Macy’s revealed its blind spot last month when chief financial officer Karen Hoguet pinned the retailer’s slow sales on the Millennial woman’s reluctance to wear makeup while she shops. “She likes going to the off-price retailers because she doesn’t have to put lipstick on,” Hoguet said, according to a transcript of an industry conference quoted in MarketWatch.
“If the experience was something that [Millennials] really looked forward to, they’d put on lipstick without a blink,” said Laura Davis-Taylor, executive vice president of customer experience at Atlanta-based digital retail experience agency MaxMedia, during a RetailWire discussion afterward.
She’s right. A recent TimeTrade report said the top three areas that 92 percent of consumers said retailers need to improve on have nothing to do with lower prices: a more personalized customer experience, more helpful retail associates and faster customer service.
The software company surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to understand what shoppers want from retailers and found that more than 80 percent of respondents will abandon an in-store purchase if they have to wait more than five minutes for service, whether that means they can’t find what they want (29 percent), can’t get answers to questions fast enough (22 percent) or checkout lines are too long (23 percent). And when the in-store experience isn’t up to scratch, 67 percent of consumers will go online or use their mobile device for a more convenient, faster experience.
The solution: Retailers need to translate the ease of online shopping to their brick-and-mortar stores in order to increase the feel-good factor of their customers’ experience, thereby boosting business.
This isn’t news to store owners. Eighty percent of retailers surveyed by TimeTrade at a Future Stores conference in 2013 noted that sales increased by 25-50 percent when shoppers were assisted by knowledgeable retail associates. And yet 60 percent of retailers confessed they needed to step up their customer service game, while a baffling 20 percent said well-informed, helpful employees were missing from their stores.
A similar survey conducted by Econsultancy and IBM found that though 90 percent of marketers agreed that personalizing the customer experience is critical to their success, nearly 80 percent of consumers said the average brand doesn’t understand them as an individual.
“The real challenge is providing the right experience for the right person at a time that’s right for them,” said Stefan Tornquist, vice president of research for the Americas at Econsultancy in a statement. “At the center of it all is the marriage of marketing and technology and a commitment to innovation that’s driven by individual customer needs.”
Similarly, the TimeTrade report concluded that it’s time retailers focused on the goal of happier customers by changing the way they think about getting “personal,” and this level of customization needs to be carried through every stage of the buying journey—from initial research and consideration to the moment of purchase and beyond.