Today, physical retail is a powerful channel for building relationships with customers. But with more and more customers shopping online, retailers must look for creative ways to drive consumers to stores.
One way to drive in-store traffic? Shopping by appointment.
For retailers, appointment shopping is a critical tool to meet new consumer demands. With appointment bookings, retailers increase traffic to their stores and provide memorable shopping experiences.
What is Appointment Shopping?
Shopping by appointment enables customers to reserve a specific time to visit a store. There are different types of shopping appointments, such as:
- Personal shopping: Offers one-on-one shopping with a personal stylist.
- Technical support: Helps customers set up and troubleshoot their devices such as Apple’s Genius Bar.
- Omnichannel services: Supports the online experience with services such as buy online, pick up in-store, tailoring or jewelry resizing.
While appointment shopping is not new, the service saw a revitalization during the pandemic. When stores reopened in the summer of 2020, customers were cautious about returning. By offering appointments, retailers could control crowds and maintain store hygiene.
Despite health concerns being less of an issue today, shopping by appointment is here to stay. A recent survey found that 43% of shoppers are more likely to schedule appointments now than before the pandemic.
Today, retailers across categories—including J.Crew, Anthropologie, Parachute Home, Madewell and ThirdLove—are embracing appointment shopping.
The Value of Appointment Shopping in 2023
Over the last three years, the retail landscape has transformed. New consumer habits and supply chain constraints have shifted the role of physical retail. By offering appointment bookings, brands can better meet the retail challenges of the future.
Connect Offline and Online
Today, the consumer is omnichannel. Shoppers expect a seamless experience across all channels—online, on social media and in stores. For retailers, appointment shopping is a vital tool to integrate the online and offline experience.
First, appointment shopping supports webrooming behavior. Webrooming, also known as ROPO (research online, purchase offline), is a growing trend where customers research products online before making their final purchases in stores. Accenture found that 90% of shoppers now engage in webrooming behavior.
Appointment shopping also meets consumers’ demands for convenience, speed and personalization. According to Statista, retailers experience an average cart abandonment rate of 72% on websites and 84% on mobile devices. Customers often cite shipping costs, delivery time and return policies as reasons for not buying.
With appointment shopping, retailers can combat cart abandonment and offer a personalized experience.
Create Memorable Customer Experiences
With the acceleration of ecommerce, consumers need a compelling reason to visit stores. With appointment bookings, brands can differentiate the store experience to boost foot traffic.
Appointments allow brands to create hyper-personalized experiences. Armed with data, sales associates can tailor the experience to better meet customers' needs.
Brands can also use appointments to entice VIP customers. For example, Balenciaga only offers the service once customers spend a certain amount. VIP customers have early access to new collections, personal stylists and private shopping rooms.
Madewell incentivizes customers to book appointments by integrating the service with its loyalty program. Customers receive 250 points for every appointment booked.
Collect More Customer Data
Appointment shopping also allows brands to understand their customers better. Over the last three years, changes in consumer privacy have made accessing customer data more difficult. Today, it’s imperative that brands develop owned channels to collect customer insights.
With appointment bookings, retailers have access to first-hand customer data. Retailers can collect email and phone numbers, track transaction history and use surveys to gather additional psychographic data.
Drive Efficiency Among Sales Associates
New consumer habits have also transformed the role of the sales associate. Omnichannel fulfillment options—like curbside pickup—have forced store staff to assume new responsibilities. With appointment bookings, retailers optimize store operations and increase efficiency among staff.
At the same time, customers expect associates to be product experts and brand ambassadors. With appointments, employees can focus on clienteling and driving sales.
Provide Opportunities for Inclusion & Accessibility
Many retailers have made recent commitments to diversity and inclusion. But the in-store experience does not always reflect these values. A study by Sephora found that 82% of shoppers have difficulty finding associates who are “familiar with their unique needs.”
Shopping by appointment creates opportunities for inclusion. With a pre-appointment survey, customers can express concerns or the need for accommodations. Customers may also feel more comfortable voicing their needs one-on-one.
How to Drive In-Store Traffic with Appointment Bookings
Appointments are a powerful tool to drive in-store traffic and build customer loyalty. But designing the right appointment experience for your brand is critical.
Here are four ways to ensure your appointment booking experience is a success.
1. Promote the Service Across Channels
First, retailers should promote appointment shopping across all online and offline channels. Shopping by appointment should act as a call-to-action (CTA), such as at the end of an Instagram caption or email.
2. Choose the Right Appointment Booking Software
Booking an appointment should be seamless for customers. Retailers should choose booking software that is easy to use and integrates with their existing tool stack.
Customers should be able to specify the type of appointment and length. Booking software should also include automated confirmation and reminder notifications.
Retailers should also make cancellation or no-show policies clear. And any confirmation or reminder messages should include opportunities to reschedule.
3. Design a Unique Appointment Experience
Consumers will expect a memorable experience when shopping by appointment. For brands, appointments are an opportunity to drive customer loyalty and average order value.
Best practices for appointments include:
- Send a customer survey before the appointment. Associates can use the survey to prepare personalized recommendations ahead of time.
- Start the appointment by getting to know the customer’s needs and goals.
- Allow customers to browse the store independently to find other products they might like.
- Find opportunities for personal touches. Will you offer snacks or beverages? Will customers have access to private rooms? Where will additional guests sit?
4. Follow-Up After the Appointment
The experience does not end when customers leave the store. Appointment bookings are an opportunity to create an ongoing relationship with the customer.
Sales associates can continue the conversation by:
- Asking customers for feedback
- Sending links to items that the customer browsed
- Sending sizing information for future purchases
- Providing access to other content such as video tutorials
- Providing information about complimentary services such as tailoring, events or technical support
- Reaching out with access to exclusive promotions such as early access to new collections
Offering Appointment Bookings with Salesfloor
Salesfloor is an all-in-one customer engagement platform that makes it easy to offer appointment shopping to your customers. With Salesfloor, customers can schedule appointments via your website, live chat or text message. And the platform sends automated notifications to ensure customers never miss an appointment.
With comprehensive clienteling tools, sales associates provide a hyper-personalized experience to customers. Store staff can also use Customer Boards to create personalized recommendations. And with email, SMS and social outreach, associates can engage with shoppers even after the appointment ends.
Book a demo today to see how Salesfloor helps drive in-store traffic with appointment bookings.