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n a recent episode of The Glossy Podcast, Sarah Benady, the CEO of ba&sh North America talks about the future of retail. Specifically, she digs deep on the importance of knowing your customer and "becoming a friend of your customer." With the increasing competition in the retail space, Benady believes building this relationship is the most important thing luxury brands should be focusing on.

"We want to have real relationships with our customers"

Throughout the episode, Benady continues to stress how the relationships their retail stylists build with customers is the most important part of what they do. When asked about her priority in starting ba&sh North America, she said "We have almost 200 stores in the world so we really know how to operate retail...so our own retail store and creating that relationship with our clients was the point of focus."

She expanded on this by going into amazing detail about the opportunities their strong customer-stylist relationships have created. "We noticed our customers love when we make whole outfits for them", Benady commented, "our customers are craving the expertise and craving the whole French style".

I found it so interesting that someone who is so high up in the corporate hierarchy is herself so attached and focused on the individual customer experience. It truly is a situation of practicing what you preach. Benady even commented on a recent experience she was involved in putting together. "We organized a baby shower for one of our customers. She was pregnant and wanted to host her baby shower in our store because she loved it and loved our stylists."

Think about it this way; Your store is like your home. When you host a party at your house, the goal is to make everyone comfortable to be sure the party is a good time for all of your guests. In your store, the same is true. You want your visitors to feel welcome and like they are in an extension of their own home so they stay longer, view more items, and hopefully make a purchase. Sticking with the same analogy, if the store is your home, it then makes sense that your stylists are your family and the customers are your friends that you invite in. It doesn't matter how great of a home you have, it's the people in the home that affect the outcome of the visit.

The importance of CRM in retail

But the truth is, while a successful dinner party can be difficult to pull off, it simply doesn't measure up to the task of introducing a personalized touch into the retail experience. In order for stylists and stores to efficiently manage their clientele, they need to implement a CRM tool that works in a store environment. To do so means keeping in mind the following:

1. Retail is a different animal. Most CRMs are built for sales teams who sit all day in an office at their desk and these CRM options are therefore a poor fit for retail. No marketing campaign, sales strategy, or implementation technique can change that. So, while some of the big names in the CRM industry like Salesforce and Hubspot will pitch themselves as a "Retail CRM", it simply isn't true. The job of a retail sales associate and a software or insurance sales person is wildly different and no tool can get the job done for both. Search for something that is built with retail in mind.

2. Simplicity is key. This relates back to point number 1. CRMs built for retail will often be more simple in some respects to those larger players, but will also have the features that are more relevant to your team. It's important to remember that not all retail associates will have the same level of comfort with technology because their specialty is in-person human connection. A CRM should be an added resource to help them extend this connection outside of the store rather than a complicated new system that they need to sit down in front of their computer for hours to learn how to use.

3. Omnichannel is the future. Any CRM you choose must be omni-channel in nature. That means it should connect both your online store and your in-store POS systems so that your associates have a big-picture understanding of your customers, not just what they bought at one location or with one associate. However, your online store or in-store POS shouldn't BE your CRM. Payment processing platforms are focused on transactions & order details and only offer "CRM" as an add-on. This means these platforms will prioritize developing core features that revolve around payment and spend less time building out critical aspects of their secondary use cases like a CRM.

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