Keep your customers close

By Alex MacPherson

Balancing convenience with a high quality experience is the perennial retail challenge. For supermarkets in particular, the focus has shifted to self-serve in recent years – from mobile apps that enable scanning to self-serve checkouts – offering customers a quicker, frictionless option. But does the same experience work in a fashion environment? Or should the checkout experience within this environment be all about the social engagement of store associate and customer? From brand engagement to incremental sales, Alex MacPherson, Solution Consultant Manager, Manhattan Associates explains, however they checkout, when it comes to fashion retail it is all about minimising customer ‘alone-time’ in store.

The temptation to embrace kiosks and self-scanning to add convenience to the retail experience is clear. With time-poor customers, adding a slick, frictionless, in-store sales process to good offers and competitive pricing is clearly attractive. But not in all markets. There is also a very significant opportunity to create an environment which inspires a more social interaction between the store associate and the customer rather than making the focus of a store visit purely one of convenience.

From up and cross-selling to building brand engagement and reinforcing advocacy, high quality interactions between store associates and customers are invaluable within a fashion retail environment. Using a clienteling approach, a store associate armed with excellent customer information – from purchase history to online browsing – can engage effectively with customers on the shop floor. 

Combining good skills with great information, a store associate can embark upon a relevant, helpful conversation and create a positive experience. Items can be placed in changing rooms, new sizes fetched and other choices suggested. Add in mobile payment and the store associate can keep close to the customer throughout the entire journey. From browsing to trying on to purchase, the entire process is seamless and ‘alone time’ avoided.

But where does the traditional point of sale (POS) fit into this model? When all transactions can be completed on the shop floor, is there even a role for the POS in the store of the future? In fact, with the rise in click and collect and the ever connected consumer, you could argue that there isn’t a place for the traditional POS and instead even more of a need for a mobile point of sale (mPOS)? Yet with some retailers considering the self-serve option for click and collect customers instead, are they missing a trick?

Every customer represents an opportunity for up and cross-selling – and not just on the shop floor. The POS should be a place where customers do not simply pay for stock available today in-store but –through integration and interoperability between the POS system and an Enterprise Order Management solution – have the chance to look at the brand’s entire inventory; to browse and buy products online or available in another store, to be delivered to the customer’s preferred location – all within a single transaction. And certainly for click and collect customers, an engaging conversation with a store associate about complementary products on the move with the use of mPOS, as opposed to a boring few minutes alone waiting for goods to be retrieved at a traditional POS, or using self-serve, is a very different customer experience. 

The fact is that self-serve is an arm’s length approach to retail that may work well in some areas; but in high-end fashion the goal is to keep customers close and take them successfully through the purchase process anywhere within the store. Creating an in-store visit that is both engaging and convenient, is the check-out experience of the future.

Alex MacPherson is Solution Consultant Manager at Manhattan Associates


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