We’re excited for Bob Phibbs — the acclaimed speaker, writer, and CEO of the Retail Doctor, a New York-based retail consultancy — to be in Chicago later this week, where he will deliver the keynote speech at this year’s Retail Summit.
For more than two decades, Phibbs has worked closely with several of the world’s leading brands to implement widespread organizational change that increases profitability while improving the shopping experience. Phibbs is an award-winning author who has written three books on retail, including The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business.
ShopperTrak was lucky enough to speak with Phibbs before the conference to learn about his take on using technology in the store, training sales associates, and creating loyal customers.
A Discussion with Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, on Using Technology Wisely and Focusing on the Customer
ShopperTrak: If there were one one message that you could effectively relay to today’s retailers, what would it be?
Phibbs: Retail comes down to people. Great retail has always centered around being curious about the customer.
I think we’re in the middle of a great industry shift: one in which technology, as opposed to customers, often takes center stage. As technology becomes increasingly important to retailers, it is profoundly important to also remain focused on the customers.
ShopperTrak: Undoubtedly, you’ve watched many retailers experiment with new in-store technologies. What have you learned from watching this process, and what advice would you give to retailers as they modernize?
Phibbs: First off, be thoughtful about the technologies you invest in and remember that the best technologies tend to help retailers re-focus on the customer. Generally, these technologies inform and enable (not control or limit) associates by supplementing employees’ pre-existing expertise with data-backed insights.
Secondly, keep in mind that data is pointless, unless you can act on it. Don’t just collect data for data’s sake. Instead, seek out services that provide meaningful, actionable insights that empower your associates to have meaningful interactions with shoppers.
Finally, be sure that associates are properly trained on all new technology. You must work to convey the value of new technology to the employees who are using it – training is critical.
ShopperTrak: You’ve written widely about the importance of associate training. In your experience, why can training store associates be a challenge for retailers?
Phibbs: More often than not, training issues stem from a lack of overarching leadership on associate learning within wider retail organizations. It’s critical that somebody at the top “owns” the in-store experience – which is significantly dependent upon associate effectiveness. Without appropriate leadership in place, associate training inevitably falls short, which negatively affects the bottom line.
Equally important is the common misconception that associates will only perform at a certain level – only up to a certain point, and this where having proper leadership around ongoing training comes in. I’ve seen that when solid, continual investment is made in training, the results from individual associates can be astonishing.
ShopperTrak: We all know that a classic method for driving sales is to “create” loyal shoppers. Do you have any tips that associates can use to help get shoppers to return?
- Remember why people shop. People shop to not feel lonely. Whenever a customer walks in, get out from behind the counter and welcome them with an open heart. Associates need to be trained on what to say to customers upon arrival.
- Be sure to tell a customer to come back. It’s a small gesture, but it counts.
- Focus on the fitting room and training associates on what to do in the fitting room. The fitting room is where final purchasing decisions are made. If a shopper tries on clothes, her chances of converting (i.e., making a purchase) nearly doubles.