Saks takes personalized services online

March 21, 2016 06:00 AM

With nearly 92 years of experience under its belt, Saks Fifth Avenue knows the best way to please its upscale clientele is with personal service. Its sales associates now are shifting toward delivering personalized service via what the company calls its most-trafficked sales channel:

New technology from retail software provider SalesFloor Inc. enables Saks sales associates to create customized boutique pages that contain shopper-specific assortments of Saks merchandise, accessible through a dedicated URL. That means Saks associates can connect with new and existing customers online, sharing handpicked merchandise and style expertise via live chat, email or scheduled appointments.

Saks began testing the online service in mid-2015, expanded it during the holiday shopping season and rolled it out in February. The program is already paying for itself, says Joe Milano, Saks’ senior vice president, general manager, digital retail and e-commerce. He declined to reveal specific sales figures, but he tells Internet Retailer the program is performing “better than we hoped. It’s a positive ROI out of the gate for us,” he says. “We believe it has paid for itself several times over already.” Saks is owned by Hudson’s Bay Co., No. 97 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide.

Saks associates also can showcase their online storefronts to customers through email and social media tools built into a mobile app. “Today's all-channel customer wants a high level of service, regardless of channel,” Milano says. “When it comes to luxury shopping, there is no substitute for the personalized experience offered by a knowledgeable Saks associate.”

Nordstrom is another retail chain using mobile technology to connect shoppers and sales associates. In mid-2015 the merchant, No. 19 in the Top 500, launched a program called TextStyle at its 116 U.S.-based stores. TextStyle makes use of Nordstrom’s trained associates and combines the program with web ordering in an effort to increase sales.

To use the shopping program, a consumer opts in to Nordstrom’s Next texting service. Using Next, a shopper can send a store sales associate information on items she is seeking. The salesperson can look for an item that fits the bill and then send her a private text message with a description or photo of a product. If the customer likes any of the recommended items, she can purchase by replying "buy" and entering a unique 10-digit code. The purchase is completed using the customer's account information and items ship directly to the customer.

Nordstrom developed the text-based shopping program with mobile technology company Twilio.

“TextStyle is an important step forward in our continued efforts to develop ways to serve customers on their terms," said Jamie Nordstrom, president of stores.

Neiman Marcus also has established personalized online shopping on its website, giving shoppers options to connect with a specific associate or personal shopper in a nearby store via live chat or email, and make an appointment.

The retail chain (No. 43) keeps close track of shopper behavior and buying patterns to present the most relevant products. “We are able to associate substantially all browsing behavior on our digital platforms with unique individuals,” the company stated in its August IPO filing. “By aggregating this data and employing advanced analytics, we are able to generate a single view of these customers' engagement with our brands. We utilize this data to enhance the interactions with our customers when they are in our stores and personalize the presentation of merchandise to our customers when they shop online.”

And with good reason: Neiman Marcus says its data shows that 75% of all luxury spending is digitally influenced.

Saks’ Milano says the best connection to its shoppers is through sales associates, both in stores and online. The new program is a way to “humanize” the web channel, he says.




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