Earlier this month, The Economist wrote a piece called “Welcome to the Appointment Economy.” The definition referred to clothing retailers, supermarkets, bars, and gyms that have introduced appointments and virtual queuing as leading solutions for the capacity parameters of a post-COVID era.
Massachusetts, where JRNI’s US headquarters is located, has joined that appointment economy. Effective this week, Massachusetts enters Governor Charlie Baker’s Phase 2 Part 2 of reopening non-essential businesses. And effective this week, fitting rooms which were closed at the outset, are reopening...by appointment only. And while it seems like a small thing, fitting rooms are part of the customer experience that separates in-store shopping from online shopping.
The question remains: will consumers take to appointments? I postulate that the answer is yes, and that there are a myriad of applications for appointments in today’s environment that benefit both shopper and retailer.
Personal shopping appointments
Nordstrom built a reputation on creating a personalized shopping experience for anyone who entered their store. As an evolution of that experience, they introduced personal shopping online, enabling consumers to reserve time with a personal shopper and then provide information in advance on what event they’re attending or what size they may be, so upon arrival, a curated array of selections are available. And imagine having someone else pull matching shoes, bags, ties, or pocket squares to complete an outfit. For the shopper, the experience is completely personalized and for the retailer, our data shows a 3 - 10X uplift in basket size is enjoyed when an appointment is set up in advance.
For shoppers who have equally important events, but are not yet ready to enter a physical store, personal shopping appointments can be arranged remotely. The same questions are asked to qualify specific needs, and the looks can be viewed via live video. Similarly, consultations of all sorts can happen remotely from matching a lipstick to purchasing that perfect baby gift.
Whether you’re planning a new layout in the living room, planting the back garden or just finding a scarf to finish an outfit, sometimes you just want to consult with an expert. Retailers are making specialty staff available to support the unique needs of each customer via a choice of in-store or remote appointment. If there’s a need, be sure to check your retailer’s site to see what’s available.
Pick it up curbside
Still prefer online shopping? That’s totally understandable. Whether you choose to save the online shipping costs, want the instant gratification of receiving your item the same day, or just don’t want to risk exposure to other people, curbside pickup is there for you. In this model, you can shop online and arrange to pick up your goods curbside or at a specific bay or kiosk. And at the heart of curbside pickup is an appointment, where you’ve scheduled a time to pick up your merchandise, and the store knows you’re coming and is ready for you.
Managing store traffic
Just when you thought appointments were just reserved for the doctor’s office, retailers can leverage appointments to manage the number of visitors in-store at one time. And they can stagger times to ensure ample time for sanitization in between shoppers. For shoppers, there’s a feeling of safety and comfort knowing that there won’t be overcrowding at the rack, and for retailers, there’s an automated way to manage store capacity without the need for counters and greeters.
So, while Massachusetts thinks of leveraging appointments to reserve a fitting room, the larger retail market is taking a second look at their investment and counting the ways to utilize it in these trying times. Shoppers will enjoy the personalized and safer shopping experience, while retailers will enjoy the 57% higher average transaction from booked appointments versus standard sales.