HARDISON’S TIPS – MAY 17, 2021 – HOW TO WELCOME PEOPLE IN YOUR STORE DURING COVID 19
If you were asked to name one thing that would help you increase retail sales, what would your reply be? There are probably hundreds of possible answers but it’s likely the following responses would feature towards the top:
- More time engaging with customers.
- More people coming through the door.
- Knowing what customers actually want.
- Getting to know customers and building relationships with them over time.
- Being seen as a product expert in the community.
What do all these things have in common? Very simply, they all involve the store associate having more interactions with customers. Retailers have spent fortunes improving their stores to create great experiential shopping environments to try to increase dwell time. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has negated all that investment, at least for the short terms and now it’s more difficult than ever to improve in-store customer engagement and you don’t actually want to increase dwell time. So what other ways are there to improve customer engagement and increase retail sales?
How Pre and Post Store-Visit Interactions are Handled Today
What about interactions with customers before and after they visit your stores?
At the moment, most retailers restrict pre and post-visit engagement with store staff to phone calls. But the voice call is a flawed channel for lots of reasons (covered in detail previously). Key among them is the modern consumer’s aversion to making phone calls to anybody. When they manage to pluck up the courage to call a store, the phone is often left unanswered because staff are busy dealing with in-store customers. The ensuing voicemail tennis can be very inefficient for staff and can actually annoy customers if you disturb them at the wrong moment.
Other retailers prevent customers from contacting stores at all by forcing them to engage with head office staff when they have a query, whether that be via Twitter, email or a central phone line. Assuming you’ve got good people working in your stores, this is a missed opportunity to improve the likelihood of a sale being made. If a customer has set out to contact a store but is routed to a call centre, there is a high chance they will be very frustrated if the agent cannot answer their question and the store visit might never happen.
Retailing in a COVID-19 Context
Few experts expect to see an immediate recovery in footfall when the COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted. Browsing is likely to be hit hardest but calls to stores will skyrocket because:
- Consumers will be less likely to visit stores unless they’re certain they’re open and the products they’re seeking are available.
- Vulnerable customers will want to know how busy a store is before visiting or will want to find out if there are specific shopping times set aside for them.
- Customers will be keen to check that their click and collect order is ready or actually ask for items to be set aside for them to collect or try on so they can get in and out of the store quickly.
This is alarming because many retailers already struggle to answer calls to their stores. Luckily there is an alternative.