As competition from online stores increases, retailers are struggling to keep their heads above water. To prevent shopping streets in the Netherlands from becoming completely vacant, the term ‘experience’ might present the magical solution. Today's customer wants more than to simply go out and buy something: They want an ‘experience’. This expectation demands that sales personnel possess a wide range of skills. Fortunately, these skills can be taught.
The lack of customer focus
The relentless rise of online shopping has changed retail forever, with former Dutch high-street giants such as V&D, Schoenenreus, and Halfords no longer a familiar sight on the country's shopping streets. These retailers either went bankrupt or have been put up for sale in the hope of acquisition. But store formats that are committed to survival are shifting their strategy. Fashion chain Esprit recently announced major changes to help their stores make a profit once again. According to Esprit's Board of Directors, quoted on Retailtrends, a change was necessary as “We have lost contact with the customer due to a lack of customer focus.”
Just take a look at the recent developments that have taken place at IKEA. For years, this Swedish furniture store was little more than a warehouse filled with furniture with a larger-than-life dollhouse to serve as inspiration for customers. The multinational did not need to invest in online sales, as customers were still coming to the store. But faced with the competition from rapidly growing online players such as Made.com, IKEA needed to change their strategy. After all, these days, customers can easily find great designs at good prices and no longer need to travel to a glum business park and lug around heavy boxes themselves.
IKEA has since announced that it will focus more on expanding its online presence and to enhance the customer focus and the shopping experience in their stores. Sales personnel are the key factor to making this happen, but this shift requires well-trained and skilled staff. Below are four points that every retailer can get started on right away.
The modern customer wants genuine contact
The biggest annoyance experienced by customers is being ignored by sales personnel. Yet the boring old "Can I help you?” phrase will receive the same standard “No, thanks. I'm just looking” response. This is a missed opportunity, as this initial greeting is an important moment for creating the first impression for the customer. A warm, personal, and authentic greeting is a significant first step towards making a sale.
The modern customer wants more than a list of product specifications
The division between online and offline shopping is not as defined as is often assumed. Many potential customers start their customer journey on their laptop or smartphone. They compare product features, consult reviews left by other users, and carefully research the price ranges. But when it comes to large or personal purchases, such as furniture or clothing, many customers still prefer to visit the physical store. They want to see the product, feel the material, and receive personal advice. And this is exactly where sales personnel can make the difference. The salesperson will often have extensive knowledge of the product, but so does the customer who has done their homework. So, this is no longer a distinguishing feature. The important thing is to make contact with the customer and to use the right words and attitude to eliminate any of their worries.
The modern customer must want you to make the sale
If the customer has made the effort to come to the store, then it's up to sales personnel to ensure that the deal is made there and then and that the customer doesn’t go home to complete the sale online. It is therefore important that sales personnel have received thorough sales training. By practicing in a safe environment, the salesperson will learn to move beyond their own insecurities and limitations. This allows them to remain authentic in their interaction with the customer and guide them towards making the purchase in-store.
The modern customer expects the best service
Many customers prefer buying something from a physical store, as they then have a place that they can return to if the product is defective. In these cases, it is essential that you handle these questions and complaints well. The salesperson needs to show that they understand that there's a problem and that they're eager to find a solution to the issue together with the customer. Even if there's no immediate solution, the customer should feel that they were listened to and leave the store with a positive feeling. This ensures that they will return and, more importantly, that you don't receive negative reviews on social media.