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01 November 2017 / by Gareth Hill

The Personal Touch – How Your Booking System Helps Deliver Personalised In-Store Service

Our last article focused on the increasing mobilisation of the ecommerce market both in the UK and globally. However, another aspect of mobile internet’s escalating power is the potential impact for good it can have on traditional bricks and mortar sales. In particular, this can be the way businesses utilise digital channels, and platforms such as their booking and scheduling systems, to develop brand identity and create a personalised service that encourages consumers across the threshold and into their stores.

Decreasing Footfall and the Rise of Ecommerce

As we’ve previously mentioned, you can’t ignore the rise in the ecommerce market, which continues to see year on year growth. Add to this the less than cheery stats that suggests footfall among leading high street retailers continues on something of a downward trend; falling 1.2% in September 2017, on the back of decreasing numbers throughout the summer.

Rising inflation, uncertain politico-economic conditions and even inclement weather all play a role when it comes to the numbers of shoppers hitting the department stores and shopping centres. However, it’s hard to ignore the impact that ever-more convenient purchasing channels via our computers, tablets and smartphones might be having on in-store behaviour.

Nevertheless, while such stats can, on the surface, portray a somewhat gloomy outlook for the bricks and mortar business model, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

In-Store is the still the dominant channel for retail sales

Given that we live in a world which places huge stock in the power of convenience, the ability to shop online for a range of products, services, and, increasingly, experiences, will naturally take a more prominent share of the market.

But while it’s true that ecommerce grows its share, the fact remains that in-store activity still accounts for more than 80% of retail sales.

As a society, we still want the hands-on effect when it comes to making certain purchases. And in many cases, it’s the only way in which you can truly get a handle on whether the product is right for you.

Omnichannel Consumerism

The world isn’t neatly divided into those who shop online and those who shop in-store. We all do a bit of both. In fact, very often, we might even flit between both online and in-store within the same transactional journey.

This is the era of omnichannel consumerism, where there’s growing expectation that our digital and physical engagement with a brand should be seamless and interchangeable.

Indeed, frequently, our engagement with a brand, a product, or a service, will start online before migrating in-store for the actual purchase. Furthermore, the fusion of mobile and in-store engagement is seeing the burgeoning trend of consumers using their smartphone to research products, while in the store itself. The challenge for the retailer, is to ensure that it’s through their doors that the consumer heads.

As it always has been.

But how is this achieved in a digital world?

Personalisation

There’s nothing new about the concept of personalisation in retail. In simplistic terms, it’s a means of tailoring your service to meet the requirements, tastes, likes, and dislikes of each customer. Something that traditional shopkeepers were experts at decades ago.

However, that was in an era where customers would begin and end their journey towards a transaction in the shop itself, returning regularly and building up a relationship with the shop keeper over time.

Today that relationship is between customer and brand, with initial touchpoints frequently occurring online; via social engagement and traffic to the website. But while many retailers will have an ecommerce platform allowing customers to buy online, a significant proportion of those visiting will not be ready to buy at this point, with data suggesting that upwards of two-thirds will be researching a product that they will eventually seek to buy via good old-fashioned bricks and mortar.

This is where technology can develop the personalised service to foster long-term custom.

It’s all about encouraging the customer to take the next step of the journey. The reason why they should come into your store in particular.

Personal styling or in-store consultations or technical assistance can be just that kind of enticement. Add appointment booking software that allows a customer to simply input their requirements and schedule an appointment in-store, met by a consultant armed with solutions based on the information provided. It doesn’t matter whether we’re buying a car, a computer or a new suit for a job interview, we want to make the right choice with our purchasing.

Customers may start their engagement online, but they are being led to the old shopkeeper model, greeted in-store by a retailer who will understand what they need.

The Long-Term Benefits

Using technology such as an online booker to fuse the engagement a brand has online with the personalisation in-store is a step towards the Holy Grail of brand advocacy. It’s the means by which you begin to gather real meaningful data on your customers. Top level commercial influencers such as their preferences, their budget, their past purchasing history; and more ‘social’ information like birthdays, place of work, where they are going on their holidays – all of which can be used to build a buyers profile, used for future marketing, targeting products that the customer is actually likely to want, at the times that they are likely ready to buy.

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