Make Your Associates Valuable To Your Customers
By Bob Johns, associate editor
One of the best things about being an editor for Integrated Solutions For Retailers magazine and Retail Solutions Online is being able to talk with true innovators in the retail industry. I recently had the chance to speak with Matt Douhan, CIO of C. Wonder and J. Christopher Capital, and Claire Chambers, CEO and founder of Journelle. The one thing that really stood out in our conversations was a drive to be different in the retail space.
Douhan, along with Chris Burch and several others, was heavily involved in creating C. Wonder from the ground up. C. Wonder is a New York-based retailer offering clothing, accessories, and home decor in a bright, fun, engaging atmosphere. The main focus of the company was to be “totally disruptive” in the retail arena. Douhan said that as the team was building out the concept of the store and its back-end infrastructure, Burch and company wanted to create a completely different experience for both the customer and the associate. The new stores have no traditional POS checkout stations. Rather, the associates utilize a mobile POS system that allows the customer to check out wherever they are in the store at their convenience. They employ musical strategies that incorporate lively, up-tempo music to encourage a fun, happy feeling, which is reinforced by the bright colors of both the product and the stores themselves.
Every technology system that Douhan has implemented has really been designed to keep the customer in mind. “Our approach was to really change the retail approach to customer interaction,” Douhan noted. He pointed out how things like training associates on how to interact with the customer, how to use the technologies to check stock and place orders for the customer, and how to use the mobile POS system come together to create a new experience for the customer.
Customer Service Is Key, But Takes Many Forms
Chambers founded the premier lingerie retailer Journelle without having some huge retail management background. Her “love of designer lingerie and entrepreneurial spirit” led her to form a company that was as focused on the product as the customer. She wanted to bring the excitement of the fashion industry to the lingerie customer on a personal level. Journelle’s all-female team is completely focused on providing a complete experience that begins as soon as the customer walks into the store and includes offering expert opinions on fit and style. Chambers has built a retail concept that strives to make the female customer feel good about herself and allowing her to immerse herself in a luxurious design.
Rather than stocking thousands a SKUs at a time and inundating the customer with choices, Chambers chose to focus on core product lines that highlight the “everyday loveliness” of a woman and finding the right fit for each customer. Additionally, she has employed fulfillment technologies that allow her to analyze sizes and styles that need to be replenished while not replenishing ones that are not fast movers or don’t align with her customers’ preferences.
During our conversation, Chambers commented that having the right people working with the customer to find the right fit and style for their body has been key to her success. Most women shy away from high-end lingerie mainly because they do not know how to get the proper fit to have that feeling of comfort and luxury. Having a staff that is completely trained to focus strictly on making the customer comfortable in the Journelle product, rather than just pushing out a bunch of SKUs in different sizes, has made a real difference on how customers view the company, and is the main reason they are able to rely on a steadily increasing repeat business.
As we have seen over the past year or so, retailers are really beginning to take notice of how customers interact with stores and the associates, and how that can affect everything from basket size to frequency. Whether it be supply chain visibility or access to product information, associates are interacting with the customer in different ways now than they ever have in the past. Both of these retailers have come to realize that having both the proper technologies and associate training in place, can help every retailer become truly customer-centric.