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As the coronavirus continues to impact the retail industry, our team at Salesfloor has been working closely with our retail partners around the world to help their store associates continue to serve customers. Together, we have developed use cases and customer journeys in response to the crisis. These strategies can help all retailers, even those whose stores have been forced to close.

As a trusted partner to some of the largest retailers in the industry, Salesfloor’s client executives, product managers and engineering teams have been given a front seat to how retailers are responding to COVID-19. Our approach is “help in any way we can” and so in that spirit, we’ve put together a list of key trends, opportunities and best practices that are helping people get through this crisis.

WE’RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT, AND IT’S TIME TO PADDLE UPSTREAM

Retailers who are hit the hardest by COVID-19 are typically selling nonessential, or discretionary, consumer goods. For those stores that are still open, some associates are able to work but foot traffic is at all-time lows. Most retailers have closed their stores for safety reasons, forcing associates to work remotely. In the worst cases, associate payroll cannot be supported by the retailer until further notice.

All of the scenarios above will drive more customers to shop online and retailers can use this challenge facing their stores as an opportunity to evolve the roles of their associates to serve customers as they shop online. Using clienteling to connect with customers via live chat, e-mail and text messaging make it possible for store associates to drive sales and serve customers with an authentic, human approach (similar to what you’d expect in-store).

With so many people concerned with their home office setup, store associates from Relax the Back are keeping busy by interacting with clients via Salesfloor to help create the right work-from-home environment. Although stores have seen little to no traffic, thousands of e-mails and text messages about office chair and home office recommendations have helped sales skyrocket this month.

REMOTE ACCESS FOR STORE ASSOCIATES

Store associates that have been sent home due to closures can access public versions of the same apps they use in-store through the AppStore (Apple) or Play Store (Android). By working with solution providers like Salesfloor, retailers can make in-store apps available publicly for remote work and maintain a high level of security and restricted access. To make the transition easy for associates, it is critical to provide access to support and enhanced training to all users and managers.

Luxury department store stylists have some of the strongest customer relationships in the retail industry. During the COVID-19 crisis, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus stores are closed, but they are leveraging Salesfloor programs so that stylists and personal shoppers can check in with clients and continue to sell online. Most luxury brands have seen a twofold increase in clienteling interactions after stores closed due to the pandemic.

Store associates from St. John’s 35 temporarily closed locations are using Salesfloor remotely to serve their loyal customers around the world.

HELP ASSOCIATES EMBRACE ONLINE (EVEN WHEN THE STORE IS CLOSED)

Online has become the primary way for customers to interact with brands. While stores and malls are shutting down, e-commerce is still up and running, and retailers are shifting the way store associates are serving and selling to customers. Retailers selling apparel, beauty, baby/toys and furniture are helping customers get served by product experts who can make recommendations and earn credit for resulting e-commerce sales.

Online customers connect to real-life associates (working in-store or remote) via live chat, e-mail, text messages and virtual appointment requests. Associates are able to create relationships with their local customers and “be there” for them. In the week following the first wave of retail store closures, customer requests across all Salesfloor retailers increased by an average of 47 percent.

Buy Buy Baby has closed some of its 135 locations, but has made it possible for online customers to access help and advice from store associates through its web site. New and expecting parents who may be extra sensitive to safety concerns related to COVID-19 are still able to connect with their local store for questions and product recommendations.

IT’S ABOUT CLIENTELING, NOT JUST MARKETING

Marketing newsletters are effective, but they are a one-way communication. To adapt to the current pandemic, retailers are (now more than ever) equipping store associates with tools to reach out to customers and engage in one-to-one conversations. To help associates know who to reach out to and when, retailers can upload marketing assets and create smart tasks to identify personalized selling opportunities. This month, messages sent and open rates have increased by 55 percent.

Johnny Was is another Salesfloor partner forced to close all stores. They expanded Salesfloor access to more associates to maximize customer sales online. New tasks and marketing assets have been developed to create appropriate messaging that associates are using to engage their customers during the crisis.

Oscar Sachs is chief executive officer of Salesfloor.

Note: In an effort to support the retail community during the crisis, Salesfloor has opened up access to its mobile clienteling app for free to retailers. We are offering retailers everything needed to launch clienteling in 30 days, including training and support. For more information, retailers can contact: info@salesfloor.net

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