Selling Technology by Befriending Your Customers

Senior Vice President of iQmetrix Payment Solutions, Tabitha Creighton (pictured), reflects on the key takeaways from CES 2018.

At this year’s CES, I had the pleasure of speaking with Robin Raskin at the High-Tech Retailing Summit. In our fireside chat, I outlined some of the key trends for selling technology with technology.

It’s no secret that most consumers include technology in their shopping experiences. 92% of today’s shoppers want an “omnichannel” shopping experience meaning that if they see a product somewhere, they expect to be able to buy it anywhere. Further, 77% of consumers use phones to compare features or prices while they’re in-store.

When the product or sales platform is high-tech, how can an in-store sales associate add value to the shopping experience?

It all comes back to the shopper and the product. Are they sophisticated shoppers who are deeply knowledgeable about the product they’re looking for? Or are they newbies (‘noobs’, as my son would say), who are treading carefully into their first purchase?

Here are 3 key takeaways from the lively discussions at CES that help us answer these questions:

  1. Trust is still the heart of every sales experience. The channels of engagements are evolving and consumer sophistication is growing, but those who are responsible for helping customers must still seek to build trust first to drive value.
  2. Retail sales shouldn’t start and end with shift work.Your associates are both your brand ambassadors and your extended support network. Like your customers, they’re online and engaged in social channels. You’re missing a natural omnichannel opportunity by not recognizing their influence and investing in them. Whether in-store or online, wherever your staff go, your customers are there, too. So be sure to make the most of your associates' presence, wherever it may be.


  3. Digital purchasing and fulfillment options are here to stay. Anyone who doubted the importance of omnichannel can put those doubts to bed. E-commerce is now growing at 10x the pace of in-store sales and smart retailers are re-thinking their floor space as a place to help customers engage with brands and products. Loyalty is built through customer experience across social media channels and carried into “live experiences”. Customers want authentic relationships with brands that treat them like they would a friend. Retailers must respond accordingly, looking past transient sales transactions to invest in those relationships.

Considering these takeaways, let’s look more closely at 4 different engagement models that help you sell products in today’s high-tech markets.

  1. Simply Service. This is the “classic” retail sales engagement model. It’s all about the service experience in-store. The consumer is likely one of the 23% who don’t use their phones when they shop, and they’re not looking for a very technical product or service. For the customer, the value proposition of the sales associate is balanced between product knowledge and customer service excellence. The relationship is one of “trusted equals”. 
  1. Savvy Salesperson. Here we have a more sophisticated piece of tech and a less sophisticated customer. The priority here is for the sales person to be a trusted guide and product expert They should be able to speak knowledgeably about the different options, by being an active user, so that they can educate the consumer about the experience with the technology. The combination of being an active user and excellent customer service creates a relationship of “trusted advisor”.  
  1. Automated Self-Service. There’s been a lot of movement in this quadrant already. Think of those products and services that are fairly low-tech themselves, but lend themselves to automated purchase and fulfillment by a more sophisticated customer base. With processes and resources set up and designed to have the customer self-manage the purchase and fulfillment experience, the role of in-store associate shifts. Associates should anticipate trouble and guide customers without getting in the way. The relationship is a “trusted mentor”, with the associate being available, but not directly involved in the self-selling the customer is looking to do. Knowing the processes better than even the savvy customer—and showing them “tips” and “insider tricks” to get the most out of the experience—makes a great associate. This can include engaging with the customer beyond the in-store context through social media channels.
  1. Digital Self-Serve. In this sales engagement model, you might think the in-store experience is removed completely. With 92% of all consumers wanting omnichannels for shopping, this engagement model is the newest, scariest and most likely place to forget about the role of the sales associate. That would be a mistake. When a product is highly technical and being purchased online, the stakes are high to either delight or disappoint when it’s finally in the hands of the purchaser. Enter the role of the in-store showroom, and the product expert associate. Removed from the role of actual sales person, the product expert is free to focus on helping the consumer integrate all of the online knowledge into real-world experimentation with the products. 

I predict we’ll eventually see revenue models reflect these new relationships. 

To learn more about the most effective revenue-generating models in retail, attend interactive training sessions with iQmetrix experts at our upcoming RQ Bootcamp and Pay Day.

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