Why ‘clienteling’ is now essential in retail

It offers the opportunity to nurture valuable long-term customer relationships.
6 February 2019

Large crowd in front of Apple Store. Source: Shutterstock

An iconic home retailer recently opened its first new UK store in over a decade.

The pre-launch local media buzz and the scrum of shoppers showed how welcome it was. And to whet appetites even further, bosses were offering 25 percent off everything for the opening weekend.

At a time when retailers are closing rather than opening branches, a quality brand would be welcome on any High Street. However, if a new store is to be successful, retailers need to capitalize and build upon this kind of opening day razzamatazz and fanfare.

Effortless customer experience

On this occasion, the retailer’s normally effortless customer experience seemed to stutter with long queues at checkouts and no single view of customer, stock and order.

Store team members were dotted around the premises with large hand-held tablets to access the retailer’s website, but there seemed no ability for mobile ordering, booking delivery of items, or making payment on the devices— or the ability to forward on an order to the static EPoS terminal to complete a transaction.

What was initially a fantastic opportunity to offer clienteling— or build long-term relationships with loyal customers based on data about their preferences— may have been missed by an absence of connectivity supported by joined-up backend systems and processes.

Of course, clienteling isn’t simple to achieve, but it does offer the opportunity to nurture valuable lasting customer relationships. There are three essential parts to the jigsaw: information, personalized one-to-one communication and a seamless checkout, notes Frank Lochbaum of KPS.

‘Information is power’

The old saying ‘information is power’ certainly rings true in retail. Armed with a customer’s personal shopping history an employee equipped with a tablet can roam the shop floor offering personalized recommendations to shoppers. For the uninitiated, sales associate apps already exist that can detail customers’ wish lists, typical purchase value, purchase history, likes, and dislikes.

These apps offer a ‘360 view’ of the customer, meaning that personal information is accessible no matter where it was originally generated– mobile, desktop or even in-store.

It’s good to talk

With thousands of stores vying for customers’ business, it’s vital that sales associates create a personal connection. One way to do this is to establish a consistent and personal line of communication using the messaging function in a brand’s native apps.

Store associate apps can auto-recommend merchandise based on customers’ past purchases. These suggestions can then be sent in a message within the consumer’s native app, rather than as an email that is likely to get lost. When the customer opens the message, an image appears of the suggested item and the link is fully shoppable.

Other functionality, such as promotions and loyalty programmes, can also be more directly communicated with customers using sales associate apps and the brand’s native app.

Slick checkout secures sales

It’s a cast-iron fact that checkout queues kill sales with shoppers liable to ditch their basket after two or three minutes of waiting in line. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Liberated from the till, staff equipped with mobile EPoS can serve customers anywhere in-store. Having offered advice and personalized recommendations, clienteling staff can take payment, order a product or advise when it will be in stock.

Checkout can also be dramatically sped up with digital payment options ranging from contactless debit and credit card transactions through to digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.

If you’re still undecided, you need only visit an Apple store and witness their slick face-to-face interactions and the speed and effortless with which shoppers are served.

If you were to ask a shopper if they wanted clienteling they would almost certainly scratch their head and look confused. But if you broke the process down into its constituent parts they would agree, clienteling has now become an essential part of the new High Street offering.