In-store staff members play a vital role in the way a retail brand is perceived and consumed. These individuals are an important touchpoint for regular or first-time customers, and their contribution to the brand can go well beyond a simple boost for the bottom line. In engaging with guests, in-store staff members can deliver genuine brand delight, resulting in highly involved purchase experiences where customers feel the urge to return, buy additional items than those planned (upsell, cross-sell), and even recommend the brand.

However, the emergence of e-commerce and growing purchasing power of the Millennial generation has shifted the retail landscape significantly: in-store experiences must now respond to changing consumer demands, values, and attitudes. One such attitude shift has to do with the relationship Millennials expect to have with in-store retail staff. Put simply, never before had we seen a group so gravely overwhelmed by information that the idea of a silent, unintrusive purchase experience becomes what most of them really want.

5 Ways to Delight Customers that Crave Space

A Deloitte report on the Millennial mindset explains that this generational cohort is particularly introverted in relation to older groups. But this is a very particular kind of introversion: Deloitte explains Millennials may be “secret introverts.” It’s not that this group fears social contact, but many of its members do enjoy more restrained, quiet thought. So how do we go about interacting with consumers like these inside the store? How to support their decision-making process, while giving them enough space to browse and buy comfortably? 

Here are 5 non-invasive things retail staff members can do to improve these buyers’ experience while encouraging sales:

1. Delight indirect shoppers

Sometimes customers enter stores with children or pets. Think of ways in which your staff can make the retail experience better for these “indirect shoppers” and win your main customer’s attention with a positive, unexpected action.

2. Offer them refreshment first

Before you even consider making a purchase-related question, start off your relationship on the right foot by offering something to drink or a small bite. It doesn’t matter how small or inexpensive the item is, as long as your (possibly skeptical) customer understands that you’re there to support, not put pressure on, their purchase decision. This seemingly unrelated offer is a much friendlier way to kick off a conversation around products or needs. New York men’s fashion store Billy Reid serves customers free Bourbon to make their in-store experience unforgettable.

3. Empower staff with data

Connect your staff with real-time sales data as much as possible. These insights will allow them to style, recommend, and display products in a much smarter way — especially when your store’s shifts are short and this information can get lost in rotation. When staff members have access to what’s popular, they’ll provide more useful advice to customers and said advice might be taken more openly. It is also helpful for in-store staff to understand which products are generally sold together, so they may suggest more relevant up and cross-sell items during their conversations with customers. Sometimes buyers are simply turned off by what seems like an uninformed recommendation from a staffer.

4. Position staff as experts

Train and empower your team members to become truly valuable advice-givers. After you’ve ensured they are prepared, adapt uniforms and role labels to reflect the nature of the advice they’re able to give (e.g. “Stylist”, “Personal Shopper”, “Tech Expert”). You can also give them tools like catalogs or tablets to use while explaining to customers how to use/match/style the products found in-store. Topshop has a special department for personal shopping services that elevates the advice customers receive from in-store experts.


5. Accommodate for introverts

Some customers are farther away on the introvert-extrovert scale and will simply prefer not to engage with staff at all. This is also a case you can plan for. A great example of accommodating for introverts’ needs is marking shopping baskets with tags that indicate whether someone needs help from a salesperson or not. Korean makeup retailer Innisfree has reportedly used this tactic with great success.

Can you think of any other ways to better connect in-store employees with customers who aren’t so open to engaging? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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