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Competing Against the Online Behemoths


A customer service report conducted by Echo Research indicated that customer service is the primary factor in garnering consumer trust. 75% of consumers say they have spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences.

Main Street retailers can use these strategies to their advantage to combat the price advantages at Amazon.

The analysis broke down this way:

* 45% of reviews are about customer service.

* About 60% of people surveyed cited their online service experience as negative.

* Positive service can increase customer return visits by 40% or more.

So, before stores start slashing prices to the bone thinking that’s the best way to compete with an online giant, they should listen to what shoppers need and want, and use that data to propel their customer experience.

Many articles have been written about the three ‘C’s of personalization within the frame of mobile technology: Context, Content and Conduit:

“Context” is considered to be valuable to make the shopping message more timely and focused. This involves mapping and in-store location and consideration of where in the store the customer is spending the most time, so personalized content can be delivered.

Context also includes what shopping habits may be known about the customer, but here’s where privacy and discretion play a big part, as consumers need to be given an opt-in choice. Again, customer data shouldn’t replace face time, because while you may know a customer’s buying history from data collection, sales staff shouldn’t assume a personal relationship is automatically in place. That’s where personal connections and service skills come in.

Greeting customers with a genuine smile and a willingness to engage with them lets them know you’re treating them as individuals vs. pieces of data. If you have regular customers, you should know their tastes and buying habits and be able to suggest purchases based on a real relationship—not a virtual one.

“Content” involves informing about product data, offers and lifestyle information. Alerting customers to special events, new shipments, and promotions all come under this umbrella.

“Conduits” are the methods and mechanisms by which store information is disseminated and received by the shopper, which can take the form of email or mobile apps. Using a variety of conduits via message automation can create consistency.

But, often retailers make the mistake of putting technology first instead of learning about customer needs. Again, some customers may find in-store messaging too intrusive and retailers must take care to avoid clutter, so picking key moments and tailored data to send, rather than flooding phones with annoying alerts, is really important.

Online behemoths like Amazon, or any online site for that matter, are predominately self-service, which means no service. What online sites lack is trustworthy, personalized experience with a sales associate who can help customers discover products they really want to buy.

Don’t forget to take advantage of showrooming: Bring the digital together with the physical—like Sephora, which displays in-store digital signage with ratings and pullout quotes from online discussions about beauty products.

Online retailers don’t have the benefit of creating the in-store experience. Maximize layout, lighting, product demos and training to create an atmosphere that encourages customers to linger. Best Buy has pioneered showroom enhancements featuring low price guarantee specials and optimized services for in-store pickup of online orders.

Don’t skimp on training sales staff—they need to be experts on the products you sell. Arm them with technology where they have instant access to social media and online reviews and encourage them to share their product knowledge without always pushing for an immediate sale, which can backfire and drive customers away. This makes shoppers feel that they’re getting the most current information about products, warranties and more — without feeling constantly targeted for an upsell.

TAGS: omni-channel, retail, retail trends, retailers,
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