How Personal Shopping Makes People Spend
At the luxury level, personal shopping services make customers spend significantly more. How do these services work? And can they work on the high street?
“Anything is possible… there is no limit as to what you can request.” So says the ‘By Appointment’ personal shopping service offered by Harrods in London. Indeed, the store’s personal shopping team can track down a specific piece of fine jewellery, host a private in-store runway show or organise a one-on-one fitting with a designer.
At the luxury level, personal shoppers don’t just provide styling advice. They complete a client’s Christmas shopping list, open a store after hours, conduct clothing alterations, even host birthday parties. At Louis Vuitton, the brand’s highest-spending clients are invited to exclusive events and offered all-expense-paid trips to the label’s runway shows, escorted by their own dedicated salesperson. Whilst at Harvey Nichols, the personal shopping suite has a shower room, so customers can get ready to wear their purchase that same night.
Of course, putting on these services — the private lounges, the dedicated staff — is a major investment. But the business logic is simple: the more personal attention you give a certain kind of customer — and the more products you put in front of them — the more they will spend.
How much more? “It can increase a sale to grow almost 100 percent on average,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm The NPD Group. “Imagine a person going into a store to buy a new skirt; personal shopping can turn that skirt into an outfit.”
So how does it work? Firstly, it’s about increasing exposure to product. During a personal shopping appointment, a customer is introduced to more products that they would otherwise consider. If a client is looking for a dress, the personal shopper’s may also attempt to cross-sell them shoes, bag and jewellery to match. Secondly, curation. Personal shoppers do the leg-work to find product based on a client’s budget, tastes and the occasion for which they may be shopping. Thirdly, psychology. Inside the changing room, when the clothes come off, barriers come down and vulnerabilities surface. The personal shopper can become salesperson, confidant and a trusted second opinion. And, finally, service. While there is usually no obligation to buy in some stores personal shoppers work on commission. Walking out empty handed after attentive one-on-one service is a difficult move for a client to pull off.
In some respects, luxury personal shopping services are preaching to the converted: you’d only book an appointment if you were already planning to spend. “The people that may be attracted to these services will typically be their most loyal and high-spending customers anyway,” said Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at Deloitte.
Personal Shopping at Selfridges
Personal Shopping at Harrods
In the last few years, these services have trickled down from the luxury sector to the mass market, where brand loyalty is harder to come by and the average customer spend isn’t so high. Can personal shopping work on the high street?
High street fashion retailer Topshop opened its first personal shopping suite five years ago at its Oxford Circus flagship, in response to the increasing demand for the store’s ‘Style Advisor’ services. Soulmaz Vosough, head of global personal shopping at Topshop. “We are excited to be able to offer our customers a service that has historically been the domain of the luxury market. Our customers feel they are getting an exclusive service, yet it’s open to all — we like to think of it as an accessible exclusivity.”
Ahead of a personal shopping appointment at Topshop, this reporter had a telephone call with a representative to discuss my sizing, style and wishlist. Having briefed them on a “classic summer look,” I arrived to complimentary coffee, cakes and magazines in the store’s personal shopping suite. Inside the changing room — at least thrice the size of the average Topshop fitting room and bedecked with sofas, scatter cushions and thick-pile rugs — a personal shopper talked me through the ten outfits she had selected.
“This is definitely a growth area,” said Perkins. “There are definite signs of growth from the high street retailers and there has been a huge change into a more fragmented offer that targets different areas and different consumers.”
Personal Shopping at Topshop