By: Sarah Donnelly, Director of Retail Services, TechTown Detroit
Texting. Phone Calls. Emails. Personal shopping.
What was once associated with VIP retail service is now associated with public health needs. While they are not required and now optional, consider appointments as a long-term valuable tool for offering specialized service and a method to generate revenue with or without walk-in traffic. What if you planned your revenue predominantly on appointments and walk-in traffic was gravy to your sales plans? Walk-in traffic was not a given pre-COVID and while no one has a crystal ball, it is safe to suspect that trend will only continue. If you have not already, start to view your brick-and-mortar location as an appointment showroom, fulfillment center for online/curbside orders and backdrop for your social media pop-up events. In other words, be an omni-channel retailer. Independent shops have an advantage over larger companies right now — many people are seeing the value of shopping local in a new light and want to support you — they simply need to know how to do it.
In order to have high conversion rate (sales to customer ratio), quality appointments involve work before, during and after. Here are a few tips to consider to maximize appointment times for both your customers and your day-to-day operations:
- When building the registration process, ask yourself what you absolutely need to know about your customer. Beyond name, phone number and requested time, what would be nice, but not required? Be careful not make the registration over-taxing. Do not wear them out before they get to you — capture their excitement through a smooth sign-up and have them looking forward to their personal shopping time with your business.
- Are you offering appointments both in-store and virtually? The CEO of Crate and Barrel spoke last week of a sales associate selling an entire room of furniture and accessories via Face Time. It can happen.
- How are you marketing appointments to your customers? E-blasts? On sales receipts? Window signage? Website? Social media? They need to know how you are available.
- How do customers sign up? Over the phone? Social media? Email? Website? Text message? Whatever the decision is, make sure the systems talk to each other in some way to avoid double-booking.
- Check your point-of-sale system for what types of scheduling tools integrate with both it and your website.
Make it easy for your customers to know what to do.
Post pictures and/or videos to walk your customers through the process of what experience to expect when they come for their appointment: from parking to the store entry, to the fitting room and finally to the cash wrap. If you are offering virtual appointments, show the product that you pulled aside for curbside pick-up or are shipping out as a result of that customer conversation. Remember this is probably uncomfortable for them, too, and they do not want to do the wrong thing. So lower their anxiety (and yours) by anticipating what they will need to know, starting with registration to the actual appointment.
As you continue with appointments, show the demand.
People want to be a part of what others are doing, so when your customers see that others are jumping in to take advantage of the personal service, it will help put them at ease. For instance, share with your audience on social/email when you are booked up for the morning but there are still spots available for the afternoon. Or invite them to book for the weekend. Again, people might want to see the momentum and the value of getting an appointment before they are comfortable.
Remember when buying online and picking up in store was a new thing? Exactly. Just like that path to purchase, the appointment method of shopping is not going away anytime soon. When done well, they can work to your advantage — from both a team capacity and revenue standpoint. When someone books an appointment, they typically are more likely to buy and buy more.
Want to discuss your plans for maximizing customer appointments and developing your sales strategy? Sign up for an open office hour with a member of the TechTown team.