Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain.
Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, apparel retailers scrambled to close their stores, forcing them into an unenviable position where they had to make difficult staffing decisions. As such, many retailers furloughed or laid off their store employees.
But when Peruvian Connection closed its seven U.S. stores in March, the women’s luxury apparel and accessories retailer kept all its store managers on payroll. With the help of Salesfloor’s Virtual Associate Platform, the retailer could leverage salespeople’s product expertise to keep selling online—taking customers through the shopping process via live chatting, text messaging and email.
Using the app’s mobile clienteling capabilities, the employees could showcase their favorite items, share personalized comments on specific products and even use data based on shopper preferences, behaviors or transaction history to enhance the experience.
While this comforted the store managers, it benefited their relationship with the consumers as well. When visiting the Peruvian Connection website, shoppers could ask questions about online products and request virtual appointments to learn more about a product’s back story.
The Peruvian Connection brand prides itself on offering unique merchandise crafted from luxury fibers such as alpaca and pima cotton, making these detailed employee-customer interactions more important. Both staff designers and Peruvian artisans alike produce and hand craft the retailer’s apparel and accessories items.
Upon completing a successful interaction via Salesfloor, managers would hop on a phone call with the customer to further the conversation.
“Because everybody was home and had all this time on their hands, we decided to do ‘check-ins’ with our shoppers,” said Kay Moini, vice president of retail at Peruvian Connection. “It was more, ‘How are you doing?’ and not so much promoting a sale. They would call the customers see how they are, and then let them know that we’re at the store behind closed doors, and they could give us a buzz should they want to talk.”
Moini said that many of these calls went as long as 30 to 40 minutes, leading to more sales and customer referrals in support of each store.
“Our managers were converting and acquiring new client bases that we had never seen before,” Moini said. “Typically, for a first-time customer, it takes us three to four different transactions to really get to know them. And those three to four transactions can happen over 12 months.”
When managers started getting overloaded with calls and orders, the retailer brought back hourly in-store associates incrementally to handle the higher demand before reopening the stores.
Peruvian Connection also is sitting at a 35 percent open email rate through the platform. Moini credits such a high figure to the company’s relationship-building capabilities developed throughout the pandemic. The existing customer conversations enabled the employees to deliver more personal emails including product recommendations.
“If you and I already had been talking, then you would have a better chance of opening an email from me because we’ve established a relationship,” Moini said. “Now, a consumer who has shopped with the associate a few times will think, ‘I know that when they send something out, it’s either for my benefit or to answer my question.’ It’s not a random company email that’s going out from Peruvian Connection.”
The platform’s success inspired Peruvian Connection to launch virtual trunk shows for its fall and spring collections. Through Salesfloor’s Zoom integration, the retailer can launch the shows via Salesfloor, yet invite customers to attend through Zoom. That way, the customer can encounter a familiar process and won’t need to adjust to a new platform.
The Salesfloor partnership long predates the pandemic. In fact, Peruvian Connection found itself better prepared for the crisis via its previous work with Salesfloor. In early 2018, the retailer implemented Salesfloor to help address a challenge many retailers currently face: connecting the store associate with the online shopper.
Within 30 days of deployment, Peruvian Connection increased average online order values 32 percent, boosted in-store sales 25 percent and improved online conversion rates 4x. The luxury apparel retailer increased new customer acquisitions 20 percent.
Moini spearheaded the move after seeing the benefits Salesfloor brought Lord & Taylor, where she previously worked. At Lord & Taylor, she saw that the platform let store associates contact shoppers through live chat, maximizing the associate’s role and allowing the consumer to interact with a real person. Moini noted that this felt distinct from many other live chat solutions offered at the time, which were automated—or at least felt that way.
“We’re able to humanize that whole experience from a chat perspective. We would say, ‘We’re here in our New York City store or our D.C. store,’ and give them a phone number to call to continue the conversation,” said Moini. “We loved helping our online operation grow the basket size. And when we started to speak with the client, we saw an increase in the conversion where they called us directly at the store versus chatting online with us.”
Since Salesfloor launched the Virtual Associate Platform in response to Covid-19, Peruvian Connection—and all other retailers using it—gained complimentary access to the entire Salesfloor platform in the early months of the pandemic. Salesfloor said it did not charge retailers the annual license fee for the Virtual Associate Platform in 2020.
In the week following the first wave of March 2020 retail store closures, customer requests across all Salesfloor retailers increased by an average of 47 percent. Luxury brands using Salesfloor doubled their clienteling interactions after the pandemic shuttered stores, the company said.
As part of the partnership, Salesfloor provided program setup and implementation, training, live support and retail engagement strategies, as well as Support Desk access via phone and email. Additionally, the company performs a monthly sales audit and offers returned/canceled order reconciliation.
When the pandemic subsides and more shoppers feel confident in returning to stores, Peruvian Connection is optimistic that its new customers and empowered employees will help sustain it success.