The Return of the Travelling Salesman: A Retro Retail Paradigm for the Connected Home by Dan Peacock
November 6, 2018
Dan Peacock | Vice President of Product Strategy
It may seem counter-intuitive, but today’s online economy is simultaneously leading to a rise in personal consumer contact, including home visits by salespeople. Here’s why that may pay off.
As our lives become more digitized, the complexity of the services available and how they work together becomes increasingly problematic. Multiple manufacturers have launched arrays of niche products and ecosystems that help control your home through apps. But as these products improve, they are increasingly interconnected and interdependent. In this more complex and digitally nuanced environment, many consumers need assistance to match the technology to their personal needs.
The retail market has changed and is becoming more complex. In parallel, consumer expectations and interactions have radically altered. The customer experience needs to meet their demands on their terms through more advice-led services, backed-up by seamless, invisible and embedded payments. Quite simply, retailers need to offer more added value to consumers.
In response to the increased complexity of advanced technology hitting the mainstream, a few retailers are actively sending people into consumers’ homes to consult and recommend the most appropriate solutions for home-interconnectivity. Amazon, Ikea, Best Buy and others are leading the change as they employ an army of advisors with the expertise to independently advise on the best home-security, home-entertainment and home-connectivity solutions. Companies such as Enjoy, who already offer home delivery and set-up services for electronics, are expanding into home-advisory services. Other retailers like Postmates, the on-demand grocery delivery service, continue to extend into other markets. In parallel, Ikea is building-out its in-home services offerings with the recent purchase of TaskRabbit, a platform that connects consumers with service providers and assembles and installs appliances at the customer’s home. Best Buy has its established “geek squad” of electronics installers and PC repairers, but they are now hiring hundreds of salespeople who can sit down with consumers inside their homes and recommend the electronics that match their needs. Similarly, Amazon is expanding a program of free “smart home consultations”.
These services are not simply about buying or even installing smart home products, it’s about educating customers on how it all works and customizing the products to meet their unique requirements. They look to take the hassle out of hiring an expert to come to the home (or office) to do things customers either don’t know how to do, can’t do or just don’t have the time to deeply research. It truly is a modern return of the traveling salespeople from the 1950s.
Adding Value Pays Off
As more and more sales shift from in-store to online, increasing the number of face-to-face customer interactions in the home brings many potential benefits. Primarily, the hope is that the personal touch will increase sales. These new programs will unlock latent demand as consultations in the home tend to generate bigger ticket sales as they address wider consumer needs.
This sales growth will require seamless payments, however. Retailers and their financial services providers need to ensure that the payment element of each sale is as embedded and frictionless as possible. The smoother the service, the better the advice and the more seamless the payment (auto-pay on delivery), the more likely a customer is to close a transaction and return for more in the future.
Not a Zero-sum Game
As digital retailers aggressively push into new areas, the brick-and-mortar retailers that used to dominate need to adapt to the current market conditions and consumer expectations. In the future, traditional retailers must develop personalized customer services that can address consumer needs in person, away from the store. Technology is no longer the reserve of early adopter geeks, it is now mainstream. And the mainstream needs custom support.