As people’s shopping habits evolve, services that used to be reserved only for high-end retailers have gone mainstream and are now being implemented by mid-range retailers. This offers a new way of serving customers to better fulfill their needs and build relationships. Appointment booking is now “the next thing for retailers” that allows them to inspire customers to return to their stores without hesitation, making the most of their business, people, and store hours.
Appointment-based shopping is about providing that personalized brand experience for a customer that has a high intention to buy at his/her own convenience in a safe and customized environment in-store. It also provides a great way to influence traffic patterns, create additional sales opportunities, and build brand loyalty via tailored experiences in-store.
Appointment Booking: The Customer and The Experience
There are several benefits that selling through an appointment can provide to customers. To them, most of these benefits are about personal face to face experiences with convenience – something that an online interaction can’t provide. No more struggles of long lines or crowded aisles. Customers can rest assured that the time they are spending in-store is going to be reciprocated by the retailer, the brand, and the expert providing them service. “I’m coming into your store, and I want to be assured of service and attention to fulfill the needs that I have. I appreciate your expertise and I want you to assemble all the pieces together for me.”
Customers certainly expect that the retailer’s focus and the sales associate’s attention is solely on them. They may even want to select the person who they want the appointment with. From a repeat business perspective, this kind of one-to-one relationship is perceived as more important than just simply another transaction.
What’s In It for the Retailer?
Retailers are almost guaranteed that shoppers will convert once attending their appointments. But what happens with the customer once the appointment is happening? During an appointment, a sales associate has the opportunity to interact, serve, and engage on a more personal level with the customer. This investment of time and attention increases basket size and brand recognition.
Maximizing Retailer’s Labor Planning
Appointment booking is a great way of maximizing the retailer’s labor resources. Think about your available labor capacity in-store on a Monday or Tuesday morning. Most likely there are associates available and ready to perform any activity or task. By letting customers schedule appointments, retailers can maximize their staff productivity during those “not-so-busy” times, utilizing their staff’s experience during those quieter periods. During some peak periods, some retailers are even bringing in dedicated shifts to work on appointments with the confidence that the incremental sales will offset the labor.
Building Customer Loyalty by Customizing the Experience
Retailers are also able to customize the experience even more by doing the heavy lifting of the sales process before the person has even walked into the store. They know who’s coming in for the appointment, what they’ve purchased in the past, what they like or don’t like and what their needs are. For instance, retailers like Kate Spade and Vow’d Weddings utilize their online channels to understand the purpose and needs of their in-store appointments.
Appointment Booking: Considerations for Your Store Operations
Appointments are fantastic for allowing retailers and store managers to estimate how many more customers they will and/or are able to have in store. It is critically important to determine the plan around it for it to be successful. Here are the key planning points as retailers consider moving forward with booking appointments:
- Analyzing Available Capacity (AC) for better staff planning. Although appointment bookings can guarantee footfall, there is also the risk that a person doesn’t show up. Retailers need to make sure that they have enough staff to satisfy both demands, without overstaffing or understaffing. Finding that sweet spot can easily be done by determining available labor capacities in-store. Before adding more selling hours, utilize your Available Capacity KPI to perform appointment bookings in-store.
- Be mindful of store peak hours or segments. During busy segments or hours, it is best to use staff for walk in customers to ensure things run smoothly in their stores. By limiting appointments during those times, your employees can focus on delivering your desired brand experience during peak traffic.
- Appointment booking visibility across stores. Retailers must ensure that two-way communication between the corporate office and stores exists. This will ensure that whatever is being booked via different channels (i.e. the retailer’s website, customer service support, or in-store) is achievable and can be well-executed at store level.
- Local behaviors or trends. Understanding how your local customer behaves is important in planning the appropriate amount of staff. For instance, build in some flexibility in case appointments arrive early or need more time. Maintain enough contingency in your staffing plan to accommodate modest variations from schedules.
Appointment bookings drive additional business for the retailer, build your brand and customer relationships for the future. If done well, your customers will become your top brand ambassadors and will spread the word to others of the experience.
StoreForce can help you to achieve your retail goals and labor planning effectiveness. Interested in learning more? Contact us and engage with one of our retail experts as to how we can future proof your overall retail store management.
Dilanjan Abeyawardane is a Client Engagement Manager at StoreForce. In his role, Dilan works hand-in-hand with Specialty Retailers to provide guidance and input on how StoreForce can support their operational initiatives. Dilan held previous roles at a global retail organization, where he focused on managing and training various teams in store. He values good communication and partnership in all interactions. Dilan is an avid wildlife enthusiast; during his leisure time, he is exploring trails and bird watching!
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