It’s a commonly held belief that technology has greatly enhanced our daily shopping experiences. Case studies often site Gucci or Burberry as examples of fashion brands that have been able to successfully incorporate social media and in-store technology platforms, in conjunction with our prolific use of smart phones to offer consumers a more enjoyable and seamless experience. Generally speaking, (as in this case) the majority of fashion retailers appear to be struggling in their attempts to incorporate tablets and other devices into their sales ceremony. It’s fairly safe to say that my interaction at the Bondi Beach GENERAL PANTS store this week was a definite example of when technology goes wrong.
For 2OPINIONATED followers who don’t live in Australia – General Pants Co is a multi-branded youth retailer with 47 stores Australia wide.
Allow me to set the scene for you. I was with a girlfriend who lives overseas and we were en- route to one of her favourite Bondi shopping destinations TUCHUZY. Walking past the General Pants window below my friend, THE TRAVELING STYLISTA noticed that they were having a promotion on Cheap Monday, having already bought the brand before she was keen to pick up a replacement pair of jeans.
So at first blush…. it seems like a positive interaction…consumers (in this case a fairly qualified lead) respond to the current promotional activity and as a result head in-store to explore . The Traveling Stylista went off in search of some denim and I started to play with the kiosk station pictured below.
There were two staff members on the floor at the time and we were the only customers in the store. One staff member was unpacking stock at the back of the store and was largely uninterested in assisting us. The other was deep in conversation with a friend in the doorway of the shop. As she chatted endlessly with her chum I thought I would check out how this savvy retailer was incorporating technology platforms in their stores.
In my browsing I was able to view the Cheap Monday promotion, visit the full General Pants website, see staff from other stores and also upload and post up an image of myself in the store. All in all, interactions one would imagine were designed to make me feel like a fully qualified member of the General Pants Community.
I would have spent at least 5 minutes by myself playing on the tablet and then at the conclusion of her socialising I was finally officially greeted by a staff member. Here’s where the experience gets interesting or disappointing as the case may be.
Traditionally retailers have used swing tags and in-stores displays to be the ‘silent salesperson’ to assist customers in making their purchases and these days tablets are increasingly taking the place of these tools. Used effectively technology can:
- support the sales staff
- educate the consumer
- enhance the customer experience
- increase customer engagement
- or simply entertain
…they should never be, (as in this case) viewed as a substitute for actual customer service !
On seeing me using the device this staff member saw it as an opportunity to ignore me rather than use this interaction as a tool the further engage me. What a wasted opportunity! Rather than direct our conversation away from the usual boring remarks on the weather or asking if I ‘had the day off today’ there was an opportunity to create something more meaningful and potentially much more fun. Tablets are a fantastic way to assist staff in effectively telling the brand story and a clear way of differentiating their offering from that of their competitors.
These days retail is all about entertainment…the stores are our new stages. This particular entertainer could have easily chosen to use this ‘prop’ to more effectively engage me by simply asking one of the following questions;
- ‘Have you used the kiosks in our stores before’?
- ‘Can I show you my favourite photo/top/feature on the General Pants site’?
- ‘Have you bought online from us before’?
- ‘Make sure you follow us on Facebook or Instagram to keep up to date with our latest promotions and deliveries’
- ‘ Why don’t we take a photo together and post it up to the site’
Any of these questions would have made me want to linger longer in the store and the longer a customer lingers in your store the more likely they are to make a purchase. In the current competitive environment consumer expectations are high and if you want a customer to spend money in a physical store these days your sales staff need to be more than merely cashiers.
During this time my friend had gone into the change room. The jeans were not available in any of the 3 colour ways in her size (she’s a pretty standard size). Given that this was the key promotion for General Pants this week this is clearly a sign of poor planning. Rather than walk my friend over to the station and show her how to order the jeans on the tablet the staff member suggested my friend visit another store (with no actual offer of calling the store to check if they were available before sending us there).
The screenshot below is from the General Pants website and it really indicates the missed opportunity here;
- Firstly, had we been alerted to the fact that we could order the jeans in the store itself the jeans would have been shipped that day…for free even! It would have been a quick easy transaction that would have saved us time and we would have appreciated the tip.
- Secondly, General Pants ships internationally. My friend had already indicated to the sales staff that she lives overseas. She lives in Asia where sizing is small and she is always looking for new retailers who will ship there. In communicating this fact the staff could have created a profitable ongoing relationship between General Pants and my friend.
- Thirdly, my friend is an avid social media user. Living in Asia, she has over 21, 000 followers on Facebook alone. She regularly buys items as a result of social media posts and always shares her selections with her followers.
I may be calling out General Pants on this issue but the reality is that this problem is widespread in Australian. They way sales staff approach customers in store has not evolved in the way the sales process itself has. Consumers can now access your brand on several different platforms but sales staff are still measured on the performance of their individual stores and there is therefore no incentive for them to assist you in building a stronger relationship with the organisation as whole.
I have a background in retail training – so it’s no surprise that 9 times out of 10 my solution to any problem like this would be additional staff training. But the fact of the matter is that the sales process has evolved dramatically over the past few years. We used to train sales staff to “close’ the sale but these days you never want to “close” the sale. So rather than “closing the sale’ retailers need to train their staff to be capable of building an ongoing relationship with consumers on as many platforms as possible and in this instance the General Pants sales staff lacked the skills in which to do this. Consumers are obviously capable of looking up the General Pants site and finding their Instagram account themselves but its much more powerful and compelling to be walked through this process by an enthusiastic staff member and why not use the technology tools in-store to actually guarantee the sale? The right training would allow the General Pants staff to view these devices not just as visual merchandising but rather as a tool to assist them in reaching their sales targets.
The in-store tablets and their website ask you for your #INSTA OPINION. So here goes…for the crew at the Bondi Beach store my 2OPINIONATED opinion on this #generalpants interaction is that it gets the THUMBS DOWN !
A 2OPINIONATED RATING OF – Powerless ★ ★