Service Makes a Comeback

As tempting as it is to do all our shopping on the sofa, online shopping can’t duplicate the tactile pleasures to be found in a brick and mortar store, one with a unique atmosphere and a helpful staff that enriches the shopping experience. It took some time to perfect, but more and more retailers are coming to that conclusion. They’re stepping up their in-store experience and customer service game.

Interestingly, several e-commerce retailers have come around as well and have opened physical stores as a way to present a well-rounded brand experience. Warby Parker (eyewear), Bonobos (menswear) and Untuckit (shirts) all began with just an Internet presence. Now they’ve invested in creating in-store experiences that are uniquely their own. They’ve also invested in staff who understand how to interact with customers and are very helpful and knowledgeable yet not overbearing. It’s a delicate line but when a retailer can pull it off, customer loyalty is the prize.

The service story certainly isn’t a new one. We’ve all had a favorite barista who remembers our name and our order.  But today’s customers are empowered by the Internet and come to most buying decisions with information. The personnel on the other side of the counter—whether talking about coffee or the newest handbag designer—better be informed. Savvy and successful retailers are making sure they are, with robust staff training and a company-wide commitment to putting excellent service front and center.  From fast casual restaurants with a cool vibe to high-end boutiques with a full bar, retailers have learned that customers are willing to leave their sofa if the in-store experience delivers something they can’t get at home.

Nordstrom—historically a leader in excellent customer service—is expanding their definition of service and introducing a new retail format in select locations. The new “boutique” locations, about 3,000 square feet and called Nordstrom Local, directly engage with customers by offering spa services, alterations, personal stylists and pick-up service for online purchases. Also available will be a limited bar with beer, wine and fresh juices. The blend of shopping and a lounge component for socializing is yet another way for retailers to weave their brand into their customers’ lives and become an integral part of their lifestyles.

The truth is, you can find just about anything online. However, a retailer who can offer a unique environment and an informed and welcoming staff will drive loyalty and will make sure that smartphone stays in the customer’s pocket.

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