Most have heard the quote attributed to Albert Einstein regarding the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results. Simply put, if you want different outcomes, you must change how you do things.
As one of the oldest industries in history, Retail has evolved over the decades in many critical ways. Merchandising, Logistics, Marketing and now Ecommerce have changed the retail experience dramatically – but one critical component of retail has remain largely unchanged for decades (and some would argue has in fact atrophied). What is that component? It is the in-store associate.
This is not to say retailers have not made attempts to change how in-store associates work on a day to day basis; clearly they have. But as organizations have grown in size the challenge in implementing new programs has increased, and the effectiveness has declined as a result. Perhaps the cause of insanity in retail is the knowledge that things should change, but the inability to change them.
Why have these past programs produced less than desired results? There are a number of reasons. Among them are ill-designed programs, ineffective tools, unmotivated associates, tedious processes, and lack of effective management of the programs.
The good news is that technology can now be used as an effective enabler of these programs. That is not to say technology is a panacea, for it is not; but technology can provide the framework for effectively managing the process of changing behavior. Ultimately, technology enables retailers to effectively change the culture of their organization by providing effective in-store capabilities and the management tools required to support the long-term goals of the organization.
Clienteling solutions are a perfect example of such capabilities being deployed in retail today. While not the only example, Clienteling serves as a model illustration of the challenges an organization might face in attempting to change the behaviors of their associates – and ultimately in changing the culture.
The primary goals of Clienteling are to enhance the long-term relationship with the customer through activities designed to personalize the experience with each unique customer, and to extend that relationship beyond the four walls of the retail environment. Clienteling should allow the retailer to increase traffic through effective one to one outreach, increase conversion of that traffic by providing associates the information they need – when they need it, and by increasing the average transactions size and margin by focusing on new products, coordinated products, as specifically those of interest to the individual customer in question. As total sales is the product of traffic, conversion, and average transactions size, there is the obvious benefit of increased sales throughout the organization. But there are other benefits as well. Not the least of which is a more loyal and happy customer.
The intent of this article is not to speak to the merits of Clienteling, but to rather illustrate the importance of the effective management of such a far-reaching program. As mentioned previously, technology can help, however technology only takes you part of the way there. Ultimately what is needed is a Cultural Change Management Program.