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Clienteling – the New Approach to Retail

Clienteling is a methodology used in retail to establish and deepen relationships with important customers over time. Here are the key elements of the methodology that need to be considered

  1. Relationships – creating meaningful relationships with your customer
  2. Service – providing exemplary service and measuring the impact
  3. Data – collecting and storing customer preferences, behaviours and purchase

Clienteling in Mainstream Retail

Traditionally strong customer relationships are built in-store when the Sales Associate knows your name and interests.

Over time, they identify what you are looking for and how to match it,

A typical example would be going to your local coffee house where the barista knows your go-to hot beverage (mine is a regular mocha with oat milk!)

One day the barista may recommend a new seasonal drink, which is similar to a mocha but offers some variation.

Let’s go back to the three considerations and see how they match with mainstream retail.

  1. Relationships – clienteling excels at creating long-lasting relationships in retail. It’s hard to beat that human interaction!
  2. Service – service depends on the individual, but measurement is largely intuitive
  3. Data – similar to service, but not much data is stored.
shop assistant clienteling

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How Clienteling is Influencing Retail Now and in the Future

It’s no surprise to anyone that digital transformation is impacting physical retail.

Prior to the pandemic and non-essential store closures, staff were utilising technology within their customer service approach.

Mobile solutions empowered staff with the following

  • Customer identification
  • Customer engagement
  • Associate training
  • Task management
  • Point of sale
  • Payments

Boston Retail Partners predict that 89% of retailers will be equipping mobile solutions and apps across the team over the next three years.

There’s a high chance you have engaged with this already.

A sales associate approaches you with an iPad and uses your purchases history to make informed recommendations.

A customer’s journey to point of purchase is no longer linear. They watch countless review videos, research online and influenced by what’s being said on social media.

This means store associates and retailers need to be prepared to go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer service regardless of what stage the user is in the funnel.

Most customers now switch between exploration and evaluation and creating a strong relationship using clienteling, can help close the sale with impeccable service.

Examples of Clienteling in Retail

Bonobos and Digital Clienteling

This example shows a strong demonstration of how clienteling can transition from digital to in-the-flesh experiences.

Founded in 2011, Bonobo is a clothing retailer with a well-established eCommerce platform.

In fact, it was 100% eCommerce until it expanded into the brick-and-mortar realm and opened 30 ‘guide shops’ across the United States.

The Sales Associates known as ‘Guides’ assisted customers and made online orders in-store which would be shipped to the customer’s homes.

In the meantime, they handled customer identification, customer engagement, task management, point of sale and payments in-store too.

Ralph Lauren and Virtual Appointments 

Clienteling has dominated the luxury retail landscape for years. They know what high-value customers want and how to deliver. Ralph Lauren is a prime example of adapting to the shift in buying behaviour. 

For instance, they offer virtual appointments and live stream selling, achieving exceptional results. Patrice Louvet, CEO of Ralph Lauren said: 

“virtual appointments have driven double the spend versus our average consumer transaction” 

Ralph Lauren

Clienteling in Online Retail

Clienteling blended with online retail can store scalable information that is less accessible within a physical environment.

By using data, online retailers can personalise the customer journey according to shopping behaviours and preferences.

However, despite innovative data collection methods, they are unable to provide exemplary services or establishing an emotional connection with the customer.

And that’s the issue.

Customers are aware of data collection methods. They disable cookies and use ad-block to reduce those quite frankly, annoying display ads.

That’s why it is important to develop that emotional connection with customers. Online shopping habits are very dependent on UX, customer service and brand emotion.

If retailers fail to invest in the above then clienteling will become redundant.

So how can retailers change it up?

Clienteling and Video Commerce

Digital transformation has happened at lightning speed and even though there will be a bounce back to in-store shopping experiences, the virtual space is here to stay.

video commerce

Confer With allows a shared virtual basket between the expert and customer, meaning familiar human interactions like ‘let me take this to the till for you’ can be achieved.

However, what connects clienteling to the customer journey is the option to suggest alternatives, accessories and promotions, whilst having access to real-time data including stock levels.

Currently, retailers are embracing chatbots to facilitate customer service, which is absolutely fine. It is great for reducing operational costs and improving efficiency.

However, chatbots at the best of times deliver limited personalisation and inhuman responses.

By using video commerce platforms like Confer With can empower retailers with clienteling tools to identify and delivery customer needs. They can schedule future appointments meaning loss of transaction is reduced massively.

Above all, it is a way to equip your experts with knowledge, control and job satisfaction.

The benefits of clienteling are huge:

  1. Repeat business from remote customers
  2. More customers who are unable to travel to physical stores
  3. Opportunities to upsell
  4. Deliver a personalised and enhanced experience

Bridging Gaps Between Online and Retail

The gap is rapidly closing between retail and online.

On the retail side, apps are being used to help store managers to collect data from customers. It’s then stored in easily accessible apps that the retailer can use day today.

Clienteling empowers the staff on the store floor to leverage the power of software to assist them in the store. Memory, decision making, continuity and speed. Equally, the online presence is starting to provide an opportunity for customers to confer with people on the shop floor.

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