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.

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.

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Will Virtual Fitting Rooms Replace the In-Store Experience?

Online clothing sales in the United States is growing faster than any other product in the e-commerce segment. This is due to improvements in retailer return policies, and because of advancements in online merchandising and the technologies available to consumers. One example of this is many online retailers offering what are known as “virtual dressing rooms,” where consumers can use augmented or virtual reality to “try on” garments they are interested in. This has led some to believe that virtual dressing rooms may make the in-store experience obsolete – but is this really the case?

How a Virtual Fitting Room Works

Leading virtual dressing room technologies allow customers to plug in specific body metrics (height, weight, hip width, etc.) to create a “robotic mannequin” which resembles the shape of their body. Consumers can then select articles of clothing they would like to try on and have their simulated mannequin show how the garment contours to their body from different angles, they can make sizes larger or smaller, choose different colors (if available), add shoes, accessories, and more.

Why Virtual Fitting Rooms Are Not the Answer

While they are certainly impressive at first glance, there are a number of reasons why virtual dressing rooms simply cannot replace brick-and-mortar fitting rooms:

The Technology Is Unfamiliar

Consumers may be unsure how to use the virtual dressing room technology or they may feel uncomfortable with it. This can be off-putting, leading customers away from making a purchase they otherwise might have made.

Consumers Don’t Want to Bother

Unless a consumer can simply upload an image of him or herself to the virtual dressing room or use 3D-body scanning, it’s unlikely that he or she will want to bother taking several measurements to create his or her own virtual mannequin. Not only is it time consuming, but it may be stressful or upsetting.

Nothing Beats Being Able to Feel the Garment When On

Virtual reality technology cannot show exactly how well a garment will compliment the unique contours of one’s body. As advanced as this technology is today, nothing perfectly mimics the experience of trying on a top or a pair of jeans and seeing and feeling the garment on in person.

Reduce Returns by Providing the Perfect Fitting Room Experience

Reducing the number of returned items is one of the leading reasons why retailers choose to incorporate virtual dressing rooms into their sales and marketing strategy. However, while the virtual dressing room can potentially reduce the number of returns from online consumers, they must still pay for the shipping and handling of returned items, take care of credit card processing fees, pay the repackaging expenses, and deal with restocking fees.

When a consumer has the opportunity to physically try on a garment, he or she can see firsthand whether or not they like the fit of the item, the color, and the style. If they choose not to buy it, a shop associate can easily restock the item right then and there.

Instead of investing in a virtual dressing room, retailers should invest in technology which will help them discover how they can be providing the best fitting room experience in their shop. By understanding how they can create the optimal fitting room environment in their store, retailers can substantially increase sales, improve customer retention, and streamline the entire fitting room process.

Ways That Retailers Are Leaving Money on the Table

While retail has never been as competitive as it is today there have also never been so many opportunities to increase conversions, boost customer loyalty, and create a unique and pleasing in-store customer experience.

Before you seek out completely new avenues to help your business, take a look over your shoulder and consider existing factors that may be causing you to lose out on potential profit.

1. Poor Customer Service

Poor customer service is usually associated with lazy, apathetic, or downright rude sales associates. While there’s no doubt that these qualities represent poor customer service, it’s likely that there is more that you or your staff can be doing to deliver better customer service.

Train Associates to Read the Customer

Your associates do not need to know your customers personally in order to reach out and connect with them. A smile and a greeting can go a long way in creating a welcoming atmosphere, and asking customers what they are looking for and for what occasion can help the associate get a sense of who the customer is and how they can help them.

Imagine if your associates did “know” your customer. With advancements in today’s retail technology, your associate can learn a customer’s name, demographic information, and past purchase history so that he or she can make intuitive product suggestions that make sense for that unique individual.

Start Upselling and Cross-Selling

There are so many missed opportunities in retail because associates are not upselling or cross-selling. Associates can:

  • Suggest relevant products
  • Recommend accessories or complementary pieces
  • Share information about special offers
  • Compliment the customer on their item choice or fit

Communicate with Your Existing Customers

Customer retention strategies are critical in continuing sales and building your brand. Provide these customers with exclusive offers and send out personalized emails segmented based on previous purchases or demographic information so that your associates can make better recommendations.

2. Long Waits for Service

Recent TimeTrade surveys across various industries—including retail—revealed that the average person is not going to wait more than ten minutes for service. Anything longer than ten minutes translates into a poor customer experience and a loss of revenue for your brand.

Retailers often acknowledge that there are long wait times for change rooms or for customers to receive help from sales associates. The problem is that companies simply do not have the budget to afford having an extra person or two during a shift.

One way to improve wait times is to take advantage of what today’s retail technologies have to offer. By using the right technologies for your business, such as a queue management system or self-service tools, you can ease those lengthy customer wait times and improve your bottom line.

3. Failure to Efficiently Service Customers in Fitting Rooms

A customer who is already willing to try on a piece of clothing from your store is one who is fairly committed to buying something from your shop. The more customers you have entering your fitting rooms, the more likely you’ll have customers leaving the store with a purchase.

But the problem retailers face with regard to the fitting room is often twofold:

  1. Associates are usually not doing enough to make sure that the customer gets into a fitting room.
    Associates should be trained to start chatting with customers about trying clothing on in the fitting room as soon as possible while also encouraging customers to ask them for help. Once a customer is in a room, it’s important that the associate continues his or her relationship with the customer by finding them additionally requested sizes, colors, or styles.
  2. The fitting room is not suitable for your customer.
    The fitting room is where your customers are making most of their purchasing decisions. Because it is a small enclosed space and because the customer may be partially undressed, it is difficult for him or her to leave to find new products if the ones they came in to try on were not the right fit.

When properly designed, however, the fitting room itself can increase conversions and customer loyalty. Make it easy for customers and associates to contact one another through a “help” or “call” button so that both parties can check in and ask questions throughout the “trying on” process.

Make Data-Driven Decisions for Your Business

Uncovering opportunities to capitalize on what you already have is easier said than done. Without knowing where improvements can and should be made, you may be wasting your time and hard earned business capital.

A retail strategy should only be changed if you have the data to back those changes up. With the right metrics, you will know exactly why you are suffering from poor customer service, extended wait times, and sub-par conversions, and can truly do something about it.

Are You Making This In-Store Experience Mistake?

This brief interview with Alert Tech’s CEO Marge Laney highlights how most apparel retailers are focusing on the wrong thing when it comes to customer experience.

Marge shares what retailers really should be looking at if they want to prioritize profits.

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The Power of the Customer’s Journey (& How You Can Use it to Fix Your Fitting Rooms)

How intimately familiar are you with your customer’s journey? Do you know what brings your customer into your store? Do you know what happens while she’s in your store to make or break her decision to buy from you? What about after she leaves – what can you do to help ensure she doesn’t return her purchase?

An analysis of your customer’s journey can leave you with valuable insights into areas of weakness/opportunity.

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How to Use Technology to Surprise and Delight Your Customers

As a retailer, you’re well aware of the importance of customer service. Exceptional customer service has the ability to surprise and delight customers and improve your bottom line.

With supportive technology, you can not only surprise and delight your customers, but provide qualitative measures of customer service, so that your team can make adjustments as needed.

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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.