Clienteling - Fostering Life-Long Customers With Personalized Service
Do you remember shopping the old fashioned way? Strolling through town was such a "feel good" experience because you likely knew the shop owners and they likely knew you. If you needed a new suitcase, you went to the store and compared several different models. When you walked in, the shop owner greeted you by name, asked about your family, remembered your last purchase and offered helpful suggestions. A few short minutes later, you completed your transaction and walked out with a new suitcase in hand, no wait times, no lines, and a smile on your face, knowing you got exactly what you wanted because you had received personalized service from a "friend".
Fast forward to today. That corner store is now part of a large brand; potentially one of thousands of stores serving millions of customers. That friendly, one-on-one connection with the shop owner has been replaced with impersonal service, long lines, and an overall lack of connection between seller and buyer. Rather than leave with a positive connection to a store or brand, consumers more often walk out frustrated with the wait time, and uninspired by the lackluster experience.
This is such a wasted opportunity for retailers. Consumers still crave a personal experience while shopping; they want connection, excitement and spontaneity when committing to their next carry-on suitcase, or sweater or smart phone.
Retailers must learn lessons from the past and leverage one of their most important assets - their physical stores and sales associates. Retailers must determine a way to recreate the magic of the past and once again make the store the center of the brand experience. They must figure out a way to service the customer in a personal way so that consumers leave the store having had a positive experience and with a positive association for the brand.
But how? How can retailers recreate the magic of the corner luggage store and treat every customer like they've known them for years, reconnect in a personal way and offer seamless and quick checkout? It's actually quite simple. It's called "Clienteling," and with advances in mobile technology geared specifically for sales associates, it's possible and it's already happening.
Clienteling is a technique used by retail sales associates to establish long-term relationships with customers based on data about their preferences, behaviors, and purchases. Using devices, sales associates deliver personalized interactions to customers to enhance the customer experience.
The retail industry is in the midst of profound change. Current and anticipated store closings have many predicting the demise of the in-store experience, but the reality is that in-store remains a core focus for retail and will be for a long time. While online-only competitors have many advantages, a physical location is not one of them – and retailers recognize that they can differentiate by transforming the in-store experience to make sure it remains compelling and convenient. These retailers have mastered the three main components of a successful Clienteling strategy:
1. Leverage the power of storyselling
If you walk into any luxury store on the high street, you’ll be greeted by a sales associate who can tell you just about everything about the company, from its history, its products, and ultimately, personalized recommendations just for you. They’ll be able to tell you when the company was founded, the different seasons and lines, how the design process works, what materials are used, and more. More than just selling you a brand, they’re selling you a story.
By connecting stories to shopping experiences in context, sales teams are able to build stronger connections between the brand and its customers.
More often than not, luxury purchases are emotionally-driven, and nothing drives emotion quite like a story. By connecting stories to shopping experiences in context, sales teams are able to build stronger connections between the brand and its customers.
As customers increasingly prefer to contact businesses via messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, chatbots are becoming the new extension of the brand online. 1:1 conversations are a tremendous opportunity to leverage storytelling to engage customers and nurture them over time.
2. Online to offline, seamlessly
Today’s customer has one foot in the digital world and one foot in the physical world. The best brands combine the two worlds to create a unique, omnichannel, VIP shopping experience. Luxury brands are no different. They can leverage the convenience of online shopping to pre-qualify leads and assist them through the product discovery phase, towards a sale.
Chatbots can be the glue to a rock-solid omnichannel strategy and bridge the gap between your physical and digital stores. As prospective customers visit your site, you can welcome them with an instant message and assist them as they research products. These virtual AI-powered advisors can act as extensions of your in-store team, capture leads, and escalate the most promising ones to your human sales associates. This hybrid approach is introducing a new era of clienteling that is both human and AI-powered and that covers the full spectrum of customer interactions across the online-offline journey.
Virtual AI-powered advisors can act as extensions of your in-store team, capture leads, and escalate the most promising ones to your human sales associates.
They can also be very handy when it comes to helping people find the nearest store, book an appointment with an in-store advisor or buy online and pick up in store.
3. On-demand VIP services
Customer expectations are higher than ever, and that rings even truer for luxury brands. It’s time for brands to act less like advertisers, and more like personal assistants. This means being smart and strategic about how they combine AI chatbots, store associates, live chat, and clienteling.
Assistive selling is the best way to maximize each customer’s lifetime value and average basket size. Get it right, and you’ll reap the rewards of being able to offer a helping hand everywhere and anywhere.
It’s time for retail brands to act less like advertisers, and more like personal assistants. This means being smart and strategic about how they combine AI chatbots, store associates, live chat, and clienteling.
4. Emphasize exclusivity and scarcity
Exclusive or hidden content can help to pique shoppers’ curiosity and drive sales of higher priced goods.
Emphasizing exclusivity and scarcity is at the heart of luxury shopping. In a digital-first world, brands must recreate that sense of urgency and exclusivity online by injecting emotion into the experience.
Emphasizing exclusivity and scarcity is at the heart of luxury shopping. In a digital-first world, brands must recreate that sense of urgency and exclusivity online by injecting emotion into the experience. Limited editions, real-time stock availability notifications, storytelling, and handpicked recommendations are some of the key factors which set luxury shopping apart from the more mundane, commodity shopping.
5. Create culturally-relevant experiences
Global brands now feel the pressure to have a local approach to be culturally relevant. “Glocalization” as we like to call it needs to be a core pillar of any global brand’s conversational AI strategy, especially as natural language becomes the premier consumer interface.