What does a ‘personalized’ retail experience really mean? It’s the hot topic in the retail landscape and on all the agenda’s of big retail company executives, but what does it mean and how can you apply it to your boutique retail business.
Frustratingly, a lot of the discussion papers you find on this subject, are basically talking to big retailers about technology and how it can be used to personalize the ‘service’ to their clients, but I don’t believe you can really ‘personalize’ an experience through a computer. Addressing me by name in a newsletter is an obvious computer driven technique that doesn’t make me, the consumer, believe that the company knows anything about me. Tracking what I bought in-store and using your ‘algorithm’ to send me offers on the same product or brand is also becoming predictable.
The edge that independent retailers like you, have on the big chains, is getting to know your customers personally. Whether that is you, the owner, being in the store and talking to clients, or your team memorizing the regular clients’ names and greeting them each time they walk in. ‘Hello again, welcome back Mrs Smith. How was the wedding last weekend? Did you enjoy wearing that yellow dress?’ If you don’t recognize the client that just came in, ask them if they have shopped with you before. If they say yes, welcome them back and thank them for coming again. If they say no, a simple ‘welcome, thank you for coming, let me know if I can assist you today’. Just because you or your team don’t recognize the customer, doesn’t mean they haven’t shopped with you before. Any customer will feel good about being appreciated.
Asking questions, in a non-threatening, genuinely interested way during conversation with the customer, is a nice way to personalize the experience for them. In my case, having had baby stores, I always asked clients about their babies and encouraged my team to do the same. It isn’t always about selling. Just helping to make the customer feel at ease and putting yourselves in their shoes. I am yet to meet a mum who doesn’t love talking about her children!
Of course you won’t always get a talkative client. Perhaps they are stressed, on the phone whilst browsing, or just a quiet, shy type of person. The best way in this scenario is to acknowledge the customer’s presence and then leave them alone. After all, it’s what ‘they’ want and we are talking here about personalizing the experience, not pushing your own agenda on them.
In summary, my belief is the real way to personalize the customer experience in retail, is through great, personal service. Making the customer feel welcome, appreciated and of course heard is key. And there isn’t a computer program out there that can replace the art of human conversation. One up to brick and mortar retail!!