As retail is adapting to the new normal, we are all looking at new ways to increase revenue from digital channels. Personal shopping can be a new revenue channel next to your webshop and physical stores. But what does it mean, personal shopping?
In this blog we explain what personal shopping is by showing what the customer journey looks like. We define 5 key steps that are part of the customer journey. You will find out that personal shopping can look slightly different for different retailers. You need to design every step of the journey in line with your brand and strategy.
Because as we all know, retail is in the detail.
1) Let the customer register for the service: customer onboarding
Starting a personal shopping service starts with acquisition of customers. We call the registration part ‘customer onboarding’. Referring to a smooth process that is both efficient and pleasant for the user.
Interactive. To make customer onboarding as smoothly as possible, make it interactive. Using a quiz tool with nice visuals or use a chatbot that talks to your customers. Next to questions and answers you can consider other elements to be part of your onboarding, such as a photo-upload or an appointment planner.
Fun. We can’t emphasise enough that customer onboarding should be fun and easy-going. Focusing on one thing only: getting the customer to sign-up. If a photo upload is not essential at this stage, consider asking it later, as this will probably drop the conversion.
Test. We advise many retailers on the effectiveness of their customer onboarding. Our experience is that different styles can be effective for different target audiences. It is therefore important that you constantly test and optimise for conversion. Also, things change in time. So be flexible and keep trying new things.
Segment. The result of an interactive customer onboarding is that you will have your first batch of personal customer data. Based on this data you can start segmenting. This creates a possibility to 1) assign the customer to the right personal shopper and 2) personalise any automated communication such as drip campaigns. For example, omni channel fashion retailers choose to assign customers to personal shoppers at their nearest store. Online sports retailers want to assign customers to a certain sports expert.
Here you can find an example of the onboarding of House of Einstein, online personal shopping for men. Currently using a chatbot.
2) Get to know your customer during the intake
After the customer has registered, the personal shopper can call the customer to get to know him or her. This call has also value because it creates a trusted relationship between the customer and personal shopper.
Questionnaire. This is the moment you can ask more complex and personal questions. Information you need to know to advise the customer today, but also in the future. We use a questionnaire tool so you formalise the conversation and standardise the customer data. This is very important if you want to scale. Not only will it safeguard a professional service, it will also enable personal shoppers to take over work from other personal shoppers.
Involve all questions that you think are relevant. Think about technical specifications, questions that related to style and taste, preferences in attributes like sustainability, price and allergies. Some marketeers choose to temporarily add questions to learn (such as: which newspaper or online magazines do you read?).
Multiple questionnaires. It can be important to have multiple questionnaires in one client profile. Furniture retailers need different questionnaires for living room, bath room, kitchen, babyroom etc. into one customer profile.
To talk or not to talk? Note that some retailers choose to skip the personal conversation and add some more questins to the customer onboarding. We know some fast fashion e-commerce players that prefer speed over personal service. Retailers in higher segments of goods or product categories that include a complex decision making processes prefer to include the intake to the customer journey.
Tests show, that in the fashion market, average order values are higher if the customer has had a personal conversation with the personal shopper.
3) Understand their need. Boil it down to current order wishes
At this stage, you know who you customer is. Now it is important to move over to what he or she needs. We call this the ‘order wishes.’
Why is it important to distinguish between intake and order wishes? Because personal shopping is not about one order. The goal is to stay with the customer for a lifetime and to sell multiple orders. So a customer can have only one intake but multiple order wishes.
Questionnaire. The order wishes include questions relevant for the order. What product(s) is the customer looking for now. What will it be used for, when and where should it be delivered? You can also ask when is a good time to call him or her for aftersales. For the personal shopper, the order wishes will result in a new ‘to do’. If he or she wants select the products later, the notes are still there.
4) Prepare the curated order
So you know who you customer is and what he or she is looking for. The next step is to indulge him or her with a selection of products that match his or her (life-)style. In the Superflow personal shopping platform this is done by simply adding products to the customers order.
Product selection. In our experience this is the favourite part for personal shoppers. They have an excellent ‘fingerspitzengefühl’ for what product are best for the customer. You want to give them a certain level of autonomy in their decision making. Of course you want them to work as efficient as possible. This is why we are currently working on a recommendation tool. However, in our philosophy the final call should always be made by the personal shopper.
Ship or not to ship. There are multiple ways to process the curated products. You can choose to put the selection in the shopping basket of your customers account. You can send a nicely designed e-mail with the product selection. You can send a direct order with the products. This all depends on your product category and business strategy. As you can imagine sales conversions are the highest if you directly ship. But it may possibly lead to returns. We experience that fashion and sportswear parties prefer to send the order in a ‘try before you buy’ construction. While furniture and kitchen companies will choose to send an e-mail or prepare a shopping basket in clients dashboard.
Payment. Your payment strategy should be in line with how you proces the curated products. Use your regular payment scheme if you use the shopping basket. Superflow offers its own ‘try before you buy technology’, but you can also use Afterpay of Klarna. Or send a payment link before shipment.
Aftersales. If your focus is recurring sales, aftersales is a crucial part of your customer journey. After every order there should be some form of aftersales. You can put a feedback form in the order, call or even better: do both. Why is aftersales so important? We call it aftersales but it is actually sales. Because this is when you get your customer in the ‘Ongoing sales loop’…
5) Get the customer in an ongoing sales loop
We are now at the best part of the personal shopping business model. Personal shopping is about staying with a customer for a lifetime. This is why the business is sometimes referred to as a ‘subscription model’. However, a static subscription often leads to high churn. This is why we prefer to call personal shopping a ‘personalised subscription’. In which you decide what you order plan looks like.
Ideally, your next ‘moment of need’ is scheduled during aftersales. If not, build a safety net to be sure you get all customers in the ongoing sales loop.
Our ongoing sales loop works in three different ways:
- Contact frequency for all customers (default frequency). For example, you want every customer to be contacted twice a year.
- Contact frequency on individual customer level. Some customers want to be contacted every two months while others only once a year.
- Next contact moment on individual customer level. The ideal way if during the aftersales conversation the personal shoppers defines the next moment of need. For instance ‘before Christmas’, ‘after maternity leave’ or ‘before my holiday’.
Having this contact moments of all your personal shopping clients on your radar combined with their in-depth profile creates a big commercial potential. It creates recurring revenue without marketing spend, making personal shopping a super powerful digital revenue channel.
I hope this article gives you some ideas on how to design the customer journey of your personal shopping service. Please comment your ideas or send me a message to elaborate on your business.
Mei Ling Tan, founder & CEO of Superflow.