find out what is and what isn’t in-stock while being provided with realistic alternatives to present to a customer for up-selling or cross-selling
  • Customers feel empowered and have a memorable, enjoyable experience

Finding Efficiencies Through Analytics

The digital world is having a major impact on retail, particularly brick and mortar stores. Brands are able to constantly keep in touch with their customers, giving the intuition needed to anticipate a customers’ needs, make themselves more accessible, and improve company/customer interactions.

Analytics in retail delivers real-time insights to stores so that they can make the buying/selling chain more efficient. These technologies can serve many purposes including improving the customer experience, inventory management, employee empowerment, and pricing and fraud management.

See Your Shop Thrive with Retail Technology

Doing more with less does not need to mean scaling back or cutting corners. The answer is to harness what today’s retail technology has to offer so that you can deliver the optimal experience to both your customers and your associates.

 

 

Just How Important is Human Touch in the Shopping Journey

A new survey released by Mindtree challenges the idea that most shoppers do not like to be disturbed by sales associates, and highlights the power of human touch to boost sales (view the full infographic here).

With the growing importance of eCommerce, it’s easy to lose sight of the one thing every sale has in common: people. And people really do like to buy from other people. Not long ago, brick and mortar retailers were casting glances over their shoulders, worried about what the rise of online shopping would mean for their sales. It turns out some of those fears were unfounded as the majority of shoppers still prefer to do their shopping in the store.

Read on to learn more about how the human touch helps to turn shoppers into customers.

The Human Touch Matters to Shoppers

Personal interaction is one of the most effective ways to encourage a shopper to become a customer. One needs to look no further than the results of Mindtree’s 2016 shopper survey for confirmation. The study found that:

  • 70% of shoppers want to interact with sales associates;
  • 34% of customers sourced information from sales associates, and 28% asked associates about offers and discounts;
  • Sales associates are a close second to websites and online reviews as sources of customer information;
  • 40% of shoppers decide to make a purchase following a positive interaction with a sales associate, versus 28% who make a purchase without any interaction.

When it comes to making a purchase decision in the store, the value of personal interaction with a member of your team is undeniable. However, the same study observed that 40% of shoppers say they are “never able to find a sales associate” when they want assistance. Clearly, there is some room for improvement when it comes to meeting shoppers’ expectations!

What Does this Mean to Retailers?

In-store sales and human touch boost the bottom line for a few reasons:

  1. Cross-sell and upselling: A sophisticated algorithm can make recommendations based on what’s in an online shopper’s cart, but it can’t make judgments based on what the customer is wearing, or register their look of delight or disgust at suggested items. An in-person connection with a sales associate lends itself to unparalleled upsell and cross-selling opportunities.
  2. Increased sales, decreased returns: Customers who have had the chance to touch and try on merchandise are more confident in their choices. As an example, let’s look at apparel shoppers. When they’ve interacted with a sales associate in the fitting room, shoppers are three times as likely to buy products from that store, and their return rates are dramatically lower.
  3. Associates can do their job even better when supported by technology: When sales associates are empowered to do their job with helpful technology, the benefits of in-person interaction can be significantly enhanced. For example, fitting room call buttons allow sales associates help customers in the fitting room on the customers’ schedule – without disruptive and ineffective door-knocking.

As it turns out, there really is no substitute for the hands-on nature of personal service. This is an area where traditional retail stores continue to maintain an edge over eCommerce.

The Human Touch Contributes to Retail Success

The majority of shoppers want to interact with associates, and shoppers who have this interaction are far more likely to make a purchase. Smart retailers will do all they can to ensure that when a shopper visits their store, that individual experiences a positive human connection.

Why is the Fitting Room so Important in Retail Analytics?

Relatively speaking, the fitting room is one of the smallest areas of any retail store. These unobtrusive rooms are often tucked away in the back, and as a retailer, you could easily forget all about them. That is, until you understand the importance of this small-but-mighty area of the store.

For example, did you know that fitting rooms are key to increased sales and decreased returns? Let’s look at why the fitting room is crucial to retail performance.

Read more

The Dirty Truth About Magic Mirrors

Brick and mortar retail stores are looking for ways to incorporate technology in ways that improve customer experience and create measurable ROI. Especially appealing are technologies that lend themselves to a more omnichannel experience. Web makes retail easier! Metrics, analytics, insights galore.

  • What is the best way to do this?
  • Where does it make sense to connect the online to the in-store experience?
  • How can you readily incorporate the Internet of Things into your physical stores?

Theoretically, the “Magic Mirror” should be one answer to these questions.

There are a few different versions of these magic-machines, but they all rely on a complex recommendation engine that draw from catalog and in-store inventory, as well as allow in-store shoppers to save items to their in-store shopping cart.

Despite the bells and whistles, Magic Mirrors remain far from ubiquitous – or even common. Why hasn’t this “sexy” technology been more widely adopted?

And no- it’s not just because of the finger prints…

Read more