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Clienteling – the new approach to retail

Clienteling is an 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: Establishing a relationship with your customer
  2. Service: Providing exemplary service and measuring the impact
  3. Data: Collecting and storing customer preferences, behaviours and purchases.

Clienteling in mainstream retail

Relationships are traditionally built up in mainstream retail simply by the shop keeper that always knows your name. They know that you prefer modern looking products. As a result, when you visit, they know you and they direct you to the latest modern looking stuff in your shop. The shop assistant knows that you like to confer with you about the asthetic and you like to keep discussing a product over a number of visits. If you don’t want to after the third visit,, the highly skilled retailer knows it and moves on to the next best thing.

Clienteling in traditional retail is great at (1) establishing the relationship; and parts of (2) providing exemplary service. However, measurement is largely intuitive. The same can be said about (3) given its intuitive, not much data is stored.

Clienteling in online retail

With the advent of online and the restrictions it has, relationships tend to be built up differently. Online can measure and store information like never before. It’s scalable and it’s not in a retailers head. Retailers can identify behaviours and preferences provided the data is structured correctly, and then stored. The information that the customer actively or unknowingly gives up is used to help the software of a website to relate to them. Good online services will then use this as personalisation: The customer is served up with lots of useful suggestions based on algorithms that some data geek in San Francisco has worked through at the cost of millions of VC dollars.

The problem for online retail is actually the reverse: great at collecting data, not good at providing exemplary service or establishing an emotional connection with the customer.

Bridging gaps between online & 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 to day. Clienteling empowers the staff on the store floor to leverage the power of software to assist them in store. Memory, decisioning, 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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