How department stores and concessions can embrace tech to compete in 2023

Sarah Friswell
29 May, 23

As the world of retail is constantly evolving, only brands that deliver the best customer experiences are thriving – others are at best surviving. Department stores and concessions on the high street face unique challenges, competing with fast-growing ecommerce brands, speciality or discount retail outlets on price and delivery. With more than 38,000 stores employing 1.3 million people, there’s an urgent need to elevate the store experience to secure the bottom line.

Undeniably, technology now plays a central role in their ability to deliver that experience that keeps customers visiting, returning and recommending department store brands to friends and family. Stores have realised they must embrace technology to integrate data to blend online and in store for seamless and consistent customer experiences that secure footfall and increase sales.

Elevating experiences and engagement

Despite the surge in online shopping, there is growth predicted for luxury department stores over the next few years. Stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty with their luxury concessions, exclusive product ranges and slick sales teams must share their “shopping spree” in-store beauty, fashion and home experiences with the online shopper, to stay front of mind for increasingly tech-savvy consumers.

Evolving customer expectations, including the rise of the conscious consumer, are forcing retailers to offer more information and choice in their retail experiences. Department stores must invest in the right technology to elevate the in-store services they offer, by linking their online to offline customer journey. The intelligent use of their customer and product data is at the core of this tech-first approach to build remarkable customer experiences.

How clienteling builds loyalty

One effective way to support customers through their browsing and buying journey is clienteling, which equips staff and concessions store associates with the technology to become trusted shopping companions that increase brand loyalty, encourage repeat purchases and enhance every customer engagement – with a possible 360% boost in enquiries or 30% conversion rate following implementation. 

Clienteling provides deep knowledge of a store or concession’s customers, from previous purchases to wishlists and remembering birthdays and observed occasions. It offers complete, cross-channel access to customer information coupled with accurate and detailed knowledge at their fingertips of the entire product range and how it matches customer preferences.

Clienteling enables personalised conversations based on those preferences coupled with expert advice, including appointments and profiles, tailored inspirations and looks. It drives sales by allowing customers to buy recommended products either directly after their conversation or once they’re at home, thanks to seamless cross-channel baskets and follow-up communications.

Store associates and consultants have the confidence to suggest products, services or events, and can reorder, cross-sell and upsell. The personal approach of customer-driven communications using WhatsApp, SMS and email depending on their preference, can build strong relationships, giving tailored updates including product and event waitlists, notifying of new launches and back in stock products.

Three foundations for effective clienteling

Some key considerations for using a retail technology platform in a concessions model will enable department stores and concessions to stay competitive and grow the bottom line in a sustainable way. These include:

  • Technical and data security

Some technology fundamentals, such as the store’s WiFi capabilities, are all too often overlooked in approaching retail transformations. Concessions will need a strong, stable internet connection to successfully use a retail technology platform and it’s also important to confirm if there are any domain whitelisting or other security protocols in place which might affect the platform.

With the platform running on an open shop floor with various store associates and customers, protection of customer data is essential. It is important to minimise the risk of an unauthorised person gaining access. Concessions should set up a short timeout on the clienteling application to minimise risk.  It’s also vital to adhere specific store or concession data gathering policies.

  • Managing prices and discounts

Depending on the contract agreed with the department store, it’s likely there will be times when concessions will not have control over the price of their product or be required to participate in store-wide promotional discounts. The right retail technology platform should provide this as an integral part of its functionality, giving the sales team a simple checkout mechanic for adjusting the price of products to accurately reflect costs.

  • Training and managing users

In a concession model, attributing sales correctly and not to the department store is key. From time to there may be instances where someone who works directly for the department store and not for the brand will put through a sale for one of your products. It’s important to be able to track these sales and make sure they are captured, either by allowing concessions to set up guest users with limited access to the system or by allowing the concession manager to review the total sales for their brand at close of business and create a sale using the platform for any missing transactions, which can be logged and reported on as separate backwall sales.

Store associate training and engagement is also critical to adoption. The right retail technology platform can be a great tool for providing access to inspirational content as well as training resources for users. Concessions leaders can share sample customer/client journeys showing where each touchpoint plays a part in securing sales and demonstrating the benefits of improved reporting and better communication.

Getting – and staying – ahead of the curve

It will take more than business as usual for department stores and luxury concessions to increase sales and keep up with the competition. Seamless customer engagement is essential, powered by shared baskets and proactive store associate communication, as customers move from website to store to app.

It’s essential that in-store associates have the same technology capabilities to be able to build lasting relationships with customers. As every inch of retail real estate must prove its value, a clienteling platform enables store tech leaders to measure the impact on the bottom line of this personal approach through increased sales, enhanced responsibilities, and role elevation.

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