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Relational Shopping: A Roadmap

Shopping is inherently transactional: you find a product you like, you pay to get it.

As a result, the Retail Tech landscape is covered with apps and solutions that make it easier for shoppers to convert from browsing to buying: product recommendation algorithms, chatbots, click & collect, “buy now/pay later”, “try home for free”, “chat with a specialist” and a wide array of other solutions which include those infamous cookies that advertise products previously viewed on other sites.

Outside of some privacy concerns around tracking software, there is nothing wrong with these solutions. They actually save time and produce “convenience at scale” for shoppers, while increasing conversion for brands.

Still, one is left to wonder how many missed opportunities arise from these purely transactional and often anonymous interactions. How much more information could be captured if the initial interaction was personalized and not always limited to that specific transaction?

More to the point, why can’t retailers have the best of both worlds: a growing array of solutions to convert online shoppers immediately, combined with a set of services designed to nurture an endless dialogue with them?

This is where Relational Shopping comes into the picture.

We coined this term at Clientela as we have become more aware of how vital it is for brands to build long-term relationships with their consumers. In a recent PwC study, about two-thirds (65%) of respondents in the US feel that a positive experience with a brand is more influential than great advertising. Unfortunately, only half (49%) say that companies are actually providing good customer experiences today (Source: PwC — link at the end).

Relational Shopping is about bridging the gap between brands and shoppers and allowing both parties to have a never-ending conversation with each other — one that spans from online to offline, from an in-store POS to an eCommerce cart. One that is more relational and not merely transactional.

Below is a roadmap to help retailers achieve this. Successfully implementing even a few of these strategies will likely bring brands closer to building long-term ROI and a higher level of efficiency for their digital investments.

Rethink the store locator

© Clientela Inc

We have run out of interesting ways to present a store on a map, however, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to connecting prospects and clients to all of a brand’s serviceslocally and personally.

The conventional store locator can and should go far beyond what it does now. It should allow a client to find stores and/or employees based on their language and style preferences, the services that are available in their region or location, as well as their context and current shopping needs.

Lastly, the store locator should display all of a brand’s relevant digital services for clients to choose from on one page.

Localize your digital services

Live chat, video chat, bookings, queueing, event… the more options for a client or prospect to connect with the brand, the better.

At the same time, it needs to be easy and relevant for shoppers to find those services and have the ability to choose their preferred method of communication, then seamlessly switch between them. For instance, WeChat for a Chinese shopper tends to be a must-have, while Europeans are generally avid users of WhatsApp. Additionally, a typical Parisian shopper may not always be open to video calls, while New Yorkers are apparently more comfortable with that. All clients and prospects should have the option to opt into their preferred method of communication whenever they please.

This is why the services a brand offers should be both centralized in one system and decentralized in terms of their application. In other words, the brand should be able to activate or deactivate services based on location and current availability of sales associates.

Capture more client information

Knowledge is power and Relational Shopping starts with a thorough understanding of a client’s needs, preferences and the context of their reason for shopping.

A recent Forbes article noted that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop from brands that provide customized recommendations, and 80% are more likely to buy from retailers offering a personalized experience (source: Forbes — link at the end).

In order for brands to offer personalization, they need to know valuable information about their prospects and clients.

While the digital services a brand offers are usually free, there should be one simple “cost” for the client or prospect: providing clarity on their interests. At the same time, it’s incumbent to the brand to make it easy for them to do so. Through well-designed and executed digital services, brands can capture invaluable information about their prospects or clients:

  • Their current need: product question, after sale services, product training
  • Their product interest: product category, specific item / SKU…
  • Their shopping context: getting married, shopping for themselves or for someone else
  • Their local preferences: primary residence, time zone, preferred language, nearest store
  • Their preferred time to interact: now, at a date and time (booking), with a call back or chat back.
  • Their preferred channel: chat, video, email, WhatsApp…

As we can see, there is so much untapped information not being captured by Retailers today and the sky is the limit in that regard.

Shine a spotlight on sales associates

Benefit Cosmetics booking — Visit

In the past year alone, over 50% of our clients have switched from anonymous services (e.g. book online with a store) to personal ones (book online with a specific sales associate). These brands’ clients and prospects can not only select the channel they prefer to communicate in (e.g. in-store, video) but also their preferred sales associate or specialist for the service of interest.

Beauty shoppers can select their preferred BA (Beauty Artist), fashion shoppers can connect with their preferred local stylists while CPG shoppers can choose specialists who will teach them how to make the best of a product they are interested in. These relationships build trust for the brand which is always a driving factor for consumer decision making.

For years, we have been talking about the power of the sales associate, their importance in retail and more recently in the new economy. Every retailer has now had the opportunity to experiment — in crisis and in periods of growtt and one undeniable truth comes out of these experiments: a mind with empathy beats any algorithm at its own game.

Connect your digital services to your Clienteling

Clienteling is primarily used today with existing buyers. There is much to be done with prospects — especially if they have already been qualified through digital services. Focusing on PRM (Prospect Relationship Management) in addition to CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a great way to tap into this area for improvement.

All of the above data captured about clients should be integrated in the Clienteling process to: 1) Offer a more personal journey to qualified prospects; and 2) Lead to more insights and a more seamless experience for sales associates to prepare their appointments and to upsell clients with a follow up or relevant products to recommend.

When sales associates realize the endless sales and relational opportunities with already qualified prospects, they will not only adopt the Clienteling tool, but they will fully utilize it and leverage it to the highest potential.

Track everything in one place

© Clientela Inc

Once a brand successfully implements these solutions, they are now able to connect the dots to truly understand the customer journey and in turn provide a seamless experience for all parties involved.

It is important for store managers and sales associates to be able to track all data by region, market, store and employee to prevent ever missing an opportunity to connect with clients. It is even more valuable if they are able to do so with both prospects and clients. The data at hand helps retail teams focus on the next action and identify clients needs and opportunities from what was shared with the brand at the initial interaction.

The ability to have all of this crucial information in one centralized platform allows for a “Virtuous Cycle” of continually improving and reinforcing the strategies from Relational Shopping.

At Clientela, we are building the next generation of digital solutions for retailers. Our Retail OS platform empowers retailers to look beyond the transaction, building long-lasting and profitable client relationships.

Visit us at | Follow us on LinkedIn

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