Improving Data Collection in Retail: Email Sign-ups and Sales Associates as Critical Points of Interaction

Companies can collect more data from customers at key points of interaction to enhance their knowledge. In the case of retail, two key opportunities exist to improve data collection:

  1. Email Newsletter Sign-up: Valiance Solutions has reviewed the e-mail newsletter sign-up process of the top 100 apparel retailers from the Internet Retailer 500 and were surprised to see how little information these top e-commerce players collect at this key moment of truth. Yes, any good e-commerce professional wants to remove barriers to consumers sharing their address. But what large assortment retailers decide to send in that first contact when all they collect is name and email address highlights a real lost opportunity given the high expectations on the consumer side. Nike has it right, promising free shipping and exclusive access to new products for newsletter sign-ups that share gender, geography and birthday. Connecting this profile data with any behavioral data in the next few website visits, gives Nike a lot of information to provide personalized website and email experiences early in the relationship.
  2. In-Store Experience with the Sales Associate: Digitizing the in-store experience is an endeavor that many retailers are undertaking. Leveraging technology from companies like RetailNext, management has new insights into how a store is shopped and can make important adjustments to ensure merchandise is displayed optimally. However, the digitization of the in-store experience needs to include aspects other than just monitoring shopper behavior. The store associate can be a powerful ally in data collection to understand the customer. Crowdsourcing store associate knowledge can help new employees better understand how to handle complex situations for training purposes. According to a report from RetailNext and Forrester, only 29% of shoppers feel that store associates are knowledgeable and helpful. Given the cost of turnover that can reach as high as 60% in a year, this is a key pain-point that many retailers need to address and can do so in a couple of ways:
  3. Empower the Frontline: Enable sales associates and service reps to provide feedback directly to corporate in an open and transparent process. This will allow retailers to build a knowledgebase from their long tenured employees down to the ones who leave quickly and leverage it over time to improve the customer and employee experience.
      • Collect and serve data at key points of interaction: Data and information can flow between the retailer and the shopper during their in-store experience. SMS and beacon technology pushes messages to consumers. Sales associates at large assortment retailers can also benefit from recommendations provided based on the types of customers they are working with in that moment. Predictive analytics and recommender systems can be used to push real-time information to sales associates while they assist customers based on insights about their customer, what they are shopping for and what they’ve decided to buy.
      • Build a better customer profile: Some customers try on a pair of pants, take a photo in the dressing room and then text their friends for feedback while others walk in the store, know exactly what they want, pick it up off the rack and bring it straight to check out. They are more comfortable trying it on at home. Knowing the percentages of shoppers who demonstrate these two distinct behaviors is one thing. Collecting the detail on the customer record about their shopping style preference is a next-level service component. This type of attention to detail is something that the best hospitalty brands have been doing for decades.

Cutting edge retailers are pushing the envelope to capitalize on raising consumer expectations. In 2015 we learned of Kate Spade’s associates becoming Muses and Urban Outfitter’s efforts at building complementary in-store experiences with the BHLDN boutique inside Anthropologie and their newest acquisition of Pizzeria Vetri. Up-skilling the frontline on customer personas and implementing special experiences will be a big challenge for many retailers in 2016. Critical to any of these initiatives are front-line employees in sales and service that know the brand and understand what customers expect from it. Appropriate technology investments and anaytic capabilities are required to empower them.

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