How to make the most of digital influence in physical retail

What customers expect yet retailers find hard to provide

Our path to purchase has been completely transformed due to the increase of digital interaction. We know that customers expect a unified experience at every touch point. Communications that are generic coupled with inefficient services such as incorrect stock availability and inconsistent delivery are not what a customer wants to experience.

However simple these issues appear to the customer we know that there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make customer experience as seamless as possible. From our work with a large number of global, luxury brands we fully understand the essential requirement for brands to join up the digital and physical dots and here are some thoughts around the importance of taking insight and actions from digital breadcrumbs.

Why should we use digital interactions in a bricks-and-mortar store?

We know that ‘nearly 80 percent of luxury sales today are “digitally influenced”, meaning that, in their luxury shopping journeys, consumers hit one or more digital touch points.’ These influential factors can include online browsing, adding products to a wish list, seeking advice from a personal stylist via WhatsApp or looking to social channels such as Instagram for inspiration.

One way in which we can make the most of online digital interactions is to utilise them in the physical retail environment. With the visibility of these digital interactions, retailers can look at how important they are in the path to purchase. They also help us to build up a picture of how their customers interact with the brand and how engaged they are making it easier to remain relevant and personalise content, communications and products to suit the interests of the customer.

While luxury e-commerce is growing fast, the portion of personal luxury goods purchases that happen online — now about 7 percent of total — is expected to plateau at about 20 percent by 2025. This means that, for the foreseeable future, the vast majority of sales will still take place in physical stores, which have yet to really benefit from the insights that can be gathered from digital data.

What is reverse omnichannel and how can it help?

We need to match the experience of online to that of the experience in-store, something that is often called reverse omnichannel. Previously we have used physical stores to inform online, now we are using online to inform store experience.

We build up data of many digital interactions yet we are not so good at learning from these interactions and capitalising on them in-store. Creating a flow of information between digital and physical is certainly a challenge, particularly if you consider all the different platforms we need to have visibility of and integrate with. However, once we have the ability to make the most of data thanks to innovations, such as clienteling, we begin to support the customer in a way in which can exceed their expectations.

What this means in practice is the need to equip in-store sales associates with information collected from online so they can then become part of the digital journey too. Clienteling utilises data from customer service management platforms, marketing platforms, online platforms and enables data to be visible where it is needed, in-store. If we consider the huge proportion of sales still taking place in physical stores we become acutely aware of how important the role of sales associate remains.

In-store Influencers are the key to unlocking retail’s potential

In the past year there have been significantly reported benefits form working with influencers. According to The State of Influencer Marketing in Fashion, Luxury & Cosmetics, influencers create great results.

  • 89.6% confirmed that the activities they carried out with influencers effectively generated brand awareness for their companies or products
  • 73.3% highlighted that influencer campaigns are effective for building customer loyalty
  • 69% find influencer marketing effective for driving sales

If we put these figures into context with someone who is directly engaged face-to-face with a customer eg the sales associate becomes “the in-store influencer” then I’m sure the stats would be even higher. An intimate personal relationship can be an extremely powerful thing, especially if that relationship can be enhanced by online insights.

Another interesting concept is that the customer through their tendency to share their interactions with the brand on social media become part of the influencer landscape. Like the digital word of mouth, it’s one of the best ways to create brand advocacy and business growth.

So next time we think about digital influence we must also remember to support our in-store teams to be part of the digital journey too. We know it works for our customers so, make it work for you too!

Why not download our case study with David Jones to find out how we help them to get closer to their customers.

We're heading to Salesforce Shopper First in Milan

We're heading to Salesforce Shopper First event in Milan. Our team will be showcasing the latest version of our App built on Salesforce with added social and POS features including:

Multiple social channel integration (WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger)
POS with Product Scan to build baskets
True global, multi-lingual, privacy compliant (including GDPR) customer capture
Customer Signature option, helping brands navigate the most strict compliance rules
“Quick find” customer profile by scanning unique customer QR code

Unified basket with POS and pay in app with Apple Pay!
Connect meaningfully with the brand by feeding back on recommendations, sharing preferences and receiving curated offers on personalised landing page
Create and share wish lists across channels so stylists can access and prepare for appointments


Auditorium e 47° piano, CityLife Shopping District, Piazza Tre Torri 3, 20145 Milano

Wednesday 24th October 2018

If you're a retailer looking to truly understand your customer and give them consistently exceptional experiences, we look forward to welcoming you to Salesforce Shopper First. To organise a personalised demo in Milan, please get in touch.


Download our MATCHESFASHION.COM case study

If you're attending the Salesforce Shopper First event, why not fill out the form below to download a wonderful use case scenario of how we're working with MATCHESFASHION.COM to transform their physical retail experience.

Are you looking to deliver consistently exceptional experiences?

CRM has given us the ability to keep track of every customer interaction. By understanding our customers more intimately we can provide them with a better experience. Not just a better experience once, but consistently. Yet why is it that brands find it so difficult to provide a truly personalised experience?

We acknowledge that retailers using leading CRM systems such as Salesforce are able to gather information about past purchases, spending frequency, store and delivery preferences however, it is evident that brands often either fail to remember the reason why they are collecting this data or fail to use it in a relevant way. Which is to enable the R in CRM, the relationship.

Technology can help us to focus on the intimacy that takes place whilst these relationships are being formed but it’s up to us to push what CRM can do for our businesses. Data needs to be surfaced, analysed and used in a way that is meaningful to the retailer and the customer. By putting human interaction at the heart of communication between on and offline communication we cultivate authentic relationships. CRM informs the relationship but doesn’t drive it. It is up to the business and sales associates to capitalise on the opportunity that understanding data has presented. To remain relevant to our customers we need to leverage customer data in the right way. We also need to clear the obstacles that block us from delivering relevant communications.

By surfacing data into the hands of the sales associate through a shop floor app we offer a new level of customer intimacy. This is increasingly important as customers have many ways in which they interact with a brand. For example, it could be in-store in London, or NYC or online in France. Yet the same level of experience is desired by the customer. This experience should be consistently exceptional regardless of geography or which particular sales associate a customer comes into contact with. This is where well-utilised CRM comes into its own. It provides an accurate, global view of each individual customer. Cloud-based CRM systems enable us to use any connected device in any location. This mobilises a marketing force from head office to shop floor.

We also find that great brands recognise that relationships take time to nurture and need two-way interaction to develop. Through personalised communication and marketing outreach each customer interaction is always relevant. This ensures customers are happy and helps retailers to benefit from an increase of up to 25% increase in repeat purchase. In addition, improvements in Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) can be achieved.

“By using behavioural data, such as mobile, desktop, app usage and cross-referencing that with the type of query and response we are able to build a comprehensive picture of how and when customers choose to interact. This depth of knowledge is impossible without CRM and clienteling and in our experience, it is augmented by human interaction”. Matt Lacey, co-founder Proximity Insight

To understand what customers want, we have to support them to be in control of their relationship. Without the choice of different ways to interact with us we will not be able to build a true picture of the preferred communication channel or purchase preference. Over time we build data and through analysis we build understanding. Clienteling platforms such as Proximity Insight leverage customer data to support valuable relationships. We need to make every interaction count to remain relevant.

So, looking forward it is important to consider that you need to find the right approach to communicate with your customer in a meaningful way and whilst you are working out your approach don’t forget to consider what communication will look like if the customer was in control of the relationship…….watch out for some interesting new product features from Proximity Insight in September 2018 which will truly shift the dynamic of customer relationships.

Is there a role for tradition in the store of the future?

The traditional fashion business model has seen fundamental changes over the past decade, because of the digital revolution. It is now, more than ever before, convenient and easier to shop anytime, anyplace and the choice of products and services continues to grow. Brands now have greater and quicker exposure to markets that previously would have taken years to enter which makes the market even more competitive.

Furthermore, the UK high street continues to see unprecedented levels of closures. Marks & Spencer recently revealed plans to close a total of 100 shops by 2022. Other UK high street retailers have planned closures: Mothercare 50 stores, New Look 60, and House of Fraser 31 stores.

It is no wonder that retailers are looking at new ways to make their stores relevant to customers.

The in-store experience is of great importance and tradition plays a key role, particularly getting back to the basics for exceptional service. A traditional retail experience relies on a direct, face-to-face connection with the customer, who are 60% more likely to return to the same store because they value that connection with the retailer and importantly the sales associate. Unfortunately, those brands that have been slow to change their in-store experience are typically the brands that we now see closing stores. 

A retail transformation is being seen across the whole fashion industry, at luxury and high street level. Brands are looking to connect with old and new customers in a more relevant, meaningful way. 

Gucci chief executive Marco Bizzarri said shoppers are equally bored by traditional stores and bland websites. “The younger generation isn't interested in the retail experience because the retail experience is not interesting." In Gucci’s new SoHo, New York store, “connectors” (store associates) are hired for their ability to tell Gucci’s story. The brand story and how it is told, and by whom is becoming increasingly important.

Zara’s new Westfield Stratford store is ‘designed with pioneering technology to transform the customer shopping experience at its heart. 

Focusing on ease of transaction Zara integrate physical stores and online through automated order collection points (serviced by a concealed area able to handle 2,400 orders simultaneously), self-checkout and mobile payment systems support by staff with iPads. 

In addition the customer experience is enhanced by interactive mirrors equipped with RFID which can detect the garment a customer is holding, enabling customers to see what a complete outfit will look like in the mirror. 

Having used the self checkout at Westfield London and being asked by security to return to a till point after the security alarm went off due to the tags on accessories (which you can’t see or take off), I’m yet to be convinced by the efficiency for all transactions. However one thing that is clear is that it’s a step in the right direction, giving the customer the option of the type of experience they want. Implementing technology in the right way as we know is not as easy as pressing a button, and everyone needs to be on board with the change. 

Connecting with store associates through human emotion, shared experiences and passion for a brand and it’s product must be supported by head office. Companies who are looking to remain relevant need to invest in their teams and the tools that the teams use to offer the best in-store experience possible. 

I recently attended a FashMash Event where Farfetch MD of Store of the Future, Sandrine Deveaux, discussed her team’s approach to keeping retail exciting. A big part of it for Farfetch is empowering their ‘Instore Influencers’ (store associates) with knowledge. They view the role of the Instore Influencer as a totally new profession. A profession that needs to be nurtured, invested in and supported. The store associate has the ability to not only connect with the customer but influence the sale. If they have the right information about the product, the knowledge of how the garment was made, the story of the collection, how the designer translated their experiences and research into the collection, that might just make the difference between making a sale or not. 

Valuing store associates is not a new concept. Traditional retailers know their customers intimately. Store associates often have a black book with preferences, phone numbers and past purchase history all noted. They genuinely care about their customer, and are often rewarded through sales commission. However, what is new, is the scale of new retail. 

Retailers and brands have easier access to increased global reach because of the digital revolution. Which means to serve a customer, who may live in many countries, buying online and in physical stores, the need for ‘The Store of The Future’ has arisen. Creating a seamless, single view of a particular customer has become something that store associates worldwide need to manage. The black book has to be digital, on brand, and accessible to all from head office to in-store teams. 

The key to the success of these tools is having the traditional drivers for relationship management at the core. It’s not about capturing data for the sake of customer capture metrics. It’s about using that information to cultivate a relationship, globally, on and offline. 

Image credit

07.06.18 Article amended to update House of Fraser store closure figures to 31 following announcement.

Christina Abbott at RBTE

Developing a relationship with a customer goes way beyond making the sale

As we reflect on our experience at Europe’s leading technology event for the retail industry, RBTE, we came away feeling more than ever that in a super tech enabled, hyper connected world we need to ensure we don’t lose focus of our most valuable asset, our people.

Supporting shop floor staff to give exceptional customer service is one of the best steps you can take to connect with your customers. Using technology to nurture relationships, not solely to drive sales, is key to building long-lasting loyalty. Your people are your brand ambassadors and your best advocate.

"Know how rewarding developing a relationship with a client is, it goes way beyond making a sale".

Serving Royal Family members, high profile business leaders and VIP’s for over 30 years, personal stylist, Christina Abbott joined us at RBTE to share how rewarding developing a relationship with a client is, and how it goes way beyond making a sale.

“Going that extra mile and surprising clients, remembering their purchases, the things they said, it’s very special to connect with a client in a way that is personal and unique to them, underlying that the relationship with them is of value."

The perception of value is what keeps people coming back to a specific retailer. You can buy the same pair of shoes from several multi brand retailers, so why do customers keep returning to one specific retailer, it’s because they value their service. 

Our purchases are emotional, they are connected to our moods, social status and aspirations. When we discuss our purchase with shop floor staff we’re not always looking for a swift transaction, but emotional engagement, a vote of confidence, validation in choosing well.

"These relationships are about building trust, being discreet, being a guardian of the client relationship and only selling a product that is right for the client. The days of pressure selling are over. Clients don’t want to be sold to, they want to be known, they want a relationship, to feel they matter.” 

As a tech company, our mission is to nurture these trusted relationships by providing the smartest tools for retailer's shop floor teams. Relationships are our key focus, how we enable them, how we support them, to build long lasting customer relationships. It’s great to be a retail tech innovator, but it’s also great to be able to support relationships that have been built on years of service history. To innovate in the future you have to respect your past and make the most of how digital can transform experience in the real world. 

Thank You

Always a retailer at heart...why physical retail is here to stay.

Having had some time to reflect on the the themes of various events I have attended in the first quarter of this year I thought I would like to focus on why I feel that physical retail is here to stay.

It comes as no surprise that the main messages that are being blasted through the expo halls and in various keynotes focus on the future of retail. Topics such as the era of AI with an emphasis on IoT, automation and innovation are followed hotly by numerous forums for “reinventing retail” and the prevailing need for retailers to digitally transform their customer experiences.

These are all thought provoking themes but the underlying message that continues to resonate with me is that this does not mean the end of the physical retail. It just means that our customers shop differently and therefore there is a need for retailers to adapt and evolve the purpose of the store and the overall store experience. And this is definitely not new news!

I am passionate about the role of the modern retail store and it’s place as the heart and soul of the brand – whether you are buying a coffee or a car, retail is essentially a service industry. It was 30 years ago when I started my career on the shop floor and my very first manager taught me the principles of great customer service (thank you Carol Hubbard!). The majority of those principles have not changed despite the deluge of digital disruption.

What has changed is the customer’s expectations and their path to purchase. Today’s customer has greater choice and convenience and has access to more information than ever before about the products he or she wishes to purchase – often more information than our store teams. In my day the sales associate was the font of all knowledge, or at least the good ones were, but today unless the sales associate is equipped with great in-store tech they are often left to use their own devices to find out information on behalf of the customer and that is not always a great experience.

In today’s Amazon age the store has to be the place for the customer to go and experience the brand, to feel part of a community and to connect emotionally. A great store experience has a blend of what our customer success teams call the aspirational “A*s” – ambience, assortment and associates.

A* Ambience is about the store as a destination, the store providing an experience beyond just browsing and touching, the store as a fulfilment centre, a place where you can test, explore, be inspired and also as a leisure destination delivering an ambience of fun, differentiation and a memorable experience.

A* Assortment is of course essential as retail is all about having amazing products but in today’s world it is less about having the product in the right place as long as you can somehow exceed customer expectations and get the product to them quickly and conveniently.

A* Associates – friendly, knowledgeable associates that have information at their fingertips, are passionate about the products they sell and can humanise and inspire their customers – consistently delivering the “I in AI”.

Brick and mortar retailers have an opportunity to excel at what they do best – to create a great customer experience and build lifelong relationships. They have an innate advantage when it comes to making an emotional connection with their customers and let’s face it most non-commodity purchases we make as consumers involve an emotion and so today’s retail world definitely demands high EQ.

So we are now at a stage where these messages can no longer just be “thought provoking” and “interesting” – we cannot afford to be complacent – we have to take action – a little action is better than no action at all and so I would advocate trying three things:

1. Create that connection from the very first time a customer purchases with your brand and ensure that every interaction with your customer is focused on building that lifelong relationship.

2. Connect with your customers and don’t communicate at your customers; get to know them, what he or she likes and wow them with simple “messages and personalised follow ups.

3. Measure, analyse and continually adapt your customer journeys. Make customer success stories the most important agenda topic every Monday morning. Celebrate and reward examples of great customer service.

Regardless of how small or big your retail business is why not execute at least one of the above suggestions after the Easter break and measure the impact. Empower your store teams to make this happen and let us know how it works out for you!

Have a great, fun Easter! Let's hope the sun shines and the tills keep ringing!

proximity insight customer hub header

Cathy Interviewed On Empowering Your Sales Assistants

Cate Trotter of Insider Trends, recently interviewed our CEO, Cathy McCabe. In the interview they discussed how our Shop Floor Engagement platform is being used by our customers to democratize the customer experience:

It’s a really good time in retail. I think brands are suddenly waking up to how do they start to reimagine and reinvent the store and blend that with their online channels. There’s been a lot of talk around new tech and how can tech enable that in-store experience and connect those journeys between the digital experience and the physical experience. But I think people have been reluctant to really try to shift the power to the sales associates away from automated marketing. We’re really seeing a response to the fact that you can have a really simple front-end that acts as glue between all your disparate systems.

Read more at Insider Trends