Complete the Promise of the On-Demand Economy with Personalized Attention
Gary Ambrosino, President and CEO of TimeTrade
Today’s connected, mobile world delivers instant gratification through “on-demand” goods and services. In the retail space, online shopping offers a convenient and useful avenue for purchasing, essentially bringing the store to the consumer and enabling them to buy directly from the couch, the office, or just about anywhere with mobile commerce. And yet, shoppers continue to flock to stores in droves. Why? Because the in-store experience adds a crucial component to the aforementioned promise of the on-demand economy: personalized service and attention.
“Uberization” Can Only Take You So Far
Uber’s ridesharing model has revolutionized the goods and services industry. It is now the standard to provide service at a moment’s notice, giving consumers immediate access to what they’ve requested. As “Uberization” increases consumer appetite for quick and timely goods and services, brick-and-mortar retailers are afforded a unique but challenging opportunity. Taking this trend one step further by personalizing each and every retail experience with “we’ve been expecting you service” is a surefire way for a retailer to distinguish itself from the pack. Consumers will get quality products with the speed they’ve come to expect, along with the individual attention that many brands have forgotten in this technology-driven age.
The proliferation of online shopping notwithstanding, brick-and-mortar retail continues to outstrip e-commerce. And according to research from TimeTrade, consumer affinity for in-store shopping isn’t fading any time soon. The company surveyed more than 5,000 consumers about their shopping habits and perceptions, as well as 100 senior retail executives about their plans and views on customer experience. The 2016 State of Retail Report notes that almost three-quarters of respondents plan to shop in-store in 2016 as much as they did in 2015. Eighteen percent expect to shop in-store more than last year.
According to the research, necessity isn’t the only reason shoppers still flood stores. Seventy-one percent of customers indicated they would head in-store when given the choice between buying the same item in-person or online. When asked why, eighty-five percent of consumers reported they prefer to interact with products before buying.
Add Value with Attention
As Uber is synonymous with convenience, retail stores need to be linked with knowledgeable service and purchasing assistance. Respondents ranked prompt, personalized service and smart, informed recommendations as the qualities they value most when shopping.
For brick-and-mortar retailers, the ability to provide a strong, personalized in-store experience is the main attribute that sets them apart from their online counterparts. With this in mind, it’s crucial that retail stores capitalize on that opportunity.
Timely service also helps combat the threat of online competition. Limiting wait times and making interactions crisp and efficient gives consumers the experience they’ve come to expect. Survey responses support this “need for speed,” with eighty-five percent of consumers noting that they would abandon a dressing room and store altogether if not given prompt attention.
Unfortunately, the data shows that consumer expectations are not being met. Only twenty-seven percent of consumers polled feel that traditional big name brands are making an effort to provide personalized service. Each shopper snubbed presents a missed opportunity for brands to secure a loyal customer and consistent purchases.
The Right Time to Buy
It’s clear that shoppers value a store’s commitment to great service, but if consumers can’t find the time to make it to a store, that effort never pays off. Trips to the store are not always the highest priority for busy consumers working long hours and navigating a tight schedule. But with the right tools, retailers can help ensure customers get prompt attention, making them more willing and able to slot in a quick shopping trip in between appointments. TimeTrade’s research highlights the fact that consumers are receptive to the idea. Fifty-nine percent of consumers polled would schedule an in-store appointment from a device of their choosing if a retailer offered that capability.
Brick-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to radically transform the industry. It’s clear that consumer expectations are growing. Shoppers want attention fast and with a personal touch. By providing friendly, informed assistance that caters to a busy consumer base, retailers can give shoppers the best of both worlds: the convenience of online shopping with the speed, guidance, and experience only a knowledgeable store associate can provide.
Gary Ambrosino is the president and CEO of TimeTrade, a Saas provider of appointment driven personalization.