The conventional wisdom for a while now has been that department stores are on death’s door. But that doesn’t have to be true, as long as they build on their strengths — and a recent Fast Company article by Saks Fifth Avenue CEO Marc J. Metrick made that point beautifully.
In the article, Metrick points to several steps his company is taking in the right direction, starting with a crucial reminder that “luxury department stores offer customers fun, escapism, fashion, and service; they provide an experience that goes beyond the transaction.”
That experience starts with personalization. While sales associates in the past knew everything about their clients and leveraged that understanding to make highly personalized recommendations, “This kind of service is still very much a part of the luxury experience today, but on steroids,” Metrick writes. “With the help of data-driven technology, we are delivering on the promise of personalized shopping — no matter where or how our customer chooses to shop.”
That’s music to my ears. As I discussed in a post last month, digital technology can transform the customer experience in your store from total anonymity to making each customer feel recognized, welcomed and heard. Technology can empower your salespeople to create a conversation with your shoppers that has a deeper understanding of them and their needs imbued in it from the beginning.
Finally, the physical retail space gives you a unique opportunity to make the shopper the star of the show. As Metrick puts it, “We must focus on the idea that the customer is the boss, and everything we do should be centered around this mindset… stores remain an important part of the ecosystem as they give customers a sense of immediacy, experience, and theater.”
Neiman Marcus is exploring similar ideas. In a recent Vogue Business interview, company CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck described the company’s recent launch of new digital tools designed to help salespeople provide high-touch, highly personalized service and guidance to customers who spend more than $10,000 per year. “We’re very focused on being present for the customer, however and whenever they want,” he said.
But there’s no reason to limit that kind of service to your highest-spending customers.
Any retailer’s true value comes in the service and the care and the attention they provide. It costs very, very little to empower your salespeople with information that creates a personalized experience and makes the shopper the star of the show. The technology required to do so at scale is affordable, it’s easy to implement — and it’s available today.