Guest Blog: Why instore shopping is still an event – Andy Tow, Retail Marketing Group

Andy Tow, managing director Retail Marketing Group reveals five brand ambassador attributes that will take a CX strategy to the next level

Whether it be in anticipation of a baby or to celebrate moving into a new home, purchasing new goods can represent a new chapter in our lives. There is a significant opportunity here for retailers and brands to understand more about how and why consumers shop, and it is directly on the shop floor where we are truly able to gain the most accurate insights.

A recent study conducted by Retail Marketing Group has found that there is still a strong desire to go in-store before committing to the final purchase of an expensive item. Specifically, 67 per cent of shoppers prefer to make big life event purchases in-store compared with just 20 per cent online, proving that customer experience outweighs the convenience of shopping online.

The fact that shopping can be such a sentimental experience shows just how important it is to create an emotional connection with shoppers. Such rapport is something that an online experience, for all its convenience, struggles to provide.

LG Electronics has been working with Retail Marketing Group for over a decade, linking brand ambassadors to its success in creating strong customer relationships. When asked what makes a great brand ambassador, Stephen Sculley, CE In-Store Execution Manager at LG Electronics comments;

“A brand ambassador must have the ability to create an emotive, personal connection and be confident and passionate in their demeanour when addressing customers. This is a key opportunity to find out more about them and understand how a product can fit into their lifestyle. The overall aim should always be to provide an experience that the customer cannot get elsewhere. Brand ambassadors that understand the shopper and add to the enjoyment of a purchase will certainly evoke stronger feelings towards us as a brand.”

According to the PWC 2017 Total Retail Global survey, 59 per cent of shoppers find that human contact is the most important part of the in-store experience. So what makes a great brand ambassador?

Retail Marketing Group outlines the top five attributes that every brand ambassador should have:

  1. Knowledge: Fundamentally, any successful brand ambassador must have a thorough knowledge of both the brand and product range, with a desire to continually expand this knowledge. The consumer technology space, for example, is fast moving and can be a minefield for the consumer with an overwhelming range of products on offer. A good brand ambassador should have far reaching knowledge of the industry to confidently help the customer find the right product which is both future-proof and which suits their needs.
  1. Inquisitive: As much as it’s important to have a strategy in mind before engaging with a customer, it’s imperative that they are prepared to listen to the customer. Ask questions such as ‘why are you considering this purchase’, ‘what are you using already’, ‘how often will you use it?’. Taking on board what the customer has said will make them feel they are in safe hands and will be ready to trust the recommendation. Understanding the reasons why they are there to purchase a product is such a simple way to create an emotional connection. If the purchase relates to a key milestone event in their lives, the brand ambassador is there to make the experience even more exciting and enjoyable for the customer.
  1. Relatability: Taking the time to understand customers is the first step – a brand ambassador should also be prepared to discuss their own experiences with the product. It’s important to be genuine but also to relate it back to their knowledge of the customer’s specific requirements. The true value of a brand ambassador is really seen when the service is bespoke to the customer and addresses the real issues that they have.
  1. Charisma: Human interaction is what allows the magic of a product to be realised. The ability to deliver a large dose of passion and charisma for the product is what makes the in-store experience enjoyable and captivating. It’s important that the brand ambassador truly understands how to communicate with different personality types, treating every encounter appropriately and navigating them through their shopping experience in an enjoyable way.
  1. Insights: Being on the front line of retail, the brand ambassador is a symbol of the brand itself and consequently should epitomise the values of the company. The sole purpose of brand ambassadors is not to secure a quick sale, instead they are implemented to nurture brand loyalty. The brand ambassador therefore should think of themselves as a reliable companion on the customer journey, as opposed to merely a salesperson. They are also there to provide customer insights back to the brand that may eventually have an impact on product development and marketing. Having an eye on the future and not just the present is therefore essential.

Shopping continues to be an event and, therefore, retail stores will always be an important touch point along a customer’s journey. A customer experience strategy for retailers doesn’t have to be complicated, however, the traditional sales approach won’t work on its own. Customers are now demanding more engaging experiences and the secret to delivering this is with skilled brand ambassadors. Consumers will always crave a human connection and the ability to gain clarity through the hordes of information online, to make the best possible purchase decision.

Recognising how to capitalise on this information is where retailers must act accordingly. Those that will thrive are the ones that provide a personalised customer journey; with the perfect balance between technology and human interaction.

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