In today’s retail sector, professionals consider that customer service and a personalized shopping experience are the keys to success. Although it´s important to know what industry experts think, we must not lose sight of the most important factor: the final buying decision is made by customers.
If customers have the last word, what better way to find out how to be successful than asking them directly? We should want to learn what they consider important when they shop in a physical store in order to adapt our services and increase sales.
Taking the above into consideration, what do customers really think?
According to the State of Retail 2017 Report, 75% of customers prefer to shop in-store. Customers place high value on specific aspects on the physical store experience:
It is clear that customers consider these to be the main benefits, but they also feel that retailers are not making efforts to improve these areas. In the same study, only 15% of customers said that they feel retailers are providing them with a personalized shopping experience every time they shop. And only 27% of consumers feel that retailers are trying to provide exceptional service.
So why don’t companies work on improving these points? What can they do to improve the overall customer experience and engagement?
Store associates have an essential role to play in providing a great customer experience at each touch point. As we saw in the article “Customer-facing employees as a company´s main asset”, 91% of retailers recognized that employees are what differentiate the store experience from the online experience. They are the first point of contact consumers have with a brand, which is why a customer experience strategy should begin with customer-facing employees. In fact, according to State of Retail 2017 Report, 88% of consumers say they are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable store associate.
Therefore, what customers value most in a store is the shopping experience, which depends directly on the store’s employees. What can a company do to enable its employees to offer the best experience to customers? The three main points companies must focus on are: friendly and engaged employees, short waiting times and better staff planning.
The first point: friendly and engaged employees. You can improve this aspect of the customer experience by taking into account your employees’ opinions and preferences regarding processes, tasks and schedules. If they have control over their shifts and have certain amenities and flexibility, they can easily balance their job and personal life, which makes them feel valued by the company and engaged in its success.
Our next point of focus is waiting times in the store. To improve the customer experience, consumers shouldn’t have to wait any longer than necessary in your establishment. In fact, according to an EPSON report, 29% of European consumers often leave a shop because of long queues at the check-out counters and 25% often go to another store to buy the same products if they see a long queue. Having the right number of employees at all times in the store to attend to consumers is necessary to avoid long waiting times. Nonetheless, due to the variability of store traffic, knowing when to schedule more employees can be a difficult task.
Finally, our last area of focus is at the same time partly the solution of the two situations we described above. Having good workforce planning not only allows customers to see and feel that the employees and the company share the same values and priorities, but can also improve employee engagement and prevent long waiting times for customers.
Due to the variability of customer visits, it is quite difficult to create good staff schedules without the right tools. Doing this work by hand can be tedious and inefficient. But thanks to Advanced Data Analytics, it is possible to predict the future activity of the store by detecting the behavior patterns of potential customers.
An intelligent workforce planning tool, based on Advanced Analytics, can accurately predict future store traffic in order to adapt the number of workers needed at any time and avoid long queues. It also takes into account variables, such as the different profiles and skills of workers, their productivity and their hourly preferences, aiming to maximize the store´s profitability. In addition, the tool makes it easier for employees to communicate their preferences, change shifts and have some control over their schedule.
Today’s customer expects an improvement to the in-store shopping experience. The employee is a key element in this experience. This forces retailers to be more precise in their scheduling to ensure that enough employees are in the store to meet customer needs.
For this reason, it is not acceptable to continue planning by hand or with obsolete tools. It is necessary to use Advanced Analytics to guarantee that a customer’s visit is aligned with an employee schedule that is 100% oriented towards improving sales.