How can I help you? The power of personal connections

04 April 2017

Here’s the thing: when it comes to retail, it’s the connection between the customer and the retailer that makes the ultimate difference. It’s the game-changer that converts lukewarm interest into sales, and occasional purchases into a lifetime of loyalty. So how can retailers build this precious connection with their customers? Three ways: information, engagement, and talent. 

We all know how much information retailers now collect about their customers. Most of the time, the only impact the customer sees is more targeted marketing, or the message when you check out asking if you’ve forgotten something you usually buy. This can be useful, but can be intrusive too. Either way, it’s hardly an authentic personal connection. It’s the personal touch that turns information into insight, and smart retailers are already incorporating this into their business strategy. Take The North Face, for example: they’re using machine learning from IBM Watson to offer genuine personalisation. The technology allows them to substitute unintelligible technical language with a more natural conversational style - the same language customers themselves use. It’s a simple change but its boosting sales.

A shoe retailer is using Hoxton Analytics to analyse what products customers choose, and draw conclusions about their demographic and social class to create more personalised communications. This doesn’t just offer a better service to that consumer, it also gathers data which can be invaluable in spotting new trends or making decisions about new products.

The second key factor is engagement. That means both online and in-store – and more. Social media is one obvious route. Chinese retailers are out in front here. Over half of the Chinese consumers interviewed in our recent Total Retail report, say they find inspiration for their purchases on social networks, while more than a quarter use social media to find out which brands celebrities are endorsing. The figures for the UK are 25% and 9% respectively, no doubt in part due to the different way shopping has evolved in the UK, and the enduring popularity of the traditional department store. All the same, nearly a third of UK consumers say that a positive interaction on social media will make them endorse a brand more, and 40% spend more as a result.

And finally, talent. However good your technology is, it’s your people who drive excellent customer service around some of your most important customer touch points. Over 60% of our survey respondents revealed they value deep product knowledge in a sales assistant, and this holds true across all generations. However – and this is a concern – less than half felt that they typically encountered such well-informed staff in stores.

David Oliver | Head of Retail Consulting
Profile | Email | +44 (0)7715 486 029

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