The holiday season is the busiest time of year for retailers, both in store and online. Last year, holiday sales grew to more than $626 billion, and it’s predicted to increase again in 2016. Retailers have a unique opportunity to capture new sales and customer loyalty during the holidays and sales associates are the key to achieving this success.
Sales associates have a great impact on customer relationships and help form the overall brand perception. Eighty-seven percent of shoppers are more likely to buy an item recommended by a sales associate, and 73% said associates who remember their personal preferences impact how much they buy.
With the level of influence associates have on today’s omnichannel shopper, how can retailers offer online customers the same experience and benefits they get from a store associate this holiday season?
Integrate associates into the online customer experience
Retailers can help customers avoid the in-store shopping rush and provide them with ways to be served online by their favorite associates just as they would in a store. The holidays are hectic for most, and associates can help alleviate the stress by letting them see personalized online associate recommendations for gifts, new arrivals in-store and suggested holiday looks.
Many new technologies allow shoppers to connect with associates online, ask product questions have associate interactions without visiting a store. They help associates create their own virtual storefronts where customers can connect to services and shop online. Instead of navigating crowded malls and tracking down an associate, shoppers can visit the site on their own time and immediately message a local associate who can recommend products, answer questions and, most importantly, sell at any time.
Have associates engage with customers prior to a store visit
Retailers who wait for shoppers to come in store to find out what they’re looking for and then provide service are missing a critical initial engagement opportunity. Stores are already extremely busy during the holiday season – this Black Friday, in-store foot traffic increased almost 65% – making it difficult for associates to service each shopper to the best of their ability.
Instead, retailers should empower associates to send shoppers personalized email messages about gift ideas, deals and the latest trends based on their specific preferences. Creating a promotional calendar is a great way for associates to execute various online promotional campaigns throughout the holiday season, increasing engagement even before shoppers step into the store. This not only helps customers with their shopping decisions, but also allows associates to understand them better, including what they’re looking for. New outbound clienteling technology displays retailer branded emails, social posts and text messages with full-size product images that customers can click on and easily purchase.
Connect anonymous online shoppers with local stores and associates
There are many first-time shoppers researching and purchasing gifts during the holidays. According to a study, 77% of consumers shop with stores or websites during the holidays that they don’t usually frequent. This gives retailers a chance to create new relationships and drive traffic to their stores by introducing them to local associates via their site.
Retailers can embed technology on their sites that allows shoppers to message a local store in real time to ask for product recommendations or book an in-store appointment. Now shoppers don’t have to worry about wandering around the store looking for service during the busiest time of the year. This aspect of localizing online shopping helps create more personal connections between shoppers and associates, giving them a reason to come into the store.
This holiday season, retailers need to ensure they’re using associates effectively – both in store and online – to drive sales and provide a superior customer experience. Giving them support and technology and empowering them to find creative ways to sell and service customers is critical for holiday season success.
Oscar Sachs is co-founder and CEO of Salesfloor