01.25.2017 By: Anne-Marie Goulet

Are your store associates meeting customer expectations?

Probably not.

Executives from Tulip Retail, Bonobos, and FitForCommerce took the stage at NRF’s 2017 Big Show to discuss how retailers are enabling store associates with mobile technology to surpass today’s customer expectations. During the Exhibitor Insights session entitled “How Bonobos is Driving the Omnichannel Vision with mPOS and Clienteling”, Chief Experience Officer, Dominique Essig, gave an inside look on how they have evolved to adopting mobile technology in order to transform their Guideshops and customer interactions, as well as what the future of Clienteling looks like in 2017.

Today, customers come into stores with the expectation that it will offer the same inventory, styles, and ease-of-use as the online. They expect store associates to delight them with a great customer experience, know their preferences, and be able to provide recommendations based on those preferences. As Bernardine Wu, CEO at FitForCommerce, said: “[store associates] have to be digitally connected personal shoppers, fulfillment specialists, brand champions, customer advocates, and service agents.” The growing expectation among customers (and retailers) is that an associate earning minimum wage should be all those things and more–but how can they succeed without right access to technology and data needed in order to effectively connect with customers? Let’s for a moment forget beacons, digital mirrors, and virtual reality and focus on what’s truly going to drive the bottom line this year: investment in and training of store associates. Informed, knowledgeable, engaged store associates.

“Focusing on interaction creates a collaborative relationship between the customer and retailer.” – Dominique Essig

Bonobos started to solve for two simple challenges facing their male shoppers:

  1. To make better fitting pants for men
  2. To change how people shop in the physical store

Men's slacks and crowds

According to Dominique Essig, Chief Experience Officer at Bonobos, “there was much more of a focus on service, fitting, and the explaining of the product. It became a very collaborative relationship [between the Guide and customer], where customers started feeling more comfortable and understand the value of the Guideshop.”

Bonobos pioneered a new model for brick-and-mortar locations. To maximize on the physical footprint, they carry no inventory and all transactions are done through Tulip’s Mobile Associate App. Transactions are shipped from a warehouse so customers can leave unburdened. According to Essig, these “Guideshops” are “physical opportunities for customers to experience the brand first-hand” with an acute focus on customer service.

bonobos and customer in guide shop

As they quickly went from 10 to 20 to now 30 stores (with Guides originally transacting and interacting with customers from laptops), Bonobos knew they needed to shift to a technology solution that would enable their Guides to focus on customers in a smoother, more friendlier way. Essig notes that “in addition to seeing the analytics, what was most important was seeing the qualitative. By removing the laptop, which was the physical barrier between the Guide and customer, we saw that customers were starting to focus more on the service that we were driving and the interaction that was happening.”

By removing laptops and replacing with the lighter, smaller iPad Mini, that Guides could easily manage the interaction from the onset of an appointment; through shopping the catalog; to checkout, and; to post-appointment follow-ups. Customer profiles and accounts are integrated across all channels and devices.

Measuring Success

Since using Tulip-enabled iPads and having built a culture around offering superior customer service, Bonobos has seen a:

  • 12% increase in Avg. Order Value (AOV)
  • 4.7% increase in Units per Transaction (UPT)
  • Rising Net Promoter Scores (NPS) (below)

bonobos analytics

More importantly, customer data is fed back into a centralized data warehouse to feed reporting, customer personalization, and marketing programs across all channels. Numbers and figures aside, for Essig, “Customer experience is less about the quantitative, but more about the qualitative.” Focusing on the relationship at hand at tying the human element to the core is priceless.

Clienteling: extending the relationship beyond four walls

Bonobos originally set out to reduce the hassle of shopping and make great products with great fit. Today, with a continued focus and mandate on offering exceptional customer service, the retailer is finding ways to further augment the shopping experience by adopting Clienteling in stores over the course of early 2017. This includes:

  1. Customer Profile Information: view past shopping history, style preferences, and notes
  2. Top Customers: view and access the last 100 customers captured
  3. Client Follow-Ups: consolidated messaging history and standardized best practices on communication cadences
  4. Store Associate Performance: associate, conversion, traffic, and loyalty metrics

Take-away: invest in store associates, or be left behind

For Tulip, the mission is simple: put a device in the hands of store associates and mobilize them to create the store experience of the future. With Tulip-enabled iPads, associates and store managers can run entire operations through a single app. It provides store associates a rich understanding of the entire customer profile: from social media accounts, closets, and sizing profiles, store associates are able to anticipate their customer’s needs and create one-to-one personalization. They now know which channel their customer prefers to research, browse, and purchase in, as well as being able to access and leverage this data in the next interaction.

So what does the future of retail look like? The lines between the digital and in-store customer experiences are blurring, and it’s more important than ever to bring both those experiences together. This all starts with investing in store associates.

While the retail landscape is changing, store associates will continue be the first point of contact customers see and interact with when in-store. Equipping them with the knowledge and technology they need in order to develop long-lasting relationships is where the tide is turning. And the time for action is now.

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