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Retail & Shopping by Appointment: More than a social distancing thing

Amie Parnaby
04/05/2021
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Shopping by appointment

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We all know that 2020 saw some pretty unorthodox methods for keeping stores functioning and businesses afloat. Who would have thought that doing your shopping by appointment would become something that you might appreciate? Sure, social distancing and safety measures necessitated most of these implementations. However, after a year of rolling in and out of lockdown, having a convenient and efficient appointment system is just too handy to give up readily.

Why would customers want to keep shopping by appointment?

Keeping customers happy is your primary reason for making any long-term alterations to your retail business. In which case, you need to know why customers would want to keep something that might remind them of the privations of lockdown. Sometimes people need something the same day, but maybe they can only get to the store in a short window – that’s where having an appointment comes in handy.

Online limitations

Yes, the eCommerce business has boomed over the past 12 months, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to come back to your stores. Online is great when you shop in advance, but you need at least a day’s notice for ordering in most cases. Sometimes people need something the same day, but maybe they can only get to the store in a short window – that’s where having an appointment comes in handy.

Online is also shopping at a distance; you never really get the full effect of the purchase until it arrives. Up to 40% of online clothing purchases get sent back. That means that up to 40% of the time, your clients will want to return the item they received. That’s not efficient or useful to your customers, no matter how good your returns policy is. Physical inspection can be crucial, whether it’s matching shoes to an outfit or furniture to a paint chip or fabric swatch, or even just being able to try on to check something fits.

Shopping local

The pandemic and its associated difficulties for many local businesses have made many more people aware of the benefits of shopping local and supporting their community and economy. Even if you have multiple branches, your customers would prefer to help you than a massive global conglomerate. Your customers are much more aware of how intimately their local businesses intertwine with their community. Social and corporate responsibility is almost as important as a good deal these days.

Social responsibility is also affecting what and how people make their purchases. Increased awareness of the pollution caused by the massive excesses of “fast fashion” has made people more conscious of the clothes they buy and their long term wearability. The capsule wardrobe is gaining in popularity for both convenience and environmental consideration. Su
When choosing electrical appliances, people opt for the high-efficiency A+++ rating with eco modes (for their electricity bill as much for the environment).

Speed & Efficiency

Working days, times, and conditions have changed. Running out at lunchtime might not be as easy as it once was, but there are also benefits in flexibility that weren’t there before. The benefits of running out to a scheduled shopping appointment where customers know they will receive the attention and service they require are numerous. 

Customers know what they want and want a convenient collection time, remote payment and checkout time, maybe even a scheduled personal shopping appointment to expedite the process or get a professional opinion.

Why you should want to keep shopping by appointment

Okay, so you know why your customers want to keep their shopping by appointment convenience. But aside from that, do you know how it could benefit you? If you rely heavily on physical stores for most of your revenue, you need to think about what will bring people back. Paying attention to how clients feel about some of the recently implemented procedures will determine what stays and what goes when we finally reach the other side of this thing.

Better staff distribution

From your perspective, getting a good read on when your customers want to book an appointment to buy from you is so helpful for determining when you have the most staff available and having the right people for the appointments. It can also help you to see when it might be most lucrative for you to open. 

Another benefit will allow you to track your staff sales performance. So often, actual sales staff performance isn’t tallied directly again their success because someone who advises and helps a customer might not be the person on the checkout.

Increased spend

People who receive a personalised, efficient, and excellent service by appointment will spend more than those left to browse alone. It works the same in any service industry, but that seems to have been ignored by brick and mortar retail in recent years. Probably because of reducing costs to compete with online retailers. When people browse alone, they’re more likely to talk themselves out of a purchase without an outside opinion. Personalising your retail service to the individual gives significant scope for upselling, and you can only provide that kind of personal service with a dedicated appointment.

Shoppers who make an appointment do so with the explicit intent to purchase; it’s not usually a window shopping experience.

Streamlined process

When someone books their shopping by appointment, you have every opportunity to ask what they want from the experience. Are they looking for a whole new summer wardrobe or a single outfit for a special occasion (including accessories)? If you’re in fashion retail, you could request measurements or dress sizings to make sure you have the items available. If you have an online presence, you could allow them to indicate the items they’re most drawn to with a serial number.

When you have advance notice, you can make sure your customer has the best experience possible.

With a complete service, beginning to end, you can add items onto a mobile device, ready for a simple checkout process. You can even enable mobile payments so your customer can get out with minimal fuss or waiting in line to pay.

Providing a “white glove” experience

Physical retail is going to be all about the experience. Everyone knows they can order online for an impersonal and practical process. It will be the quality of the event that will bring people back to the physical stores. Shopping by appointment isn’t a new idea at all. The personalised attendant for the retail experience has only ever been associated with high-end retail. However, it is becoming more desirable for the mainstream – now they have experienced it as an interim measure.

Keeping Shopping By Appointment – It works

No one is suggesting you keep all your customers on an appointment-only basis. That would be foolish and counter-productive. Some people love the experience of browsing and shopping alone, and that’s fine. However, the benefits of maintaining the option of shopping by appointment encourage people back to the brick and mortar experience. That’s what you want, and it’s also what your customers want.

Your customers will still crave convenience, easy access, and even delivery if you can manage it. Most want out of their homes and access to the things they’re buying. You can’t get an accurate feel for something on a two-dimensional screen. I mentioned before about the online return rates going up to 40%. That is compared to brick and mortar stores only having 8.9% of purchases returned. No one worries that they won’t get what they wanted; it’s broken, doesn’t fit or match, or doesn’t meet expectations.

Alternatively, appointment shopping needn’t be in-person. In China, individual and group sessions or live stream shopping has taken off considerably. IT might be an option for you.

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