Will personal shoppers lift retail sales?
Personal shopping has moved into the 21st Century. In recent years, concepts such as Nordstrom’s Trunk Club (primarily online) and 1-800-Flowers (artificial intelligence concierge) have put new digital spins on the practice. Others, such as “Saks at Your Service – Anytime, Anywhere,” have sought to raise the bar on execution.
The Saks program, according to a Los Angeles Times report, is a response, at least in part, to the convenience that online ordering offers the chain’s well-heeled customers. The goal of the service is to offer the chain’s customers a level of personal service that can’t be matched by web-only services.
Saks’ service works by customers providing basic details on the size and type of clothing they are looking for. The department store then selects items and brings them to the customer’s location (home, office, hotel room, etc.) for the shopper to try on and buy. Saks sends staff, including a stylist, to assist its customers.
The Saks service is currently available through 13 stores across the country. According to the LA Times, most of the consumers who use the service are customers who have shopped at Saks stores for some time.
- Stores get personal to woo L.A. shoppers and keep them wanting more – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub.)
- Is Nordstrom smart to bring Trunk Club’s fulfillment in-house? – RetailWire
- 1-800-Flowers introduces AI concierge – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What does the future hold for personal shopping services? Do you expect to see more or less demand for personal shoppers, whether human or AI, in the future?
Join the Discussion!
15 Comments on "Will personal shoppers lift retail sales?"
You must be logged in to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Editor Emeritus & Co-Founder, Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer
Years ago, when I lived in Rye, N.Y., I saw lots of human “artificial intelligence,” and I think the programs described here will serve those folks in “1 percent land” very well. In fact I expect they will do very well, and thrive, in top-income niches everywhere. Gawd, I love Vermont.
Consultant, Strategist, Tech Innovator, UX Evangelist
As a niche, human personal shoppers might ad value to some stores that offer products on the upper half of the scale. However, there is no space for a scalable roll-out due to many factors, especially cost.
AI shopping assistants have a much greater opportunity to scale, but from my work with developing the technology, it will be many years until there’s a noticeable widespread adoption. As is always the case, retailers will move slowly, there will be many misguided fits and starts and eventually after a successful model emerges, more retailers will get it right and then and only then will shoppers be willing to use the technology in meaningful numbers.
President, Max Goldberg & Associates
Customers like to feel special and to save time. Personal shopping services do both, while driving loyalty and sales for participating retailers. It will be interesting to see how Millennials, who seem to shun direct interaction with salespeople, will take to personal shoppers.
Global Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit
Personal shoppers for fashion is outside the realm of AI and Watson. It is a real human-to-human challenge. I am a major fan of personal shopper assistant programs. I have used the Trunk Club, a shopping service rep at our Nordstrom store and the Macy’s personal shopper program — they were the best so far. They picked out the colors that fit me best, the not-too-hip look, and the products that were the best and were on sale.
Trunk Club is great but a bit high on price. Price no longer pertains to the best choice. Some designers just need higher prices and margins as a differentiator. Ask Combatant Gentleman — they are also doing personal shopping and custom suits but without the bizarre mark-up.
President/CEO, The Retail Doctor
Sounds like a lot of money and work to cater to a few. I have an idea. How about providing personal service on your salesfloor — like customers expect?
Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC
It’s one thing for Saks, whose customers should expect best-in-class high-touch customer service, to absorb the cost of their new program. And chances are good that they are getting a payback based on the good chances of a big transaction.
Is it scalable for retailers like Nordstrom, who are selling a lot of “better” goods in addition to luxury price points? Harder to say, but any retailer who wants a point of differentiation needs to pay attention — even if the “personal shopper” is tech-enabled. After all, isn’t Amazon’s predictive technology a form of personal shopping?
As technology does more and more and the Internet of Things evolves, and as more people have their noses in their devices and there is less and less personal contact socially and in stores, there will be a demand for more personalization and specialization — less hassle to figure out where, when and how to search for my size, color, styles I like. Better to have them curated or selected for me — that is, I see this as a retailer’s and customer’s dream — if I can afford it.
Managing Director, RAM Communications
I have long thought that Star Trek is a crystal ball for our future and this is particularly true with retail. How do consumers buy things in the show? They talk to a computer screen and in most cases the product, meal or whatever is delivered to a service door adjacent to the screen. I’m not going to get into the mechanics of the system –- if there’s some kind of 3-D printer, tele-transportation element or material fabricator at work. The idea of a person interacting with a computer to order stuff is the salient point. And if there is interaction with the computer for shopping, it stands to reason that there is some kind of AI and predictive analytics being deployed to help the consumer find exactly what they need/want. This is a long way to say that personal shopping, especially data driven digital shopping support, will be an important part of retailing in the future.
Principal, Your Retail Authority, LLC
Strategy Architect – Digital Place-based Media
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions
I can still remember years back when I needed suits and dress clothes more than today. There was a personal shopper at a men’s store (when they existed as standalones). I would call, tell him what I was looking for and what time I expected I would arrive. He had several choices and I can honestly admit today, because my wife is not reading this, I overspent big time. Overspending is one of the added extras a personal shopper brings to the bottom line of these upscale businesses.
CEO and President, Walking TALL Training & Consulting, Inc.
The personal touch is generally what consumers look for, consciously and sub-consciously. This personal shopping service provides something to consumers who wouldn’t perhaps normally go for it for it in a store. If they can have a personal service in their own home without the overt pressure to buy and be made to feel good about themselves, then this could work very well and achieve the ultimate result of a great experience and more sales due to repeat business. In general, I’m in favour of personalising any service for gaining more sales.
President, Affluent Insights & The Home Trust International
Saks has always had “Personal Shoppers.” It’s moved from discretion to promotion. The corporate impact is minimal. On the other hand, specific Saks stores who are able to execute will see sizable increases with their best customers.
It’s no secret that luxury department store retail is bleeding. Saks understands that securing current clients is as important as finding new clients.
President and CEO, Stealing Share